By Sherwin Sadr
You’ve earned the right to win. Take a moment to internalize those words. Internalize that message. Don’t mistake this message with routine pregame motivation or some sports cliché. You in fact have actually earned the right to win.
The seniors and juniors on this squad have endured unimaginable pain. Possibly every kind of pain associated with playing college football. Bowl aspirations perishing, injuries mounting on already thin position groups, hope crushed by a single mistake in the fourth quarter. Heartbreak does not begin to explain what this team has been through. Round after round of excruciating heartbreak is not fair, not justified. Dedicated hard work is not supposed to result in consistent heartbreak. That has been your story, until now. This team has shown incredible resilience through intense adversity. Rather than pointing fingers or quitting while times were tough, you always came together and always fought.
On an early Berkeley afternoon in 2014, in perhaps one of the most emotionally draining games you’ve endured, Colorado was stopped at the inch-line on fourth down in double overtime. The pain from that Saturday still haunts many members of the CU faithful, but you went back out the next Saturday with even more resolve and more fight. This resilience and drive became your lasting identity.
A few weeks later you fought and mounted a memorable comeback at home against UCLA, only to be robbed of another win on your own field. But you kept fighting.
In Hawaii, we watched the referees bumble your opportunity at completing a last second comeback win, but you didn’t hang your head -- you kept fighting.
Last fall, you fought your conference opponents tooth and nail into the fourth quarter for a whole season, at one point tying an NCAA record of 114 offensive plays -- only to walk away with what felt like nothing. But you kept on fighting, and because you fought, you did not walk away empty-handed. This team kept building on its right to win. Each week of fighting has refined the depth of this team, steadily increasing the desire for success, growing the competitive spirit, and building stronger, faster, and smarter football players.
You’ve lined up 11 on offense and defense in every imaginable scenario, with every variety of game pressure. Over and over you bridged talent gaps between you and your opponents with hard work and determination. You’ve fought and matured together, never giving up and certainly never giving in. The CU faithful are proud of your fight, and proud of your development. Your past record is not indicative of what you have achieved in pushing the Colorado Buffaloes into the same column as your PAC-12 peers.
This season when you run out behind Ralphie, your stampede will represent the strongest and most talented team our University has had in years. You will have the benefit of senior and junior leadership that has not only experienced the fight, but also has mastered the act of perseverance. You have slowly and painfully earned the right to win, and the time to win has finally arrived.
Alumni, fans, and a group of very talented 2017 Colorado recruits will be watching you represent us each Saturday. This year, having the full benefit of your past, you will finally experience victory because you have righteously earned it. It will become clear that the combination of your heartbreak, resilience, sacrifice, and unwavering commitment to fight, ultimately led to the rise of Colorado Football in 2016.
Shoulder to shoulder.