The 5th and Final season, The 5th Year Finale


Julie Laughlin

Fifth year student Tanner Frost (left) has stayed at BV an extra semester to give us football career a proper sendoff.

Nicola Veltri, Sports Editor


That is a feeling that has vanished since the beginning of the global pandemic. The damage caused by COVID-19 is something we are all forced to live with for the rest of our days. Ten years from now, many will look back still yearning for closure they will never get.


Tanner Frost says of COVID halting the 2020 season, “It was just another punch to roll with. That’s the game of football.”

But even in the darkest times, it helps to shed light on those who have found closure, as it reminds us that it is still out there. That is what makes this season so special for NCAA athletes across the country, but it’s a little different for athletes here on the lake. A small Division III school in Northwest Iowa can’t offer athletic scholarships, and players don’t have the same opportunities to benefit from the new NCAA policy allowing athletes to profit off of their name, image, and likeness. Although not impossible, it is rare for a Division III athlete to break into major professional sports. This creates a beautiful opportunity for athletes beginning their senior year here at Buena Vista University. To most, it truly is one last chance to go out and compete. It is an opportunity to play with a kind of freedom that is rare in sports—the freedom of knowing that this is it. All too often athletes, of all levels, find themselves at the end of their careers when it is least expected—sometimes in the most tragic of ways. The fabled “farewell tour” or “last dance” is not something we see often, and it is not something that is taken for granted, especially with this pandemic.


That chance for one last ride appeared to be gone for BVU’s incoming senior class a little over a year ago today. As Beaver athletes set foot on campus, reporting for their first day, the American Rivers conference made the decision to cancel the seasons of four fall sports: football, women’s soccer, men’s soccer, and volleyball. It seemed to be the bitter end amidst one of the most difficult times in history.


To Beavers middle linebacker, Tanner Frost, day one of his senior season also appeared to be his last. However, it was not completely unexpected, “That was a pretty hard punch in the gut. It didn’t really come out of nowhere—the dread was looming—but it still hurt when it happened,” said Frost. But as previously mentioned, the athletes here at BVU play with a passion and dedication that is unrivaled, and this situation was not going to change that. Frost made this very clear, “We got to talking with our coaches, and from the start we were focused on how to come back and really make things work.”

Colby Laughlin, a fifth-year student who stayed this extra year to pursue one last season of Beaver football.


That infamous first day was a little different for wide receiver Colby Laughlin. For Laughlin, the feeling of abruptly losing the beloved senior season was not unfamiliar. He had this to say about the news on that first day, “Right when it happened, the first thing I thought about was my senior year of high school. I got injured after my first game, and I missed that whole season as well.” When asked about his following thoughts on the cancellation of the season, Laughlin was quick to say, “Oh, God. This again.”


History has always shown us how important it is to have a solution-focused mindset when faced with adversity, regardless of its severity. Both Frost and Laughlin raved about the team staying focused and committed despite no promise that the senior players would ever see another down. The future was certainly out of the hands of both the coaching staff and players, but as Frost described it, “it was just another punch to roll with. That’s the game of football.” The decision for the team to remain committed paid off, and in a rather timely manner. Before August could even come to an end, the NCAA announced an extra year of eligibility for all fall athletes. The 2020 season was dead and gone, but the 2021 season was now on the table. However, there is not a soul on this earth that would deny the fact that college isn’t cheap—especially a private university without the luxury of offering athletic scholarships.


It is easy for people on the outside to overlook everything that these seniors would sacrifice by staying for a 5thyear. When asked about the sacrifice of his decision, Colby Laughlin put it perfectly, “My whole life track changed because I was ready to graduate in the spring… I could have gotten a job over the summer and be starting my career right now.” It’s about more than football. These players would drastically change the course of their lives by returning for a shot at a final season. To delay a career or graduate school is a decision that is not only expensive in terms of money, but in terms of time as well. Very soon into the decision process, other important factors began to surface. Where were these returning seniors going to live, and how were they going to adjust their remaining classes to still be a student come the 2021 season? After all, Laughlin made a point that returning seniors would only have to take one class, but would it be worth it? From the outside looking in, simply continuing with life as planned—foregoing the opportunity for one last ride—might seem like the easiest option.


For Tanner Frost, every considerable factor led to one thing, “The main question for me was, ‘would I want to go out like this?’”

Frost masked on the field due to COVID-19 in the 2020 season. (Julie Laughlin)


By now, it is clear what Tanner Frost’s answer was, as well as Colby Laughlin’s. But there is truly something special about the culture of the BVU football program. Something genuine. Something that makes players and coaches feel like family. It may be difficult to point out one glaring thing, but it proved its existence when seven of the eight seniors made the decision to return for their 5th season here in 2021. Culture has become the most important piece of a college football program in the modern era, and the strength of culture was tested in programs throughout the country during the pandemic. Few proved to be more genuine than the one upheld by the players and coaches who take the field at J. Leslie Rollins Stadium, and even fewer came out stronger.


After the pandemic ripped so much away from everyone, it is a proud return to the field for all Beavers this season, and those who have their last ride back are sure to leave nothing behind.