ORANGE CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — It was a moment of shock and awe. With 16 seconds left in the national semifinal, Tyson Kooima threw the game winning touchdown to Michael Storey to send Northwestern to Louisiana. However moments later, as Kooima sat on the field with a trainer, worry set in about the Western Christian graduate’s future.
“I’m not 100% sure what it is,” said Northwestern head football coach Matt McCarty after the Red Raiders win over Morningside. “A calf, or something. We’re not even sure how serious it is, but he’s such a competitor. He’ll be ready to go.”
By Tuesday, the team had to face the uncomfortable truth.
“Just a tough way for his season to end,” said McCarty. “And he’s not going to be able to play this week for us.”
The very next day the NAIA announced Kooima was named their national offensive player of the year, and first team All-American. A four year starter, Kooima finally had his team in the title game, but wouldn’t get the chance to see the Raiders through.
“You know I haven’t been hurt all my life playing football,” said Kooima. “And being in the national championship and not being able to play was tough at first. But you know I’m just in a different role now.”
In Kooima’s absence, redshirt sophomore Blake Fryar will take his place under center. The Waukee, Iowa native has thrown 37 passes in two seasons, and made his last start in 2017, leading Van Meter to it’s first state championship in program history.
Definitely just getting ready to play, and hoping to execute to the best of my ability,” said Fryar. “I just more than anything am leaning into the guys around me. Great o-line, great skill players. I really just have to do my 1/11th and try to make things happen out there.”
And despite stepping into some pretty big shoes, the Northwestern coaches are eager to show everyone, there won’t be as big of a drop off as many think.
“He’s strong enough to run,” said Red Raiders offensive coordinator Josh Davis. “He’s very cerebral. He understands what we’re teaching, and where the weaknesses of defenses are. Keeping him protected is a priority. He’s got instincts. He is capable of making very good plays. I just had a meeting with Blake prior to this press conference. Blake smiled and said ‘coach, you need to relax.’ and i said ‘thanks for saying that, I’ll try.'”
But it’s not just his cool and calm demeanor that has his team believing in him. They’ve seen it first hand.
“I played Blake his senior year when he won the state championship,” said Northwestern junior safety Noah Van’t Hof. “And I remember Blake in the biggest game of my life at the time, and his too, and he played extremely well. It was probably the best game I’ve ever seen from a quarterback. And I’m super excited for Blake. He’s waited so many years to get this opportunity.”