THROWBACK THURSDAY: A small gesture goes a long way
CHEYENNE -- "Hey, can we get a picture with you?"
That is a sentence I never thought I would hear in my lifetime.
Edyn Whitney, then 11, was sporting a Wyoming jersey, a beanie with a big poof ball on top and a smile to match. She had seen our podcasts before and recognized me.
Her mother, Piper Whitney, told me they traveled down from Wheatland for the big game.
It was an hour before kickoff of the annual Border War versus Colorado State. The temperature hovered around zero. Still, they stood on the railing of the north end zone inside War Memorial Stadium hoping to catch the attention of the man on the back of Edyn's brown jersey -- Sean Chambers.
They did just that.
Chambers didn't play that night. After suffering a season-ending injury in week 9, the redshirt freshman quarterback was relegated to street clothes and a set of crutches. Still, that didn't stop him from spending some quality time with his biggest fan.
Fast forward to last week.
Not much has changed.
Minus the walking aid and the sub-freezing temps, Chambers and Edyn once again found themselves face to face in Laramie. This time was after Edyn's softball game. Her mother had arranged for the QB to surprise her daughter for her 12th birthday.
Chambers, along with fellow Cowboy football player, Ryan Marquez, once again took photos with Edyn. The emotion on her face told the tale.
"Watching Edyn adore Sean and he show her so much respect back is seriously just incredible," Piper wrote me. "She talked about it non-stop from Laramie to Wheatland. I can't thank him enough."
Spending time with children is nothing new for Wyoming's young gunslinger.
Chambers took time during his summer break last season to spend time with Meyer Moore, a 6-year-old, who was diagnosed with cancer in his hometown of Kerman, California.
“It just comes from the heart,” Chambers told me last June. “(Meyer) was around the team all the time. Seeing him like that breaks my heart.”
You can read that story HERE.
John Chambers, Sean's father, likes to joke that his son's kindness comes from his mother, Britteny.
Wherever it's coming from, it's special and likely means more than he will ever know.
This whole story reminds me of another 12-year-old who caught "Cowboy Fever" long before any of us had ever heard the word Coronavirus.
That kid looked at the Cowboy football players as if they were gods.
That kid waited under the west stands before each game to slap hands with as many players as he could.
That kid lived and died with this team.
That kid was me.
Like Edyn, my fever rose tenfold by the kindness of one player. For me, that guy was Richard Peace.
Peace was a wide receiver in the late 90's. You might remember him running side by side with David Saraf and Marcus Harris, snagging passes from Josh Wallwork. When he wasn't busy helping lead UW's offense to a record-breaking 1996 season, he was taking time out of his schedule to talk to me.
I'll bet to this day he regrets giving a 12-year-old his phone number, because, boy, did I use it. We talked on the phone often. More often than I'm sure he cared for, but he never made me feel like a pest.
We mostly talked about the team, his teammates and the past and upcoming games.
We were even on the horn the minute Harris was selected as the Biletnikoff Trophy winner. That was unforgettable.
When he'd see me at the stadium, he would hand me his gloves and wristbands. He even got me and my family tickets to the WAC title game in Las Vegas.
That all still seems too good to be true.
My "did-that-really-just-happen" moment actually came during the season finale of the 1995 campaign. Wyoming was busy putting a beat down on UTEP inside the Sun Bowl. My grandma and I watched on television from our house in Cheyenne.
Peace caught a touchdown that afternoon and when the camera panned in on him on the sideline, he pulled off the typical "hi, mom" response. Only this time he wasn't just saying hi to mom ... he said hi to me.
"Did he really just say what I think he did?" I asked my grandma.
"It sure sounded like it," she responded.
Now, I was always a Wyoming fan. Mitch Donahue was my first recollection of a star. Then came the Ryan's -- Christopherson and Yarborough. Harris followed.
Peace, simply by being nice to me and showing me attention, turned me into a super fan. In all reality, I probably wouldn't be here typing this story and covering the Pokes if it wasn't for that affection.
He made me feel important. My fandom meant something to him.
That meant the world to me.
I texted Peace today to ask him what an annoyance I truly was. Once again, he floored me.
"Not a pest at all, Cody," he wrote. "Clearly, I wasn't Marcus Harris or Ryan Yarborough, so I think we took an interest in each other ... Even after losses when I was grumpy and wanted to slink out of the place, I remembered Cody and all the other Cody's out there who spent half the day just driving to Laramie to watch us play. I felt I owed it to all of our fans to take the time to chat, take pictures and sign autographs.
"... Thank you for being a fan and giving me an opportunity to be a meaningful part of your fall, your weekends and your life."
When I see Chambers and Edyn embracing the way they do, I can't help but think of my moments with Peace. I probably looked at him the same way. Edyn got a personalized Chambers jersey made. I had just enough money to have "Peace No. 2" stitched into the side of an old UW hat.
After seeing the photo of Chambers and Edyn, I wrote her mom and said, "She'll be a huge Pokes fan forever."
"Absolutely! She's hooked," she replied.
A small gesture really goes a long way.
* This column was originally published on June 29, 2000.