CHADRON, Neb. — Football is a numbers game. For the freshmen on the Chadron State football team who are redshirting this season, 513 tons of snow removal never figured into that comparison.
That's because the freshmen combined forces with the Chadron State football coaching staff, college officials and a handful of community members to clear Elliott Field of snow Saturday morning after Winter Storm Atlas dropped up to at least a foot of snow in the Chadron area.
The crew arrived at the field at 6 a.m. and hoped to clear it before the Eagles' Homecoming game against Adams State at 1:30 p.m. However, even with 60 people at various times removing snow from the natural grass surface, the field wasn't ready for kickoff. College officials decided to postpone the game early Saturday morning and the Eagles and Grizzlies finally met Sunday at noon.
“After about two hours of work, I think we had cleared off 10 yards,” coach Jay Long said. “So, I knew that we weren't going to be able to get it ready for a game that day. There was just too much snow.”
Over a million pounds of snow, in fact. Graduate assistant coach Randy Doran also teaches mathematics courses at Chadron State. On Monday he had his class figure out exactly how much snow was removed. According to Doran, the answer is 68,400 cubic feet of snow. And, if the snow weighed 15 pounds per cubic foot, 1 million, 26,000 pounds (513 tons) was cleared from Elliott Field.
Needless to say, the snow removal process took a lot of teamwork. Long, along with offensive coordinator Chris Stein, graduate assistants Josh Breske and Doran, and NEBRASKALand regional editor Justin Haag operated snow blowers that circled around the field lengthwise. The redshirts held 50 gallon trash barrels to catch the blowing snow and when the barrels were filled — usually after about three yards — they were lugged to the sideline to be dumped out.
“I was really sore,” redshirt freshman Nick Colgate said. “I work out quite a bit, and it was brutal. The snow was very heavy and it took forever to finish it. I'm from Arizona, so I've never seen this much snow. I thought we were never going to finish and everyone else agreed with me. We couldn't get it through our minds that there was that much snow on the field.”
Meanwhile, others with shovels worked on clearing the sidelines and stands. After more than nine hours, the job was done.
“We really came together as a team,” Colgate said. “A lot of teams wouldn't go up there and do it. We didn't complain. It's our field, and we're going to be playing on it someday and we take a lot of pride in it.”
That sentiment resonated with the upperclassmen on the football team. Colgate said many of them have thanked the redshirts for their hard work.
“That made all of us younger guys feel great,” he said.
The Eagles also showed their appreciation by playing one of their strongest games in years. They defeated Adams State 31-0, their first shutout since 2008.
“I'm not going to lie, I'd rather play a football game than shovel snow any day,” Long said. “But we got it done. I was extremely proud of our freshmen. They worked really hard so we could play a game. They didn't complain; they just did it. That's the mentality of our football team: Blue collar. They learned that Saturday.”