If the University of Colorado and Colorado State really aren’t recruiting in-state kids hard enough — like some around town believe — it could be argued that the football program at the Colorado School of Mines are reaping the benefits of it.
A year after reaching the NCAA Division-II semifinals, the Orediggers cruised to the national title game earlier this past month before falling to back-to-back champion Ferris State out of Michigan.
On their 2022 roster were 46 players who played high school in Colorado — 10 of whom are from the BoCoPreps.com coverage area.
(In comparison, the Buffs and Rams had a combined 59 players from the state with larger Division-I roster limits.)
“We kind of think it’s funny that the only nerd school in Colorado is the best football program we have here,” said redshirt freshman linebacker Hall Edmonds, who was formerly at Broomfield. “Everybody looks at us and is like, ‘Oh these nerds can’t play football.’ It’s kind of funny to sit back and watch how things unfold that way.”
Edmonds says this in a bit of tongue in cheek, of course.
He himself pointed out the wide differences in speed and overall size at the D-I level compared to D-II.
And while noting CU and CSU (who have struggled recently), he might be excluding Air Force in the running for ‘Best College Football Program’ in the state. The Falcons have double-digit wins in each of their last full three seasons.
But none of that takes away from the Mines football team. Or the local kids helping to fuel it.
The Orediggers, who had double-digit wins for a fourth straight season, rostered players from eight different BoCoPreps.com area schools this past year.
A rundown of former area standouts looks like this: Edmonds and kicker Matthew Eich are from Broomfield; defensive back Mason Dickerson and running back Braelon Tate from Legacy; linebacker Ben Fuchs Monarch; offensive lineman Cole Johnson Fairview; running back Nathan Mackey Mead; linebacker Mac Post Centaurus; wide receiver Kyle West Skyline.
And one of the most decorated program players in their history, running back Michael Zeman, who was an All-American and Harlon Hill (D-II MVP) finalist in 2021, is from Holy Family.
Together, they helped the Orediggers win 13 straight following an 0-2 start to the season. They bowed out in their first national title game on Dec. 17 in front of 6,333 spectators in McKinney, Texas.
“It was awesome. Really the whole season was so much fun,” said redshirt senior Fuchs, who was a three-year starter at Monarch and graduated with summa cum laude honors.
“Everyone talks about how football is a team sport, but it really is. Not to just have that accomplishment be your own, but to have it with the other 100-something guys is really cool. Especially while we were dominating some teams (this year) that were also some pretty good football teams.”
During the Orediggers’ run of 13 straight wins, they scored more than 40 points 11 times and more than 80 twice.
Maybe more impressively, they did it while balancing a heavy-school load at an academic powerhouse. Mines was ranked as the No. 3 engineering school in the nation in 2022, per Money Magazine.
“If anyone is coming to Mines and is on the football team, they have to be good at time management,” said Johnson, who came to Fairview when his father Jay Johnson followed Mel Tucker to CU and became the Buffs’ offensive coordinator in 2018. “It’s an all-day ordeal, especially during the season.”
For someone like Edmonds, who at one time envisioned something much different in football, said there are no regrets.
“I will never ever regret going to the School of Mines,” Edmonds said. “We’re a good football program getting a good education. It’s a better place than any I can think of.”