It all happened so fast.
Less than two weeks ago Mitch Wiese was rolling out of bed after Owatonna’s 61-0 drubbing of Faribault and was told by his dad, Marc Wiese, that he needed to talk with Mitch and his younger brother, Zach.
There was no easy way to go about breaking the news, so Marc, who is an assistant coach for the Huskies, came right out with it and told his sons that their grandpa, Terry Wiese, was terminally ill and had roughly a week left to live.
“It was like a bomb was just dropped,” Mitch said after practice on Wednesday afternoon. “I didn’t expect anything like that.”
Terry was Mitch and Zach’s biggest fan. The 74-year-old, who passed away on Monday, had quit living in Florida in the winter months in order to watch his grandsons play football, hockey, lacrosse and baseball and was “always there” according to Mitch.
Though he wasn’t present in-person because of the aggressive stage 4 pancreatic cancer that had him bedridden, Terry was able to watch Mitch one last time via an online live-stream against Rochester Mayo last Friday night.
In the same manner that Terry had been there for his grandsons for so many years, Mitch was there for his teammates against the Spartans. With the Huskies needing a major spark after a slow start, Mitch snagged a batted pass by Kade Serbus and sped into the end zone to give the Huskies a 6-0 lead.
It was a moment that Mitch and his teammates will never forget.
“That was pretty sweet to see that happen tonight with everything he’s dealing with,” Owatonna quarterback Abe Havelka said last Friday night. “We’re all just brothers on this team and when everyone can get behind Mitch and help him through this, it’s awesome. To have a play like that, it just gives me goosebumps. It’s the best feeling ever.”
Against the Spartans, Mitch said his mind periodically wondered with thoughts of his grandpa when he was on the sidelines, but said the most difficult part will be dealing with not seeing his biggest fan perched in the bleachers moving forward.
Win or lose, Terry was always there.
“It’s going to be kind of weird not seeing him up in the stands anymore,” Mitch said. “But I know he’ll be watching.”
The team will continue to wear purple ribbons on their helmets in memory of Terry and have adapted a mantra on Twitter that is both simple and accurate: “#WieseStrong”
“Terry was the grandfather of two of our current players and the father of two guys [Marc and Gary Wiese] on our all-century team at Owatonna,” OHS coach Jeff Williams said. “We thought that would be a good opportunity to honor him and raise awareness for pancreatic cancer.”
Mitch Wiese’s strengths as a player expand well beyond his physical abilities that earned him all-district honorable mention accolades last season at linebacker. He was elected captain along with Havelka, Zach Mensink and Alex Raichle and is the quintessential “lead by example” teammate. Vocally, he’s not going to say much on the field, but speaks loud and clear with his relentless nature.
“I try to be the hardest working player on the field,” Wiese said. “I’m not a big talker.”
Wiese’s pick-6 against the Spartans wasn’t the only time the senior has come up huge in the biggest moments. Last season in the state quarterfinals against Apple Valley, the senior caught a touchdown pass from Havelka late in the game on fourth down to help tie the score 21-21.
Wiese, who stands only 5-foot-8 and weighs roughly 175 pounds, also takes pride in executing the little things that don’t show up on the stat sheet. His ability to set the edge on the outside is a major reason why the Huskies have emerged as one of the best run defenses in the entire state since the beginning of last season. He can also cover running backs, tight ends and receivers with equal ability.
“He’s just that lunch pail guy,” Williams said. “Rarely will you hear a coach calling out his name because of a mistake. He does his job and worries about his area of the world and makes his teammates better because of it.”
Due to a few unexpected injuries, Wiese was forced into action as a sophomore and performed admirably as the team's primary fullback in 2015. Last season, Wiese emerged as one of the team's starting outside linebackers and racked up 53 tackles and three forced fumbles. He also added 117 rushing yards on 22 carries.
"I didn’t really expect to play as much as I did [as a sophomore]," Wiese said. "I was just told at picture day that I was going to be dressing and then I didn’t play much at all against Mankato West [in Week 1]. I was pretty nervous going into my first game. I remember my first play, everyone was so big and so fast, it was weird."