NEGAUNEE, Mich. (WJMN) – Earning championship rings isn’t easy.
“It’s so cool to see these guys from 20 years ago and the success they brought to the community and the community is going to show up tonight and support them just like they did 20 years ago when they were out on the field.,” said Dan Skewis, the Negaunee Public School superintendent. “
The Miner’s run to a state championship may have happened decades ago, but the players remember it like it was just yesterday.
“The nostalgia is flowing through my veins right now,” said Randy Sundell, who played quarterback for the ’02 Miners. “Between the restaurants and the faces that I’m seeing coming through. When I come here I feel appreciated and it’s been 20 years and having that still, it just proves to you how special Negaunee is when you come back. “
“A lot of memories are coming back and seeing familiar faces is really exciting,” said Don Barr, who played running back for the ’02 Miners. “I can’t believe the district was willing to do something like this for our team, it’s really, really special.”
The night was filled with sharing memories from the Miner’s unforgettable run.
“It was a special time,” said Skewis. “This group of juniors and seniors had success throughout their high school careers as freshmen and sophomores. So, we knew they would have a really solid season coming into that season. They won their first eight games and then we had a hiccup during the last game of the regular season. We had some really competitive playoff games and then eeked out a state championship in overtime when the Silver Dome was still in play and we played in Pontiac.”
“When you’re making a playoff run and you look at a bracket, you got to get a break somewhere,” said Barr. “We had a couple of those in every game that we played. So, it was a really gritty group and it maybe wasn’t the most talented team even in Negaunee history but it was one of those where when the going got tough, the tough got going and we made some big breaks, things went our way and we were able to pull off a title.”
Connecting the past to the present, current head coach Paul Jacobson was in his third year on the sidelines in 2002.
It’s great seeing these guys,” said Jacobson. “You haven’t seen these guys in quite some time, some since they graduated. What they were able to accomplish in 2002, still reigns today in these locker rooms. I’m proud of these guys, it’s just a fantastic opportunity to get these guys together and celebrate their great accomplishment.”
Members of the ’02 team got a chance to watch a vintage Miners performance and afterward got a chance to talk with the team and share some wisdom from their experience.
“Going back into that locker room is going to be really special,” said Sundell. “I’ve never had a brother growing up so having 40-plus brothers, that I could call brothers still 20 years later, just being able to give this new age Negaunee players what it means 20 years later to be a Negaunee Miner and putting that jersey on in front of these fans every Friday night is going to be special and I can’t wait.”
“I know it’s really cliche but it’s really never giving up and that was kind of what happened with our team,” said Barr. “You stick you our guns and your foundations and if things are meant to be, things are going to break for you.”
It’s a message Coach Jacobson continues to use to inspire the team who has their own aspiration of bringing home a ring.
“We use examples from this team in the locker room in pre-game talks and post-game talks,” said Jacobson. “Just what it takes to be successful, you know? You got to be tough, you got to be lucky, and you got to be healthy. This group really set the tempo for years to come. Just the grit they day, the tenacity, and how they dealt with adversity. Our main goal right now like this team did in 2002, they took it one step at a time and one game at a time and that’s the biggest thing we want to make sure we get across to our players right now is it’s one step at a time. So, we go to make sure we stay focused to what is the task at hand.”