By Mike Pilosof
Garden City, KS-It was a moment that will be replayed for the duration of time.
Peyton Huslig's one-yard touchdown pass to Harley Hazlett with 30 seconds to go capped off Garden City's first national championship with a 25-22 victory over No. 2 Arizona Western in the El Toro Bowl back in December.
Five months later, Garden City reaped the rewards of that instant classic with the arrival of their championship rings during a ceremony on campus Wednesday afternoon.
"I just want you to remember what these rings represent," Head Coach Jeff Sims said. "Everyone in this room made a sacrifice, and that's what it's all about."
That sacrifice resulted in a series of program firsts. It was the first perfect season in school history along with the school's first Jayhawk Conference crown in nearly two decades. The Broncbusters also became the first Jayhawk School since Butler in 2008 to hoist the ultimate hardware.
"It still really hasn't sunk in yet," said running back Tra Minter, who finished second in the nation in rushing before taking home All-American honors. "It's a great feeling. It will probably be some time before the reality finally hits."
To put everything in perspective, when Sims arrived on Campus three years ago, Garden City was coming off a 3-8 season, which included an 84-21 loss to Coffeyville in their regular-season finale.
"We had to build a program," Sims said. "It was a process."
During his introductory press conference in December, 2014, Sims was optimistic he could turn things around. But he was also a realist.
"These are the high points," Sims said to a room full of cameras and microphones. "These press conferences don't happen every day. The work begins now, and it's a long process."
That process started on the positive end with an upset victory over Highland on the road in Sims' first game as coach. But after blowing a two-touchdown lead vs. Dodge City and losing, things went south. Garden City lost a school-record seven straight games before the balance in the conference changed forever.
On October 24, 2015, the Broncbusters went into El Dorado as heavy underdogs against No. 1 Butler. Las Vegas sportsbooks never saw it coming.
Todd Porter threw for 248 yards and two touchdowns, and Brian Michalowski's defense forced two turnovers as the Broncbusters pulled off the biggest upset in recent memory with a 25-20 victory over the unbeaten Grizzlies.
"Nobody else believed we could do it, but the guys in our locker room did," Sims said following that game.
But the accomplishment was more than just winning on the field.
"We had a great year on and off the field," School President Dr. Herbert Swender said. "This was a wonderful accomplishment, and I'm very proud of everyone in this room."
The ring design said it all. It was shaped like a football with the Garden City "G" in the middle. On the sides it has each player's name and the NJCAA logo with the inscription of "G-City undefeated" and "11-0" underneath.