On Friday, December 19, the Marian University football season ended in Daytona, Florida, when the Knights lost to the Southern Oregon Raiders, 55-31. While the team didn’t bring home the national title, they did win the hearts and minds of the Marian University and Indianapolis community. Here’s a look at a few of the stories told about our team and university in the weeks leading up to the national championship:
- Marian Knights, the College Football Powerhouse You’ve Never Heard of
By Tyler Brooke, The Bleacher Report (December 10, 2014)
Players at Marian are unlike most you’ll find in Division I football. Individual aspirations are replaced with team goals, while players who aren’t getting playing time are more concerned with their team winning than getting on the field.
The Knights are an example of football in its purest form. Off-field investigations and national spotlights are replaced by young men who want nothing more than to play the game they love and bring their school a second national title.
“This season has definitely been one I’ll never forget,” Lake said. “The chemistry and mentality of this team reminds me so much of 2012 because it feels like a family again, and collectively we are a stronger and more mentally tough team than a year ago.”
- Kravitz: Marian Football Team Rallies Around Cancer-Stricken Boy
By Bob Kravitz, WTHR Sports (December 16, 2014)
This is the story Carol Winnefeld wants written. She wants to talk about her son's indomitable spirit, wants to talk about the way the Marian Knights have made her son feel like part of their team, their family. She wants to talk about what it's meant to Cole, how it's changed Cole.
"He's missed out on so much from a group standpoint," she said. "Any time he'd go to school, he would go out on the playground and not play with anybody, just walk around by himself. He didn't really know how to play with kids in his class. He was just so much different from the other kids, had so many different life experiences. I don't know if they were afraid they were going to hurt him or if they were scared of him, I don't know. He's always related a lot better to adults."
He was painfully quiet and shy, and isolated, forced to spend a week out of every month receiving chemotherapy, radiation and antibody therapy. So much illness, so much pain for a little boy, and yet he keeps fighting, keeps smiling.
But nothing made him happier than spending time with his Big Knights, his new heroes, his new best friends. They are the ones who help bring light into his life, light into a life that is a dark series of treatments for this pernicious form of cancer.
- Kravitz: As Usual, Indiana Steps Up, this Time to Make a Young Boy’s Dream Come True
By Bob Kravitz, WTHR Sports (December 16, 2014)
My story on Bedford's Cole Winnefeld, which you can read here, wasn't up on WTHR.com for five minutes when the calls started rolling in. And the tweets. And the emails.How can we help send Cole and his family to Daytona, Fla., for the Marian Knights' NAIA championship game against Southern Oregon this Friday?
People are good. People are really good. And I thank them all. Cole will be in Daytona Friday to watch his Big Knights take on Southern Oregon. Thank you all. From the bottom of my heart.
- Doyel: Marian Football Plays for Title, Propels Entire Campus
By Gregg Doyel, The Indianapolis Star (December 18, 2014)
Cranes tower above the Marian University athletic department. A few years ago this private school on Indy's Westside built from scratch a medical school and the football team that plays Friday for an NAIA national championship. At the moment Marian is building apartments for graduate students. In the near future it will build something else. A campus road sign spells out Marian's intentions with a picture of a bulldozer and three words:
Caution: machines crossing.
Marian is growing, and its football program is more than a metaphor. It was the trigger. From nothing, something formidable is happening in a football program and on the campus it calls home.
Barely a decade ago Marian was in danger of bankruptcy. It hired a former high school principal from Topeka named Daniel Elsener, and he had some crazy ideas. The craziest? He wanted Marian to have a football team.
- Bold Early Goals Lead to Fast Success for Marian University Football
By Larry Hawley, Fox 59 (December 15, 2014)
“The reason we are sitting here is we had very clear vision to do this well, we had great leadership. Indianapolis is a generous city. If you put out a clear vision where you’re going to help young people and bring talent to this city from around the country, they’ll support you,” said Elsener. “I look at a guy like (Current Marian Athletic Director) Steve Downing, I had Coach Henninger. You take the people, my vice presidents, the board here. They committed to this, we had a strategic plan and they said we’re gonna make it happen.
“It’s leadership and then generosity, clear vision, great athletic director and then we did it right and a lot of people supported it. You look at clarity of vision, leadership and we did it right the whole way through.”
The next eight years would prove this true.
“We’re very thankful for it,” said Elsener of the program’s success. “I’m thankful we live in Indianapolis, Indiana and our alumni are so committed because if they hadn’t supported it, it wouldn’t be excellent. I’m thankful for the parents and the student athletes, they understood what we wanted to accomplish.”
- Marian Athletics Building Champions for Life
By Daniel J. Elsener, editorial in The Indianapolis Star (December 19, 2014)
Too often, college athletics is highlighted in the news media for mammoth athletic staff salaries, questionable recruiting practices, and the disheartening behavior of some players and staff. But at Marian University, and other National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics schools under the banner of "Champions of Character," we consistently achieve outstanding results for our scholar-athletes by engaging our athletics department as a laboratory of character development and academic success.