Amputee at Montana State shuns the spotlight while inspiring others
(STATS) - As a redshirt freshman who has played only a few snaps at the end of a season-opening blowout, Montana State linebacker Koni Dole believes he should decline interview requests until he's earned more playing time.
He may be overlooking how much he's contributed to his team already.
Dole's story is one of courage, determination and perseverance as he's the first player with a prosthetic leg to appear in an FCS game. The 19-year-old has used it since having his right leg amputated nearly three years ago as a high school junior in Huntley Project, Montana.
"We call him the 'excuse eliminator.' He's just a great motivator for our football team," Montana State coach Rob Ash said. "Anybody that has any problem of their own just has to look at him and realize that their problem isn't very significant compared to what he's dealing with."
Dole injured his leg during a high school game on Oct. 19, 2012, suffering a horrific compound fracture that required six surgeries. After he developed compartment syndrome, where pressure built within the muscles, his leg was amputated below the knee.
But after extensive rehab, Dole returned to his athletic career as a high school senior, fitted with the sports-specific prosthetic - a "blade runner." He played in the 2014 Montana East-West Shrine Game, earned all-state honors in wrestling and ran track at Huntley Project High.
He walked on to Montana State's nationally ranked football team a year ago and was a redshirt during the 2014 season. While working as a member of the Bobcats' scout team, he earned the school's Don Hass Most Inspirational Award.
"Koni doesn't want any favors, he wants to just be one of the guys on the team," Ash said. "Our guys treat him that way, they don't back off from him, they don't give him (breaks), he's just a regular guy on the team."
The 6-foot, 210-pound Dole is dressing for home games this season. He saw his first action late in the fourth quarter of Montana State's 45-14 win over Division II Fort Lewis on Sept. 3.
On Saturday, the No. 15 Bobcats will host No. 20 Cal Poly in a Big Sky matchup that marks the only matchup between a pair of STATS Top 25 teams this week.
"There were days when I wanted to give up, but I never take a day for granted," Dole told the Billings Gazette before deciding to decline further interview requests. "You have to remember it's just a game. Football is just a game. I could be doing a lot worse. I try to come out here with a smile on my face and have as much fun as I can."