I can still remember the phone call. The nursing home receptionist on the other end of the line was initially confused by my request. “Mam, could you or someone else turn the television in my grandfather’s room to the Oklahoma/Colorado game?” I asked patiently. The date was September 29th, 2007.
“You don’t understand, my grandfather needs to see this,” I pleaded, a little less patiently. “What channel?” she inquired. I was living in Charlotte, North Carolina at the time. My grandfather in a senior living home in Springfield, Missouri. The channels were different, but I was prepared for that question. Soon after my response, I could hear her kindly ask an orderly to switch the channel in my grandfather’s room to Fox Sports Midwest for the Oklahoma/Colorado game.
Led by future Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford, the Sooners entered Boulder that day with a 4-0 record, averaging 61.5 points per contest and ranked 3rd in the country. The Buffs were 2-2 and had lost 14 straight to ranked teams. We weren’t supposed to win. Yet with just over four minutes remaining in the game, Buffs quarterback Cody Hawkins completed a 15-yard touchdown pass to Dusty Sprague. The game was now tied at 24. Gathering myself from a “would’ve gone viral if filmed reaction” following that touchdown, I made the call to my grandfather’s nursing home.
Seconds after thanking the receptionist for her assistance, I hung up and immediately placed a direct call to my grandfather’s room. He was pleased to hear my voice and probably even more pleased to now be watching the Colorado game. Like so many times before, we were talking about a Colorado Buffaloes game-in-progress over the phone.
Colorado held Oklahoma to a three-and-out their next possession and after a Sooners punt was returned 31-yards by Chase McBride to midfield, the Buffs were in business with 2:31 left on the clock. However, Colorado’s drive stalled at the Oklahoma 28-yard line. The Buffs behind the leg of Kevin Eberhart lined up for a 45-yard field goal attempt with two seconds remaining. The senior from Bloomfield, Colorado had spent most of his career waiting for his chance behind perhaps the best placekicker in Colorado history, current Green Bay Packer Mason Crosby. This was his opportunity. And he made the most of it.
My grandfather’s hearing was going at the time, so the television was so loud in his room that I could hear Joel Meyers’ (Fox Sports play-by-play) call through the receiver on my phone. “Well they don’t call timeout. It’s on its way. Does it stay true? YES! Colorado has shocked Oklahoma.”
The Buffs had pulled off one of the biggest upsets in school history, a 27-24 last second win over a highly-ranked Sooners program. And I shared that moment with my grandfather thanks to a kind receptionist over 800 miles away in Springfield, Missouri.
I didn’t attend Colorado. Neither did my Grandfather. But he grew up in the small town of Brush, about an hour-and-a-half east of Boulder, a Colorado football fan for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a suburb about 20 miles north of New York City. The closest big-time college football program was Syracuse, about four-hour drive from my hometown.
Every summer I would eagerly jump in the backseat of our four-door sedan and with my younger brother sitting next to me, my parents and Brittany spaniel in front, we would make the two-day 18-hour trek to Springfield for a week-long vacation. No matter what time we arrived, my grandparents would always be waiting at the backdoor of their charming ranch home to greet us. My grandfather’s reception usually involved launching into his finest rendition of ‘Glory, Glory, Colorado!’. Standing beside him was my grandmother who would shake her head at the ridiculousness of his bizarre fight-song greeting.
Despite the countless Ralphie figurines and pictures of the flatirons that adorned the entry way to their home, (my grandmother wouldn’t allow any CU paraphernalia beyond the entry way) it took me a while to really appreciate my grandfather’s love for the Buffaloes. In fact, I can’t really pinpoint WHEN I became a Buffs fan. From the original Coach Mac (Bill McCartney) to another (Mike MacIntyre), my interest in the Buffs grew over time. It even somehow persevered through the Dan Hawkins and Jon Embree eras. Today my love of the Colorado’s football program is as high as it’s ever been.
The WHY I’m a fan of the Buffs is easy. I owe it all to one of the greatest men I have ever known.
My grandfather, James Craig Rudolph.