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FOOTBALL: Ty Guden keeps pouring into football -- the very thing that ended his career

In his revamped role, Ty Guden now coaches up the younger linebackers, gives signals from the sidelines and remains as committed as ever. It's not what Guden envisioned for his season, but it's a way to stay involved after a cyst of fluid formed within his spinal cord and ended his playing days.

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Bemidji State's Ty Guden conducts a drill for fellow linebackers during warmups before a game against Concordia-St. Paul on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI -- Like the rest of his teammates, Ty Guden sports his Bemidji State football jersey every game day.

But unlike his peers, he’s wearing a backwards ballcap and shouting from the sidelines, not donning a helmet and communicating within the huddle.

“I still get hyped up with the boys in the locker room and on the field,” Guden said. “It’s nothing serious where I can’t do that anymore, and I’m thankful for that.”

Syringomyelia -- which is what Guden called “nothing serious” -- may not be life-threatening. But when that cyst of fluid formed within his spinal cord, it was urgent enough to end his football career.

Nevertheless, that hasn’t stopped the Edgar, Wis., native from being a part of the team.

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“I still lift with my teammates, I still work out with them, I still go down to practice every day,” Guden said. “That’s what’s helping me cope right now. The season’s not over. We’ve still got three weeks and hopefully more after that. Just being around the guys helps everything.”

‘A football junkie’

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Bemidji State freshman Ty Guden (32) reacts after a play during an NCAA Tournament game against Augustana on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Sioux Falls, S.D.
BSU photo

After redshirting in 2019 and enduring the canceled 2020 season, Guden finally got to suit up in 2021. The middle linebacker finished with 31 tackles and 2.5 sacks while appearing in 12 games as a freshman.

But he got semi-regular stingers during the season, which only worsened in preseason camp this year.

Tests and imaging revealed that the cyst formed due to physical trauma. And his only possible source of neck trauma, Guden said, was hitting in football. A neurosurgeon recommended he stop playing, and Guden adhered to that advice to avoid furthering the risk of serious spinal injury or degeneration.

“Right away, I ain’t going to lie, it was rough,” Guden said.

Guden waited in limbo while undergoing tests during the first two games of the season. But his forced retirement came the week of homecoming, just when the Beavers began one of the longest winning streaks in program history.

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Bemidji State's Ty Guden shouts directions to the Beavers from the sideline during the first half against Minnesota Duluth on Oct. 22, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haaksen / Bemidji Pioneer

Guden opted to address the team himself to break the news. Right after that, he said, “Everybody came up to me saying that I’m still a leader of the team, they want me around, they want me to be a part of the team. That helped.”

In his revamped role, Guden now coaches up the younger linebackers, gives signals from the sidelines and remains as committed as ever. It’s a mutualistic relationship that gets maximum production from the mind of a biochemistry and molecular biology major in what will be his final year at BSU.

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“He’s taken off in a different direction,” Bemidji State head coach Brent Bolte said. “He knows the defenses just as well as most of the coaches. He really is a football junkie in that regard. He’s done exactly what you’d hope a guy in his shoes would -- just jumps back in and tries to help the team in any way.”

Shifting gears to a new focus

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Bemidji State's Ty Guden, right, joins the Beavers for a huddle with head coach Brent Bolte after the first half against Minnesota Duluth on Oct. 22, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haaksen / Bemidji Pioneer

With all-conference linebackers Gabe Ames and Jaylen Jenkins graduated, Guden expected to fight for a starting linebacker job this fall.

Once his plans drastically changed, he found a new avenue to contribute.

“That’s one of the bigger things of emphasis with Bolte when I talked to him: Try to help out the younger guys,” Guden said. “It’s a next-man-up mentality here. Whatever I can do to help them learn the defense more or give them little tips and tricks is my thing.”

“He kept finding a way to get out on the field as a player,” Bolte added. “Now he’s an additional coach on the sidelines, specifically with the linebacking corps. He’s run with that and understands football extraordinarily well. He’s got a really, really high football IQ. … You want a bunch of guys who are great football players but still put the team first. That’s what you get with Ty.”

The Beavers will host Northern State in its home finale at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5, at Chet Anderson Stadium. And you can bet your bottom dollar that Guden will be there, uniform and all.

“I’m thankful to all the coaches and all the guys for still wanting me to be around,” Guden said. “That’s the biggest thing to me: They truly wanted me to be here. It’s hard to explain, but there’s something about this team, the boys and the camaraderie. I don’t want to leave it.”

Beavers threatening more program records

BSU is threatening a number of program records, some of which could surface this weekend.

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As a team, the Beavers’ current seven-game win streak is one shy of matching an eight-game run from last season, which is the program’s longest single-season winning streak all-time. Bemidji State also had a nine-game win streak that bridged the 1940 and 1941 seasons.

Wide receiver Brendan Beaulieu is five receptions away from tying the program record of 196 career catches, which was set by Anthony Schreiber in 2007. Beaulieu also broke the program records for career receiving yards and career touchdown receptions earlier this season.

Beaulieu’s quarterback, Brandon Alt, is nearing history of his own. Alt currently has 82 career touchdown passes, which is seven shy of Jordan Hein’s program record established in 2017. His passing yardage total of 7,648 yards is also 811 yards away from Hein’s career record. With two games remaining in the regular season, both of those benchmarks are attainable with a strong finish and/or a BSU playoff run.

Micah Friez is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he worked at the Pioneer from 2015-23 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing.
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