Mike Van Diest only had one word to describe his seniors this season: “Wow.”
The 19-year head coach has had many classes come through under his tenure. This one, while the losses came much more than the group would have liked, is one the Saints will celebrate and remember. Van Diest said it’s the away-from-the-field stuff that truly encapsulates this group.
“Certainly the scoreboard hasn’t been kind to them over their career,” Van Diest said. “But you look at every one of them. They're going to graduate and go to graduate school, medical school, dental school. There's CPAs and accountants. It’s a who’s who.”
“We’ve had a lot of groups close to that. But in terms of off the field and academics and tight character, this group as a whole is unbelievable.”
The Saints seniors include defensive back Chandler Arbizzani, quarterback Tanner Gustavsen, punter/kicker Dylan Torgerson, running back Ryan Walsh, defensive tackle Beaugh Meyer, defensive back Tucker Johnson, linebacker David Anderson, offensive tackle David Barnett, center Joel Kramer, linemen Tim and Todd Pays, offensive lineman Chris Emter, linebacker Walker Ray, defensive back Cole Adams, and defensive end Alec Basterrechea.
Van Diest, off the cuff, remarked on some of his seniors.
“Johnson is going to dental school,” Van Diest said. “Barnett is going to be a CPA like his brother. Gustaven’s going to medical school. Emter has his world ahead him. Tim and Todd Pays, in engineering, those guys can do anything they want to do. Kramer, he’s going to the head of something some day. Basterrechea is one of the most impressive young men off the field as well as on the field. Anderson going to medical school. Cole Adams is going to medical school.
“You go down the list, the football part of it, yeah the score has not been kind. They’ve contributed mightily in other areas.”
Van Diest said the first day of two-a-days, in a meeting, he had the seniors stand up, highlighting the players for his team to see. This past Sunday entering Senior Day week, Van Diest did the same thing.
It was important to recognize the seniors.
Many of these players have seen the Saints at their height, running deep into the playoffs, and have seen the Saints at their low, a string of 4-6 seasons. Most, if not all, have contributed in their own ways and, as Van Diest said, have bright futures ahead of them.
This weekend ahead of the final home game of the season, the Saints will recognize the seniors on the field at Nelson Stadium. Then, those seniors will play their last game in Helena.