Happy endings

When you think about the legendary teams of Greybull High School, the first ones that typically come to mind are the 1960 football team and the 1996 boys basketball team. Those teams captured their school’s first state titles in those sports. You also have the many dominant wrestling, volleyball and track squads from the 1980s and 1990s. Their banners still hang on the wall in the gym.
No one ever mentions the 2000 GHS football team.  But that squad holds a special place in GHS lore, too. Not because of its success, but because of failure.
The six seniors who played on that 2000 team did not win a single varsity game in their high school careers.  They were 0-28.  And to be honest, not many of their games were close.  The Standard’s headline writer at the time tried the best he could to put a positive spin on it. One week: “Buffs show improvement in 28-0 loss to Rebels.”   Later in the year:  “Valiant homecoming effort ends in defeat.”
It was a miserable four-year stretch for the Greybull football program — and the young reporter covering the team felt awful for them. There were some good players, too.  Just not enough.  The seniors that year had come in as freshman the year after Brett Keisel and Co. graduated. That team went 7-2 in the fall of 1996.
And yet, looking back now, it’s clear their futility in football didn’t hold any of them back.  I mention this now because one of those seniors in 2000 was Cole Kelly.  He’s the young man who was recently promoted to colonel in the Wyoming National Guard. The story ran on the front page of last week’s issue. He’s one step away from being a general. Amazing success for one of our own.
I asked Cole what he learned from those difficult days on the gridiron. He laughed. After pondering it for moment, the first thing he mentioned was how to deal with adversity — after all, there was a lot of it over the course of those 28 games.  But knocked down many a time, Cole and his teammates kept getting up. If memory serves, he was a middle linebacker and a running back. Looked it up and he made honorable mention all-conference that year.
In total, there were six seniors on that 2000 grid team.  Joining Cole were Travis Marshall, Erik Jorgensen, McKay Smith, Tyson Williams and Kasey Perkins.
Recognize some of those names?  While I’ve lost touch with Tyson and Kasey, the other names are pretty familiar to our readers.
We’ve written extensively about Travis Marshall.  He joined the service, became a Green Beret, retired after a distinguished career serving his country and now lives in his favorite place on the earth: Shell, Wyo.  He coordinates the Combat Warriors, Inc., hunts for veterans that are held in Wyoming.
Last we checked, Erik Jorgensen was a highway patrolman.
McKay Smith went into the IT field and lives in Idaho.  
The moral of the story is, none let their gridiron struggles define them. There was, indeed, a happy ending to the sad stories that were told on our sports pages every fall between 1997 and 2000.  
Which brings us to another feel-good story — and the Super Bowl.  Around here, the Broncos are the home team. Don’t try arguing the point.  And since they can’t be in it — or make playoffs! or even manage to have a winning record! — a pretty good alternative is the Bang, Bang Niner Gang.
Shanahan.  McCaffery.  Lynch.  Those names are like football royalty for longtime fans of the orange and blue. And if you like the Broncos, you can’t possibly pull for the Chiefs, can you?
A happy ending for the unlikely leader of that ‘49er team, Brock Purdy, would be nice, too.  I don’t know how you can dislike his story, but a lot of people do.  They doubt him. They call him a game manager.  They pounce every time he wobbles. “Told you he’s overrated,” they say.
Want to know why?  Because every single one of them was wrong about him.  Mr. Irrelevant.  The last player selected in a seven-round draft. Every single team passed on him.  Several times!  None of the draftniks thought he was worthy of a pick. Willis, Pickett, Ridder ... those were going to be the dudes from the Class of 2022!
Yet here Purdy is, a win away from shutting everyone up.  Here’s hoping about 350 yards passing,  three touchdowns and an MVP award are in his future.  So make mine 30-23, Denver West.  
— Nathan Oster