Their perfection was more than just a number. There was something about this team, something about Bison Nation that you can’t even begin to quantify with numbers alone. How do you put a number on that 104 degree day in Manhattan, Kansas when our Bison took down defending Big 12 champion Kansas State, a team that went on to dismantle Michigan – yes, the “hail to the victors” Michigan – in their bowl game? How do you quantify that feeling of pride when ESPN’s College GameDay made our Bison and Fargo the capital of the college football world? How do you put a number on Grant Olson playing with a torn ACL or Leevon Perry housing that fumble for a touchdown against New Hampshire? You can’t, nor should you try.
The numbers and statistics from this season will eventually fade into memory as numbers almost always do. But this team, this season, will never fade from our memory. How could it? One of the biggest misconceptions about history is that it’s a set of dates and numbers to be memorized. Nothing could be further from the truth. History isn’t just a date or a number. It’s something we live. We don’t remember 1776 because of a number. We remember it as the birth of our nation and the ideas of democracy, equality, and freedom that are an integral part of each of us. Few can tell you the significance of July 20, 1969 standing by itself. But everyone knows the famous words uttered that day, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” and what it means.
There are a precious few times in our lives, in our collective experience, where we are so united in purpose that for a few moments, however fleeting, we experience perfection. We experience something beyond ourselves. History is a collective sense of who we are, where we’ve been, and ultimately, where we are going. We lived in that moment all season long with this team.
Flipping through the pages of this magazine, you aren’t focused on the numbers. Looking back on this year, you probably didn’t know that our defense allowed only 13 fourth quarter points all season. But you remember how you felt when Colton Heagle blocked that field goal in the championship game and Kyle Emanuel scooped it up, racing 59 yards towards the end zone with Ryan Smith scoring the next play to give us a 14–7 lead. You also didn’t remember that we trailed 10–0 at Southern Illinois with 1:30 left in the first half before Brock Jensen hit Zach Vraa for a 55-yard touchdown pass and we went on to score the next 24 points to win 31–10. But you’ll never forget that feeling of pure elation – those high fives and hugs – when the clock hit 0:00 and we were, for the third time in as many years, champions.
When you think about the Bison Family and what it means to you, when you think about the pride that you have for our program, you don’t think about numbers. When I think about the Bison Family and what it means to me, I think about the feeling of pride I have for this University and the people I get to share that with – all of you. It’s the people. It’s the “Let’s Go Bison” cheer. It’s everyone raising the Bison horns. It’s seeing thousands of friends, old and new, in Frisco. It’s every ear- splitting third down inside the Fargodome. It’s all these things and all those moments in between.
From our players and their parents, the Team Makers, our supporters and fans, the staff and behind the scenes people that have been the stewards of our program since the 1960s, to everyone who identifies themselves as a Bison, we are the Bison Family. It’s that collective experience, that collective pride and love we have for this program and University, and the people we share it with. It’s a sense of who we are, what we stand for, where we’ve been and where we’re going. Bison Pride has never been greater because the Bison Family has never been stronger.
This team brought that out in us. Not because of their 15–0 record, but because of what Bison Pride meant to them. Because of how they worked for the perfect season, that relentless pursuit and singular focus, that team unity, the team character, the sense of family. Perfection wasn’t 15–0 by itself. Perfection was what this team brought out in each other, what this team brought out in our University, and what that meant to our community and state. This team allowed us to experience perfection and to share in that feeling as the Bison Family.
As the sun shined overhead in the Texas sky, the Herd soundly defeated Towson 35–7 and raised our 11th national championship trophy, putting the exclamation point on an unforgettable season. It was a postcard moment on that now familiar stage in Frisco with the Bison Nation, nearly 18,000 strong who made the trip from all corners of our country for this family reunion. Bison flags waived high and confetti showered down on the scene. Added to that were the hundreds of thousands more gathered around televisions nationwide, surrounded by others in green and yellow, that were with us in spirit. It was, in a word, perfect.
Everyone up for the kickoff, the march is on!