Daniel Hardy and Taylor Tuiasosopo give thanks at the end of their careers at the State of Montana | Bobcats

VICTOR FLORES 406mtsports.com

BOZEMAN – Daniel Hardy points to the sky after every sack. Fellow Montana State senior Taylor Tuiasosopo makes the same gesture throughout a game day: during the Bobcat Prowl, during the runout, after big plays, after big wins.

MSU’s 38-10 Football Championship Subdivision title loss to North Dakota State on Saturday marked the end of Hardy and Tuiasosopo’s MSU careers. Their years as Bobcats were filled with personal and individual success, as well as heartbreak. Hardy lost his father in 2018 and Tuiasosopo’s father died in 2020.

Now Hardy, a defensive end, and Tuiasosopo, an offensive lineman, are on the next steps in their lives. They have often spoken of the joy they had playing at MSU and how their years at Bozeman helped them deal with the aftermath of their father’s death.

“The biggest deciding factor in me coming here was the culture we had,” Hardy said Jan. 3. “It’s a very strong culture, and I think that’s what has carried us through everything that’s happened in recent history.”

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Hardy’s father, Wilbert, died of cancer in February 2018, months before Daniel transferred from the College of the Siskiyous to MSU. Tears flowed ahead of his first game as Bobcat, a 26-23 Gold Rush win over Western Illinois.

“My dad would have loved this place and he would have loved to come see me play here,” Hardy told 406mtsports.com in 2019. “I would have loved to be able to say, ‘Dad, I’m here. I did it.'”

Hardy felt similar emotions after MSU’s Senior Day win over Idaho two months ago.

“I was there with my mum and I had to hold back the tears a bit because she was telling me my dad was proud, he was watching and he was there,” Hardy said after the game. “I just started thinking about not having him here. I wish he’d seen everything I do. I know he’s watching from above, but I’d love to hug him right now.

Montana State senior defensive end Daniel Hardy talks to the media following the Bobcats 20-13 victory over Idaho on Saturday, November 13, 2021 at Bobcat Stadium in Bozeman.

Hardy certainly had a season to be proud of. His 24 tackles for loss are the third in program history for a single season, six behind the record set by Mark Fellows in 1984. Hardy also finished with 16 sacks, good for fourth on the MSU list for a single season. . The Beaverton, Oregon native had 77 total tackles, forced two fumbles and earned multiple All-America honors. He led the Cats to their first national title game since 1984.

“My dad was my best friend,” he said. “I will love him forever and I live every day to make sure his legacy lives on.”

Montana State’s Daniel Hardy knocks down North Dakota State’s Quincy Patterson during the FCS Championship game at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas on Saturday.

MIKE CLARK, Billings Gazette

Tuiasosopo also played a key role in MSU’s run to the playoffs, while nursing injuries from his father’s passing.

Titus Tuiasosopo passed away in October 2020. His son would normally be in the middle of a season, but it was postponed (and eventually canceled) due to COVID-19. Titus’ death on top of the pandemic made Tuiasosopo seriously think about quitting football.

He stuck to it and earned an All-Big Sky second-team honor in the final season of his career at MSU. The right guard helped the Cats finish seventh in the FCS with 220.9 rushing yards per game.

“Being part of a team and a family here is a big help for me,” Tuiasosopo told 406mtsports.com in October. “Football kind of helps me out.”

Second Quarter, MSU vs. NDSU

Montana State’s Taylor Tuiasosopo blocks North Dakota State’s Michael Buetow during the second quarter of Saturday’s FCS Championship game in Frisco, Texas.

Rachel Leathe, Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Titus is “always on my mind,” Tuiasosopo said, as evidenced by all those pointing fingers up. Moments after MSU defeated South Dakota State in the FCS semifinals, Tuiasosopo fell to his knees on the sidelines. He buried his face in his hands, then pointed them skyward again.

In an Instagram post on Sunday, Tuiasosopo thanked his families: those trained at MSU and those who saw him grow up in Southern California.

“After Pops passed, I didn’t think I could go on with all of this,” he wrote. “But my family has been my rock. The strength I needed when I couldn’t do it alone.

After the FCS championship game, MSU junior nickelback Ty Okada spoke about the adversity his team has been through this season.

“Our elders were a great example of how to deal with this situation,” he said.

Minutes earlier, Okada was consoling Hardy, who was crouched on the sidelines as NDSU celebrated. Hardy and his teammates have talked all season about their national title goals, and they’ve almost reached the top.

It was hard for the Cats to fall short, especially the seniors who won’t get another championship shot.

Hardy didn’t stay crouched for long. As he has done his entire career, he has risen and moved on to a new chapter.

“He is a young man who has had a lot of adversity in his life, whether on the football pitch or off the football pitch,” Okada said. “The way he handled the situation is great.”

Email Victor Flores at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @VictorFlores406

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