Sitting in the press box at a snowy Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium Saturday, watching the historic season of North Central College's football team come to an end, a little personal reflection moment occurred.
I spent my final three years of college at North Central, calling the majority of the school's football games on WONC 89.1 FM, the campus radio station. I never got the privilege to call a game in that stadium, however.
No, that stadium seemed like a dream when North Central played in the old stadium. And, honestly, considering how far the program has come since my 1998 graduation, the first official event held in the new venue, Saturday's game would have seemed like a dream back then.
Being along for the ride for the win over Wheaton to wrap up the CCIW title and all three playoff games this year was a surreal experience. It's funny how things in life can have such a cyclical nature to them. I never expected to be back covering the Cardinals 13 years later, and certainly not in the Division III quarterfinals.
The three years I followed with the Cardinals both on radio and in the school newspaper under coach Bill Mack, they went 13-13-1. The highlight win had to be the final game I called, a 20-7 win over Wheaton in the 1997 season finale. It was the only time North Central beat Wheaton from 1987 to 2005 and involved my favorite highlight, as well.
In Wheaton's quiet press box, current Naperville North defensive coordinator Anthony Silvestri was a safety for North Central and he picked off a pass and took it to the house. That elicited a loud, elaborate hometown radio celebration that did not fly so well on the road. But hey, it was possibly the last game I would ever call on the radio. I was going to get my money's worth, and I did.
Silvestri and I joked about that play in the coach's office at Naperville North during the Huskies' playoff run this fall, with him admitting to the other coaches that it was his lone career pick, yet another example of things in life coming back around.
But there were several down moments, as well. A 60-0 loss to Illinois Wesleyan in 1996 comes to mind. Three losses to Augustana as the Vikings continued their dominance at the time over the Cardinals were no fun either.
But I was in attendance at the 2002 press conference that introduced new head coach John Thorne. After I left that event, I told everybody that would listen that this program was about to change. Dramatically.
Covering this playoff run in 2010, with Thorne already the winningest coach in program history, that certainly has been the case.
As an alumnus, the neatest part of being back covering the team this year was the amount of interaction the alumni and current students had. Sports, particularly football, have a way of bringing people together, uniting them in a common goal.
Being able to share my stories here on Patch with old friends who were interested in what was going on was such a great experience.
It was certainly different than the first time I set foot in that stadium; practice the night before my graduation. That involved me and my buddies committing one more childish act before leaving for good, smuggling in a radio to listen to the Bulls play the Utah Jazz in the NBA Finals instead of actually paying attention.
That night, I certainly never thought I'd be back covering sports at my alma mater. I have to say, it was good to be back.