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7 fun facts about Mines football, the ‘nerds who win’ playing for a DII national championship

The Colorado School of Mines Orediggers are undefeated this season and are the nation’s No. 1-ranked D-II program in the country.
Posted: 4:18 PM, Dec 15, 2023
Updated: 2023-12-15 18:18:22-05
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The Colorado School of Mines makes its second straight appearance in the NCAA Division II National Championship game on Saturday in McKinney, Texas, in search of its first title win.

The Orediggers are undefeated on the season and head into the championship as the nation’s No. 1-ranked D-II program in the country.

Mines – the preferred shorthand for the school – is a research university with a focus on applied science and engineering, according to its website, which also writes endearingly: “We’re nerds – and proud of it.”

Here are seven fun facts about Mines football – the “nerds who win” – ahead of Saturday’s game:

Their quarterback is awesome

John Matocha (pronounced muh-TOKE-uh) is the man under center for the Orediggers, and, to put it simply, he is very good at what he does.

Matocha’s 190 touchdowns are the most of any player at any level in college football history. He won the Harlon Hill Award, Division II’s player of the year honor akin to D-I’s Heisman Trophy, in 2022 and finished second for the award this year.

Oh, and he’s doing all of that while getting a master’s degree in computer science.


They’re proud of their areas of study

Like, really proud.

Each player lists his major on the back of his helmet every time the Orediggers take the field.

Here’s a breakdown of how many players have declared different majors, courtesy of the school:

  • Mechanical Engineering - 30
  • Computer Science - 7
  • Civil Engineering - 6
  • Business Engineering & Management Science - 5
  • Metallurgical & Materials Engineering - 4
  • Petroleum Engineering - 4
  • Electrical Engineering - 3
  • Chemical Engineering - 2
  • Economics - 1
  • Engineering Physics - 1
  • Geological Engineering - 1
  • Mining Engineering - 1
  • Quantitative Biosciences & Engineering - 1
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Mines football player Nate Sutter's helmet shows his mechanical engineering major

Historic stomping grounds

The Mines home field, Marv Kay Stadium, has been around for a long time – longer than any other in the region, in fact.

It’s “the oldest football field west of the Mississippi,” according to the school.

Mines says the stadium has been around since 1893. This aerial photo from the Denver Public Library shows the campus and its athletics fields, perched along the Clear Creek, in approximately 1910.


Blaster the Burro

The Mines mascot is Blaster the Burro, a live burro that runs the field after the team scores a touchdown.

“The burro has been a Mines symbol since at least the early 20th century and a live mascot was used off and on starting in the 1930s,” according to the school.

This undated photo from the Denver Public Library shows the live burro mascot in some of its earliest days.

A Mines football player poses with the live burro mascot.

The name Blaster, however, wasn’t used until 1951, the school says, after a content in the school newspaper.

Two burros currently split Blaster duties – one “running burro” that appears at football games and another for other events.

Picture day at Mines football is WILD

If you haven’t seen the photos that come out of Mines football’s picture day, stop what you’re doing right now and watch this video to get a taste of the personality of this team:

Get to know the Mines football team – including those wacky photo day snaps

The players in some cases plan their official photo for months, growing wild facial hair or wacky hairstyles for the special snap.

“On picture day, they just show up and it's you shake our heads and hope their parents aren't too mad,” Mines head coach Pete Sterbick told Denver7.


If you’re rooting for Mines football on social media, you should include the hashtag #HelluvaEngineer. It comes from the school’s fight song, “The Mining Engineer,” which was written in the late-1800s.

Here are the lyrics to that fight song:

I wish I had a barrel of rum and sugar three hundred pounds,

The college bell to mix it in and a clapper to stir it ‘round.

Like every honest fellow, I take my whiskey clear,

I’m a ramblin’ wreck from Golden Tech, a helluva engineer.

A helluva, helluva, helluva, helluva, helluva engineer,

A helluva, helluva, helluva, helluva, helluva engineer,

Like every honest fellow, I take my whiskey clear,

I’m a ramblin’ wreck from Golden Tech, a helluva engineer.

Hail, hail, the gang’s all here.

What the hell do we care as long as we get our share.

Hail, hail, the gang’s all here.


What the hell do we care now?

For the grammar police focused on the improper use of indefinite articles – by modern standards, at least – you can direct your rage toward the Mines’ opponent in the national championship: The Harding Bisons.

Yes, with an “s.”

They’ve been here before – and learned from it

Mines played for a D-II title a year ago, losing in disappointing fashion to Ferris State, 41-14. It was Ferris State’s second consecutive championship.

Immediately after the loss in the title game in 2022, Mines started making plans for this exact situation.

First was scheduling. They left for McKinney, Texas on Wednesday rather than waiting until later in the week. They analyzed their first trip to McKinney top to bottom – everything from travel to practice times what they ate – to identify where things went wrong and try to fix them for this go-round.

“This year we have a lot of fifth- and sixth-year seniors that we've relied on. And that experience that we've had, we've been in a lot of these big playoff games and we've been in the national championship before,” Matocha said. “Now that we know what to expect, being better prepared mentally, physically, everything we need in order to come away with a win this time.”

Division II Championship Football

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