The Lipscomb University men’s soccer team has been nominated for the 2008 NCAA Sportsmanship Award by the Atlantic Sun Conference at the request of Bradley University, a private college located in Peoria, Ill. On August 12, 2007, tragedy struck the Bradley community with the death of men’s soccer player Danny Dahlquist, who died in a fire at his residence. His father Craig is the university's senior associate athletic director for compliance and finance, while his mother Patricia is a member of the school's English department. Among the many friends and well-wishers who provided the family and university with much-needed support through the tragic loss, one specific incident continues to stand out in the memory of Danny’s parents and teammates.
As the Bradley community, and specifically the Bradley soccer team, limped its way through two weeks of preseason training, it became apparent that many individuals were affected by Danny’s death. Support was tremendous as the soccer team prepared for its opening game on August 31 against Lipscomb University.
Returning to the field was hard for Bradley team members who, that evening for the first time, were able to view a memorial in Danny’s locker as well as have a chance to spend a brief moment with Danny’s parents. During the introduction of the starting line-ups, the Lipscomb soccer team presented Bradley players with a customized Lipscomb soccer game jersey bearing the name “Dahlquist” and his number “29” on the back. The jersey was autographed by each player on the Lipscomb team. It was obvious that this group of young men and the Lipscomb coaches anticipated the needs of the Bradley soccer team and shared their emotions in a sincere, respectful and considerate way.
In the words of Bradley Head Coach Jim DeRose, “The special gift and gesture made by Lipscomb was so genuine and deeply rooted in faith. Prior to the match, their coaching staff approached me and told me of their intentions, yet wanted to make the presentation in a manner that we were comfortable with. They were more than happy to make it privately in the locker room, have me present the jersey on their behalf to my team, or save it for some other time. Lipscomb wanted no publicity, no recognition; it was just their way of saying that we are all young men, student-athletes, and we share the same trials and tribulations.
“They just wanted us to know they were thinking of us. The presentation from their captains to our team of the #29 signed Lipscomb jersey brought tears no doubt, but in a way more than sympathy cards and prayers can do; the prayers and cards now had a face, a name, and it was fellow college student-athletes. In a hard fought 2-1 Bradley win, the post-game handshakes were something I will always remember. Every member of the Lipscomb team and travel party that shook my hand and that of my players, didn’t say ‘good game’ as is traditional. They said, ‘We are praying for you,’ and ‘our deepest condolences and sympathies,’ and ‘Thanks for having us at the tournament.’ The ‘thank you’ is from Bradley to Lipscomb. On the night we returned to play soccer and began the healing process, I genuinely believe that there was a reason the opponent we played was Lipscomb. They represented their team, coaching staff and the institution in a manner that epitomizes what we hope for in all our young men and student-athletes.”
According to Danny’s parents, this quiet demonstration of respect to him, his family, and the Bradley soccer team and community has stuck with all of them. In the words of Danny’s father Craig, “Seeing the jersey in the Bradley clubhouse is a reminder of how genuine the Lipscomb University players and coaches feelings were. Beyond the sporting event, it reminds us of everyone who has written and called since August 12, 2007.”
“Our team did not make this presentation for personal recognition, but I’m pleased that the people at Bradley felt that some recognition was deserved. I know we are all very proud of the way our team represented Lipscomb University,” said Steve Potts, former athletic director for Lipscomb University.