NAPERVILLE, Ill. (CBS) — Overjoyed North Central College football players were honored with a heroes’ welcome home celebration Saturday, after winning their first NCAA Division III football championship.
As CBS 2’s Jim Williams reported, the conquering heroes arrived back on campus Saturday afternoon to an enthusiastic reception in Naperville.
“A lot of pride, a lot of pride,” one man said. “That’s why I’m down here – just to show my support.”
The North Central Cardinals on Friday night dominated the University of Wisconsin Whitewater and rolled to a 41-14 victory in the Stagg Bowl in Texas.
Quarterback Broc Rutter, who won the Gagliardi Trophy for the best player in Division III college football, broke the Division III career passing mark with a late game touchdown pass.
“I mean, this is huge. It’s a life-changing moment for us,” Rutter said Saturday. “I mean, this is so great for us to see our hard work pay off.”
Rutter is a hometown kid, from Naperville.
And they don’t offer athletic scholarships at Division III schools. At North Central College, it really is for the love of the game.
“These past four years have been the best time in my life with these people,” said Rutter said.
There’s a coaching tree at North Central College. Head Coach Jeff Thorne on Friday night was able to hand over the championship trophy to his dad, John – the former football coach at the school.
“It was pretty emotional,” the younger Thorne said. “A special, special moment that I won’t ever forget, and I know he won’t either.”
North Central College has actually its share of athletic success – 40 national titles in various sports. The school’s first football national championship is number 40.
“It’s still – it’s pretty surreal right now,” Rutter said. “We’re just soaking this in and enjoying the moment.”