At the center of the victory huddle at Saturday’s Rocky Mountain Bears triumph over the Carroll College Saints was Huntley Project’s two-way football player, Koni Dole.
“Today was the best game I’ve ever seen Rocky play, and it was in front of my new hero, Koni Dole,” said Adam Husk, Rocky’s defensive line coach and former Bears defensive player.
Just one day after being released from a two-week stay at the hospital while recuperating from an amputated leg, Dole was determined to make it to Rocky’s game to support Husk, who is Dole’s high school strength and development coach.
“I had a gut feeling Rocky was going to win, and wasn’t going to miss it,” Dole said. “I wanted to be there to support Coach Husk.”
After Husk introduced Dole to the team, he gave him a Bears jersey, signed by every team member. He then handed Dole the special team’s victory spear that is given to players of the week, adorned with purple ribbons celebrating the team’s break in a 24 consecutive-losing streak to Carroll.
Husk said the spear is given to a team player that has made a special impact on the game.
Rocky's special teams coach BJ Robertson shouted to the team, “You guys battled hard today and never gave up. But, this young man has been battling for two weeks and hasn’t given up. This victory spear goes to you, Dole.”
Dole hollered out a war cry, and stabbed the spear in the ground. The team, coaches and supporters in the field erupted with cheers. People began to cry.
It was Dole’s first outing since his injury during his team’s last game football game of the season on Oct. 19 where he suffered a compound fracture in his lower right leg, which led to an amputation days later.
Hours after the victory game, Dole and Husk hit the Huntley Project school’s weight-lifting gym, a place they meet five days a week -- and sometimes, twice a day.
“It’s what he loves to do, and he’s getting better by doing it,” said his mother, Nancy Dole.
Huntley Project football coach Guy Croy said the gym is where Dole is most comfortable, if not on the football field.
“One of his goals is to be on the field for our first game of next season with his younger brother,” Croy said. “And this is where it starts. He knows he has to overcome this huge hurdle he is facing, and I have no doubt in my mind that he will.”
There at the gym Saturday evening, right along with Dole, was his younger brother, Kai, an eighth-grader at Huntley. He joins his brother and Husk three mornings each week to weight train.
“I look up to him, I always have and always will,” Kai said. “He is just an all-around great guy and is so motivational. It’s my goal to be starting on the team with Koni next season.
“His injury isn’t the end, it’s only the beginning,” Kai said.
Dole isn’t about to quit. He wants to play football for Montana State University Bobcats. And, though he knows he’s going to have to work harder for it now, he said he is ready for the challenge.
Dole holds a number one record from last summer for middle weight power clean at Huntley Project, Husk said. “Being active is where Koni thrives.”
While in the hospital, the brothers passed the time by playing Madden 13, a NFL football video game. Kai said it was really hard for his brother to not be active, so he snuck in a couple 10-pound dumbbells for him.
“He was surprised and happy at the same time,” Kai said. “So, we also lifted to pass time.”
Support has poured in from all over the state, Nancy said. Dole’s Facebook page has been flooded with encouraging words from friends and strangers alike. During his stay at the hospital, where he underwent five surgeries before the amputation of the lower half of his leg, other amputees visited him, sharing their stories and experiences.
“It was great to see that so many people care,” Nancy said. “It meant a lot to all of us.”
There isn’t a road map for Dole, who is still adjusting to his new reality. He will have to relearn to walk and to run, which will require two separate prosthesis. An athletic prosthetic leg price starts at about $30,000, which isn’t covered by insurance.
Area community members are organizing a silent auction fundraiser for the Dole family that is being planned for the beginning of December and will be held at Huntley Project.
To donate items or for information about how you can help, call Tannis Kobold at 406-671-4619 or Tana Hudson at 406-855-9913.
There is also a fund set up in Koni Dole’s name at Stockman Bank.