Lions should cherish national championship experience

by Chief Photographer Melanie Hodges

The journey to the Division II National Championship was about more than a football game. The moments before and after the game defined what would become one of the most unforgettable moments in UNA history.

On the day before the big game, players spent the morning visiting veterans in care at the Kansas City VA Medical Center.

Players not only talked with the veterans, but the players also gave the veterans an incredible piece of memorabilia. The gift was a coin featuring the branches of the military, as well as the Division II logo.

Though the players may have thought they were the ones giving back to the veterans, after hearing their unbelievable tales, many left feeling the roles had been reversed.

Prior to the game, the tension grew rapidly. As the temperature dropped, the journey to the game became treacherous for many who dared make the trek.

While some became trapped on the interstate for hours, others were unable to make it altogether. Both student buses were canceled, and many fans were forced to cancel their travel plans as well. But, despite the odds, hundreds of fans still managed to come out to support the Lions in the freezing weather and snowy conditions.

Though the Lions may not have claimed the title, the connection between the players was stronger than ever. Win or lose, this team had something more important than a trophy. They had each other.

I will never forget the words that UNA head coach Bobby Wallace said as the players climbed off the plane to head home.

“Win or lose, you treat this just the same,” he said.

This quote sums up the attitude of the team.

Though victory was not the outcome, these players made for one of the most memorable seasons in program history.