Touching touchdown showcases sportsmanship at its finest

By: Mary Rinzel with Photographer Duane Wolter Email
By: Mary Rinzel with Photographer Duane Wolter Email

The win was already locked up, when Friday night, Menomonie scored what just might be its most meaningful touchdown to date. It was a score that epitomizes what’s at the heart of the game.

It was after a 66 yard run that the chants broke out in Menomonie. Chants of “Kolden! Kolden! Kolden!”

At practice, Sam Kolden stands silently on the sideline.

"He's just as much a part of this team as any other player and he puts in just as much work,” says Garrett Anderson, a tight end for Menomonie.

Surrounded by his teammates, a developmental disability sometimes has Sam struggling to keep up. But no one would ever accuse the senior of giving up.

"I work as hard as I can when I get the chance," Sam says in his shy way.

"He's a great role model to our kids about giving everything you've got. He would never quit at anything he does. He works really hard," says Menomonie head coach Joe LaBuda.

Friday night, LaBuda's team was up by more than four touchdowns with just over a minute left on the clock. The coach called a time-out to get Sam into the game.

Then the team ran Sam’s play. A screen pass. Sam did the rest.

With Superior players diving at his feet, Sam Kolden didn't stop until he got to the end zone.

"It was amazing,” Sam says with a smile.

After the game Sam was given a rare Menomonie football game ball. A highlight and a touchdown even he's pretty sure is a once in a lifetime experience.

"We have it on top of the TV,” Sam says of his game ball. “Probably, wherever I go, it's going."

An unexpected hero.

“Just how happy I was,” Sam says of what the game ball reminds him of.

A gracious opponent.

"The coolest thing was the Superior kids and their coaching staff showed a tremendous amount of sportsmanship. You know, it'd be different if you did that when you were ahead by 40 points, but to be behind and say 'you know what? This is more important' and give up 7 more points. It was a tremendous example of their character and of what kind of people they are. Great act of sportsmanship. Class act on their part,” LaBuda says.

A moment in sports when winning comes second.

“Once we're done with this season, we'll look back at it and say that was something that was special. I’m pretty sure he'll remember it, and we will for the rest of our lives," Anderson says.

Sam says he started his football career in eighth grade. This is his second year on the varsity squad. He says when he caught that ball, his only thoughts were to run and to run fast.

He has high hopes his team will get to state this year.


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