HOLLAND – When the Flying Dutchmen entered their dressing room on Saturday morning, things looked a little different.
Hope hosted her annual Purple Community game to benefit the Van Andel Institute and came away with a 57-10 victory over Northwestern (Minn.). The Flying Dutchmen ditched their traditional orange and blue and instead put on purple threads. Space on the back of each jersey could be purchased to display the name of a family member or loved one who has battled a fatal disease, with all proceeds going to VAI.
Stuursma bought the back of number 42, the number he wore when playing for the Flying Williams, Kareen f. On the back, he wrote the name of his late father-in-law, Dave Cook, who died just a few weeks ago.
It was touching to see that name on the jersey of second-year linebacker Marcus Arens. Stuursma had a great relationship with her stepfather. Being able to see his name on the pitch made him feel like he was still there.
âIt was this guy who would have loved it, enjoying the beautiful day and watching the people have fun,â Stuursma said. “I told our guys that I married Amy, who was my best friend, and I had another best friend in my stepdad, it was just that guy.”
His team made Stuursma and Cook proud in a dominant victory over the Eagles. QB Chase Brown, who played for family friend Sue Petkus, threw for 202 yards and two scores, both to Terrell Harris. Dan Romano, playing with his friend Allison Cross’s name on his back, and Kenyea Houston, who played in memory of his grandparents, led the rushing game with 102 and 66 yards, respectively. The two also scored a touchdown. Carter Nofziger returned a 90-yard kickoff for a score, tying a program record.
Arens ended the game with a tackle for loss and played well, stopping the Eagles’ running game, helping them limit them to a few yards on the ground. He also got a sack, but that was canceled due to a penalty. He said having Cook’s name on the back was a big responsibility for him and that he wanted to honor Cook and Stuursma in the right way by playing hard and playing smart.
âI’m super blessed with that and the fact that he chose me to represent him is huge for me,â said Arens. “Being able to share that kind of moment with him and his family is really special.”
In addition to Cook, the linebacker also played for his uncle Rob, whom he affectionately referred to as Superman before he died of pancreatic cancer. Everywhere you looked, the Ray and Sue Smith Stadium was full of purple, honoring those who are battling disease.
While Stuursma beamed when asked about Cook, he was quick to distract from his players and the people they chose to represent on the back of their shirts. In total, 101 of the 110 players on the list had names on the back of their shirts. Many of them shared their stories with each other at team meetings. Hearing players talk about their loved ones is Stuursma’s favorite part of these fundraising games, as it keeps their memories alive.
âIt’s worth noting that there are a lot of amazingly cool stories behind each of these jersey numbers,â Stuursma said. “They are all powerful, they all have an impact and we are lucky to be able to go out there and play this football game for them.”
The Flying Dutch were happy to have been able to take the victory to honor the 101 names on their backs. The victory took the Flying Dutchmen to 3-1 this season, with none other than the MIAA ahead of them.
They will open the championship next week when Kalamazoo arrives in town. Even with a big win on Saturday, Brown knows that next week the rubber will meet the road.
âIt’s a new season, but it’s the same season,â Brown said. “We just need to clean up a bit, fix a few mistakes, but once we get started the conference will be a lot of fun to play.”
Hope will be back in his normal orange and blue suit for the remainder of the season, moving the purple until 2022, when they will have another chance to honor more of their loved ones on a Saturday of. fall special. But for Stuursma, that jersey with âDave Cookâ on the back is not going anywhere anytime soon. It will be a constant reminder of how special Cook and those 100 other names on the pitch on Saturday are to the Hope football family.
âWe’re going to put it in a frame and hang it next to some of our other jerseys because they mean something,â Sturrsma said. “Each of our guys has an individual story and hearing some of those stories is pretty cool.”