GREAT FALLS – Eleven years ago Great Falls High student Derek Dowson passed away in a tragic farming accident five days before his seventeenth birthday. Since then, no Bison football player has worn Dowson’s #40 jersey.
With the Dowson family’s blessing, first-year head coach Mark Samson is bringing back the blue and white #40 as a legacy jersey – awarded to a player who embodies the type of student athlete Derek was before he passed away.
Before Friday’s scrimmage at memorial stadium, the Bison chose senior linebacker Bryce Brinkman to carry on the Dowson legacy. Derek’s mom Angie was on hand for the emotional ceremony. And was floored by the way the program chose to honor her son.
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“It’s an awesome way to remember Derek,” she said, “So I’m thrilled that they brought it back.”
Derek was a big University of Montana football fan, and Angie said he was always interested and excited whenever a Griz player was awarded the #37 jersey.
“So when Mark got a hold of me we just thought it was a great way to get the Bison pride back,” she said. “It’s quite an honor and an awesome way to remember Derek so we’re very thankful.”
Angie remembers her son as a natural athlete who excelled at many sports – but had a love for football. But most of all he was a kind person, who cared for others.
“Being good to people was also the number one thing and he exemplified that very well,” she said. “He was very humble he didn’t like to be the center of attention.”
She laughed. His hard work didn’t just extend to athletics.
“School work always came first also, that was a huge part of what he was about. But he loved football, so this is pretty cool.”
Brinkman has a pretty big jersey to fill.
The #40 legacy will be awarded to a new player every year at Great Falls High’s fall scrimmage.