"Mustang for Life" was the homecoming theme for Southwest Minnesota State University this year, and the term "Mustang family" is frequently used by members of SMSU's athletic department. To outsiders, they're just words used to try to drum up a sense of togetherness among past, present and future students of a school. But to those who are members of that "Mustang family", they mean much more.
Lucas Post played one season for the SMSU men's basketball team (then Southwest State University). The Central Minnesota Christian grad first spent two years at Ridgewater College before joining the Mustangs for the 1998-99 season. He finished his career at SMSU with three points, four assists, three rebounds, a block and a steal, which he compiled in a total of 16 minutes of action over six games.
Post, who has been the head boys' basketball coach at Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg the past five years, made close connections with teammates and coaches in that one season and said he maintains relationships with many of them to this day. Though his time in the program was brief, he said he has always felt included in the Mustang brotherhood.
From left to right, Lucas, Mia, Lyndsey, Archer and Isaac Post pose for a family photo at a hospital where Mia received treatment. Lucas and Lyndsey are both Southwest Minnesota State University graduates. Lucas has been the head boys’ basketball coach at Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg the past five season, while Lyndsey is a first-grade teacher at MACCRAY.
"Two years after I played is the year they made the run into the Elite Eight. We were in St. Cloud watching that game and it was pretty special," Post said. "Sean Smith (a teammate of Post's from the 1998-99 team) was there and he said something to me after that game that I'll never ever forget. He just made a comment that 'You were a part of this. You and I, we were both part of this.'
"I don't know. I didn't get a lot of playing time, which was fine. There was a reason I wasn't getting much time because those guys playing in front of me were just phenomenal. That didn't bother me. But to hear someone say that to me, even two years after I was done, it was really something."
His mark on the record books is insignificant, but in his one season on the team, Post became woven into the fabric of the program, of the school, and now he and his wife, Lyndsey, also an SMSU graduate, are truly seeing what it means to be a Mustang for life at a time when their family is in need.
The Post's 3-year-old daughter, Mia, was diagnosed with a Wilms' tumor - a cancer that attacks the kidneys - on Oct. 2 and she had the affected kidney removed in surgery four days later. Though the condition isn't hereditary, Post said he had the same type of tumor when he was 3 years old and had to have a kidney removed. But it was also discovered that Mia had a small tumor in her lung, something Post didn't go through when he was a child, and while Post said the doctors are optimistic they can get rid of it, it will likely need to be treated with chemotherapy over the next six to eight months.
SMSU men's basketball coach Brad Bigler was a teammate of Lucas Post's in 1998-99 and worked with Lyndsey Post in SMSU's admissions office. The Posts now live in Prinsburg, but the two families have kept in contact over the years. When Bigler learned of Mia's health issues, he felt he should do something.
He came up with the idea to give the money from the gate of the team's first two exhibition games, as well as team merchandise sales during the games, to the Post family to go towards Mia's medical costs. The first game is at 7 p.m. today against Waldorf College, and the second is the Mustangs' game against the SMSU Alumni team for "Andy Wiersma Day", which is scheduled to tip off at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
Bigler, his wife, Heather, and the rest of their family have had to deal with more than their share of hardships recently. Bigler's mother died in a kayak accident in the summer of 2011, then his five-month-old son, Drake, was killed in a car accident caused by a drunk driver in July of this year. He and his family received an outpouring of support following the tragedies, and Bigler said this is a chance to step up and come to the aid of others.
"I know how the Marshall community has helped our family and this is an opportunity for myself to be able to give back to a family who's also in need," Bigler said. "This is an opportunity for our men's basketball program to make a difference. We talk a lot about, yes, we're only a basketball team and there are limitations on how much of an impact we can make on the community, but when the opportunity presents itself, it's something we want to do. This is a big opportunity to help out a former Mustang basketball player and a family that's been very supportive of us, as well."
Post was caught off guard by the suggestion of the benefit, especially knowing how much the Biglers had gone through recently. He and his family attended Drake's funeral and Post said the moment really hit he and his wife hard because their youngest son was born just two days before Drake. Post was surprised Bigler was even thinking of doing something like what has been planned.
"It was totally out of the blue. I had never thought of anything like that," Post said of Bigler's initial suggestion for the benefit. "One day last week he gave me a shout and told me what he was thinking of doing and I said, 'Man, I don't know. There's plenty of causes.' But he really wanted to help us out and it was really touching."
When people are going through a tough time, having others there to rally around them helps provide a source of strength. That support system is a trademark of a family, whether those people are related through blood, school affiliation or otherwise.
"I think the one thing I've learned through some of the adversity that I've been through is that the overwhelming support has really made me a better person," Bigler said. "I think, from my experiences, it really encourages us to go out of our way to help others, as well. We're talking about two friends of mine that I've known for over 10 years, and to see them going through the struggles that they're going through is something that's hard for anyone. We just want to make sure we're there for them."