ORANGE CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — It’s a play that will live in infamy in Orange City. Tyson Kooima’s game-winning throw to Michael Storey to send Northwestern to the NAIA national championship was unbelievable. But so was the fact that in doing so, he ruptured his Achilles, meaning his season was over.
The Red Raiders played hard in the national title game, but not many teams can overcome losing the national player of the year, with the game ending in a 45-13 loss, as Kooima watched from the sideline, planning his return.
“You know I haven’t been hurt, all my life playing football,” said Kooima prior to the NAIA championship game on May 6, 2021. “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.”
Rehabbing every day this summer, the Western Christian alum returned to the field on October 16 in relief, and started his first game of the season on Saturday against #20 Dordt, where he finished a perfect 13-13 passing for 283 yards with a career high six touchdowns.
“Tyson was anxious to get a start, and we’ve kind of been holding him back for the past few weeks,” said Northwestern head football coach Matt McCarty following his team’s win over Dordt. “And you can see it in practice, he’s 100%, he’s ready to go, and he’s such a competitor, we couldn’t keep him out of this game.”
Named the national and GPAC player of the week for his performance, Tyson also ran for a season high 44 yards. Showing the same mobility that made him the GPAC’s player of the year each of the last two seasons.
“I feel awesome running around,” said Tyson following the win. “It’s just like it came back to me. Everything feels really good, and everything feels awesome out there.”
That said, there’s a time for bravery, and a time for being smart, which for Kooima, now includes sliding after big runs.
“I slid, very rarely last year, but I’ve got to start protecting myself a little bit more. So I think more on the QB scrambles I slide, but on the QB runs, I won’t slide.”
And his return might be at the perfect time, as the Red Raiders prepare for their biggest game of the season on Saturday, with Kooima facing the team he went down against in Morningside.
“Our guys are hungry,” said McCarty. “They continue to get better throughout the season. And that’s what we need. We need to be playing our best football at the end of the year.”
“I think it just builds our confidence,” said Kooima. “We had some easy wins at the beginning of the season, and we played a tough opponent here in Dordt, they’re not easy. And going into a game like Morningside that’s really going to help our confidence.”
Tyson Kooima’s play, and now return, has brought him to legendary status for Northwestern. But if he has it his way, he too will go down in infamy when it’s all said and done on December fourth in Durham, North Carolina in the NAIA national championship game.