“Fight On” is the battle cry of the Rocky Mountain College football team for this coming season -- and that motto fits Corey Bummer to a tee.
The fifth-year senior strong safety from Laurel suffered a broken left leg last fall at Montana State Northern on the final play of the final game of the regular season.
He was on crutches the following weekend when the Battlin’ Bears played in their first postseason game in 14 years.
“It was definitely bittersweet,” Bummer said. “Eight seconds left. Very last play of the game -- and that happens.”
With Rocky winning 49-28, he tackled a scrambling Northern quarterback Derek Lear down near the goal line, but broke his fibula (lower leg bone) when “one of our other guys kind of rolled up over me.
“As soon as I got up, I couldn’t really walk,” Bummer recalled. “I was hoping it was going to be a sprain. Come to find out, it was broken. That’s not a good feeling.”
His injury didn’t require surgery, though, and after six weeks in a walking boot, he was able to participate in winter conditioning and spring drills.
Bummer is also expected to be in the starting lineup Saturday afternoon when the No. 9-ranked Bears open their season at Dickinson State.
“I felt sick for him, getting hurt on that last play,” Rocky coach Brian Armstrong said. “Everything seems to happen for a reason, so he’s come back really taking nothing for granted.
“He’s learned that a season can end in a split second, so you really need to kind of embrace the moment and take advantage of what you’ve got why you’ve got it.”
That’s definitely the game plan of the 6-foot, 205-pound Bummer, starting with the non-conference game against the Blue Hawks.
“I’m going to be cherishing everything,” he said.
Bummer, who covers the entire field making plays and tackles, is also one of Rocky’s vocal leaders on defense. He’s planning on a productive final season for himself and his teammates.
“Our goal is to keep teams under 17 points per game,” he said. “With All-America quarterback Bryce Baker and the receivers that we have, if we can keep teams under 17 points, we should be a pretty hard team to beat.”
Bummer, 22, will be rejoined in the secondary by free safety Kyle Mai and cornerbacks R.J. Taylor and Jorden Upton, all starters from a year ago.
The Bears are also a pretty seasoned bunch on the defensive line, where returnees Tanner Hunt, Brendon Johnson, Seth Swandal, Wyatt Johnson, Austin Chamberlain, Elu Lavea, Edwin Soto and Preston Pearson have all been a part of what has been a solid fall camp.
“Our D-line has been pestering Bryce a lot,” Bummer said. “He barely has any time to throw.”
Rocky did lose six linebackers -- including all of its starters -- from last year’s 8-4 team.
Junior transfers Will Peppard and Anthony Carrion (both from Cerritos College in California) and senior transfer Marcus Hamlin (Eastern Oregon) are among the players expected to step in and help fill those vacancies, along with returnees Anderson Otuafi, Chase Kaufman, Cole Jelinek, Jason Baker, Daniel Chester and Eric Johnson.
Besides adjusting some personnel, the Bears have also tweaked their overall plan, Bummer said.
“We’ve taken some linebackers out and put in another defensive lineman, so we’ll always be rushing another guy,” he said.
As a strong safety, Bummer is asked to break up passes, “but he also has to be physical enough to roll down in the box and take on an offensive lineman on occasion and take on a lead blocker and be able to spill something,” Armstrong said.
Bummer was in on 46 tackles last season, including 4 ½ for losses. He also blocked a punt at home against Dickinson State to help set up a touchdown.
However, he was on crutches when Rocky lost to Morningside College 40-21 in Sioux City, Iowa, during the first round of the 16-team playoffs.
“It’s a little bruised,” Bummer said of his still-healing leg, which isn't protected by any padding. “Our trainer said a bone takes at least a year to fully heal. I’ll be fighting with it a little bit all season, but it shouldn’t hold me back at all.”
That is music to Armstrong’s ears, who will be leaning on Bummer and the Bears’ other fifth-year players “to remain positive and be an example” whenever adversity pops up this fall.
The “Fight On” slogan, Bummer said, is perfect for both himself and the team.
“We need to remember our seniors from last year and the legacy they left,” he said. “We need to try to not only continue that, but hopefully take it to the next level.”
The tough break last year is providing Bummer with all the motivation he needs.