All good things must come to an end.
For 15 seniors, this Saturday will likely mark the end of playing at Hughes Stadium in front of their beloved Ram fans. It’s Senior Day, and Colorado State is going to be honoring their seniors class when they host New Mexico in the last home game of the year.
“It is kind of bittersweet,” senior left tackle Ty Sambrailo said of playing his final home game. “It’s exciting where we’re at but at the same time it’s sad that this has went by so fast.”
These players have endured it all — from the disheartening 3-9 season that put the nail in the coffin for the Steve Fairchild era, to the growing pains felt in the first season under head coach Jim McElwain when CSU finished 4-8 — but this year they have finally been able to experience the highs they hoped to find when they committed to Colorado State.
The game this weekend will probably be the last chance for those 15 members of the CSU football family to share the elation that now resonates from the program with the rest of Ram Nation.
“It’s a huge blessing,” senior cornerback Bernard Blake said. “At times it’s still surreal. It’s hard to put into words how we feel about it but you can just see it in the looks on the guys’ faces.”
And it is true: the players have been visibly upbeat all season. There’s a sense of satisfaction around the team and not just from being are ranked. These Rams still have more they would like to achieve but they also owe it to themselves to appreciate how far they have come.
“I’m going to have my family there and all of the people who helped me get to where I am today so it is going to be fun,” senior linebacker Aaron Davis said about this Saturday’s game. “I’m excited. It’s fun looking back and seeing where we were and where we are now.”
It has not always been easy sledding for the seniors on this team. Around this time three years ago, the Rams were not even bowl-eligible and the future of the program looked so bleak that it led to a complete overhaul of the coaching regime.
Even the hiring of former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain did not seem like enough to turn things around so quickly. But the players left over from Fairchild’s last recruiting class had different plans. They could either move on as well, or stay and fight for their spots.
The transition surely did not come easily but it was one they were determined to make sure they were a part of.
“These seniors have been through a lot in this program and there aren’t many of them,” McElwain said. “… But I think it shows their perseverance and their will to invest in themselves and invest in the University.”
Their investments have paid off handsomely. These seniors can leave knowing that they helped this program reach heights it has not seen in more than a decade.
“I’m excited for them to go out on a happy note,” McElwain added.
But there is still plenty on the line for this group. A chance still remains that they could find themselves in the Mountain West championship and even a New Year’s Day bowl game.
“It’s a special feeling,” senior quarterback Garrett Grayson said. “Now we have some momentum and some things at stake.”
The time for reflection is not underway yet for the seniors on this CSU team. They are focused on what is still ahead of them.
However, they can begin to soak it all in just a bit.
“I think I’ll look back more after the season is over,” Grayson said. “… The atmosphere, everything, how it all changed. It came together for my senior year and hopefully it can keep going on.”
It has been a long and tumultuous journey for most of the senior class and in many ways, it all culminates Saturday when 15 of them march out onto Sonny Lubick Field at Hughes Stadium together for possibly the last time.
“It’s a pretty special moment with how things have changed,” Grayson said. “Going from 3-9, to 4-8, then 8-6, and now 9-1 … just to be a part of the process of it all changing and seeing what it takes. It’s a pretty unreal feeling.”
Collegian Sports Reporter Emmett McCarthy can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @emccarthy22.