They were keeping track of the points – CSU beat their rivals from CU 18-6 – but the only score that truly mattered was the number of smiles on faces at the 2nd Annual Special Olympics of Colorado Flag Football Rivalry Game. And there were lots of them.
The game, a prelude to Friday night’s Rocky Mountain Showdown between CSU and CU, features Special Olympians from Fort Collins and Boulder competing in a fun, family-friendly atmosphere. This year’s game was played Monday night in CSU’s new stadium.
“Honestly, I think this is one best things we do at CSU,” said Patrick Krza, assistant director of community outreach for Rams athletics. “A father of one of the players on the Fort Collins team told me his son had been talking about this game ever since playing in the first game last year. Seeing the looks on their faces – it’s really special.”
Only a handful of schools around the country organize similar games, and last year CSU and CU were the first west of the Mississippi River to play. (UCLA and Southern Cal started a game this year.)
Each team has approximately 20 players – a mix of men and women – and each has an honorary coach. Rams legend Kevin McDougal coached the CSU team, while former Buff Juda Parker coached CU.
Krza said CSU pulled out all of the stops for the teams, including showing their names on the large scoreboard at the stadium. CSU’s cheerleaders, CAM the Ram, CU cheerleaders and Chip, CU’s mascot, were also on hand.
“Those athletes were so excited to see their names up on the big screen,” he said. “It means the world to them.”
Honored at Showdown
All of the participants will be honored at the Rocky Mountain Showdown. CSU is providing tickets for all participants, and a video will be shown during the game at Mile High Stadium.
While the flag football game is not open to the public, about 200 family members and Special Olympics supporters were on hand. Toward the end, CSU football players came out to watch after their own practice.
“Our players were high fiving them and signing autographs, but then our players started asking them for autographs, which was a great thrill for them,” Krza said. “It was a really great night.”