JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — It’s a story that shook the nation nearly 20 years ago. And in the wake of the mass shooting at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, the school’s football team delivered a moment of hope by winning the state championship that same year.
Now, that team will be inducted into the CHSAA Hall of Fame.
Linebacker Ryan Barrett was in the Columbine library the day 12 students and one teacher were shot to death. He hid for his life as the gunman walked in and murdered his best friend and teammate Matt Kechter.
Another player on that team, Mike Rotola, was with a teacher who had been shot.
Both Barrett and Rotola made it to safety but struggled emotionally in the months that followed. Then, the football season began.
“On a football field, football is football. Life was normal,” says Barrett. He says the game began to heal the team and the wins began to pile up.
“There were a lot of things to overcome and I wish I could tell you how I did it. We just kind of stuck together and believed in each other,” says Barrett.
“We just got sucked closer every week. Something happened every week that made it that much more special,” says Rotola. “People who had never thought about going to a football game were showing up at games because it meant something more. Something we could all experience together and it was something positive.”
The Rebels ended up winning the state title in 1999. They won 13 games. One, they say, for each person who was killed.