Sentinel’s Arnold among 4 inducted into Mesa Hall of Honor
They did what they loved and never sought glory or recognition, but they got it anyway.
Three former student-athletes — Larry Brunson, Michael Brunson and Cheryl Bates-Olson — and The Daily Sentinel’s Patti Arnold were inducted into the Colorado Mesa University Hall of Honor on Thursday night at the Moss Performing Arts Center. The public can meet them at the Victory Dinner at 6 tonight at the University Center ballroom.
The Brunson Brothers
Larry Brunson was inducted along with his brother Michael, who died from liver cancer in 2002.
“It hasn’t quite hit home,” Larry said of being inducted with his brother. “It’s a dream come true. When you go play ball you don’t think about going into the Hall of Honor. You go thinking about your teammates and playing ball. We were trying to fit in coming from Cortez. You don’t think about the future. You think about the present.
“It’s an honor, you did enough the university would remember you and honor you.”
Larry said he and his brother had different personalities.
“He was the mild-mannered one. I was the voice one,” Larry said. “He was very quiet. He thought before he spoke. He would not take any credit. That’s just the way he works. He was incredible.
“Michael would want to honor all the guys he played with. He’ll be there, just won’t be there physically. There is a lot of people that helped us along the way.”
Larry played six seasons in the NFL after he was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the 11th round in 1972.
He was cut by the Broncos, but he played for the Chiefs from 1974 to 1977, the Raiders in 1978-79 and returned to the Broncos in 1980.
Now, he serves on the Bronco Alumni Association, the board of the nonprofit organization STRIDE and Capitol Hill Community Services, where he works to raise money to break the poverty cycle.
Michael was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in the 11th round in 1970 and played there for two years. He also played for the Houston Oilers and St. Louis Cardinals.
Michael taught math and coached elementary children in the Balsz School District in Phoenix after his playing career.
Phoenix’s Brunson Field was dedicated in his honor at his retirement in 2002, and Brunson-Lee Elementary School was named for him in 2003. His memory lives on in the hearts of those he touched.
Cheryl Bates-Olson is the first Mesa women’s soccer player to be inducted into the Maverick Hall of Honor.
“It’s crazy,” Bates-Olson said. “I never expected it. I remember going to a dinner like this when I was a freshman. It’s crazy now I’m here. It’s quite an honor.”
She was a four-time All-American and two-time RMAC player of the year. The defender started every game and was the team captain throughout her career at Mesa.
“(Bates-Olson) was the best soccer player I’ve ever seen,” Chuck Carlson said. “For a college player, she was unbelievable.”
Carlson is a Maverick Club member and longtime supporter of the CMU women’s soccer program. He often volunteered.
Former coach Jim Buchan, who is from Scotland, and Carlson nominated Bates-Olson. Buchan couldn’t make the trip.
“Cheryl Bates is the best soccer player to ever wear a Mesa shirt,” Buchan said in a news release.
Mesa’s program was only a couple of years old when Bates-Olson came to Mesa in 1997 and played four years.
“I couldn’t have done it without my teammates,” she said. “My freshman year we made the (NCAA) playoffs. It was a big thing. Nine of the girls came from my club team. We knew how each other played. I attribute a lot of my success to my team and who was around me.”
While Bates-Olson was on the team, the Maverick women’s soccer team was ranked in the top 10 in the nation in NCAA Division II.
She coached the girls soccer program at Horizon High School until she had her second child. She now coaches the youth soccer teams of her two children.
“It’s one of those things where you are honored that people think highly of your work, but this is my job,” Arnold said of her induction into the Hall of Honor. “It’s what I do, it’s what I love to do, and I have a lot of fun doing it. I’m definitely honored and pretty shocked.”
Arnold has written numerous award-winning stories about Mesa athletics in her 28 years at The Daily Sentinel and has served on RMAC, Colorado Mesa and Junior College World Series committees.
“If anybody with service toward the Mesa athletic department needed to be recognized, certainly it was Patti,” former Mesa athletic director and men’s basketball coach Doug Schakel said. “She always put a positive spin on everything. She’s a great story writer, and she always took the high road. That was not lost on many of us among the coaches at Mesa.”
Schakel, who drove from the Kansas City area for the dinner, and former women’s basketball coach Steve Kirkham nominated Arnold.
“It takes a rare person to tell a story truthfully and still be friends with the people she has to tell the story on,” Kirkham said. “You think about the history of athletics and sports writers, to do both of those things is special. She has that knack. She can be honest and tell exactly what happened, but do it in a way that didn’t alienate people and make people not like her.
“You go into the Hall of Fame because you do something special. That’s exactly what she did.”