Wabash football coach Don Morel gets it. And luckily his players do too.
For the first time since Little Giants star halfback Ralph Wilson died from a concussion sustained in a game against St. Louis in 1910 — there will be no Monon Bell game.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a lot from Wabash students, including homecoming, athletics, and in a lot of ways a traditional college experience. Their response, by football players and all students alike has been exactly what many might expect from a Little Giant.
“It’s the man that we recruit to this place,” Wabash football coach Don Morel said. “If this is the worst thing that happens to you in your life, you’re going to end up living a pretty good life. I think they refocused on their lifetime goals and got more serious about med school, law school, and grad school.”
The loss of the Monon Bell game in 2020 is a historic one. It marks the end of 109 consecutive seasons that Wabash and DePauw have squared off on the gridiron. And it would have been the 127th all-time meeting. It’s the 13th longest rivalry in college football.
Wabash was scheduled to open the 2020 season and a new Little Giant football stadium against Rose Hulman on Sep. 5, and host the Tigers today in what would have been the most important game of their careers for more than a dozen seniors after dropping the Monon Bell game 17-13 in Greencastle last season.
“It’s a triple kick in the teeth,” Morel said. “They were so looking forward to it. Winning the bell game is fun. Winning the bell back is outstanding, It’s really what Wabash is about — how you rebound from a setback.”
With a special combination of returning sophomores and those seniors like Patrick Kelly and Jake Page, Jackson Garrett and Nikko Morris and many others — Morel and the Little Giants were expecting big things coming off a North Coast Athletic Conference championship in 2019.
“We really had a tremendous senior class,” he said. “We had a senior dinner one night in October and it killed me to look around that room and there were probably 11 guys in there that would habe been first-team all-conference this year.”
Wabash athletes have always been uber competitive. A lost season is something none of them expected when they committed to being a Little Giant. But pressing on with life. Always building for a better tomorrow. A brighter future. That’s what Little Giants do — no matter what curveball life throws at them.
“Our guys have lofty goals, and they’re going places,” Morel said. “They’re going to do great in life. And they are going to be absolutely fine.”