The Madison Blaze’s final home game Saturday will take on a special significance as the women’s football team will dedicate it to Andy Thorland, their longtime statistician and writer who died in a stunning murder-suicide just before the season began.
The Blaze, who are currently 1-4 in a season plagued with injuries, host the Milwaukee-area-based Wisconsin Dragons at 5 pm Saturday at Middleton High School. The first 50 fans will receive tribute t-shirts and the team will make a special halftime presentation for Thorland’s mother. The team will also retire the jersey number 12 in honor of Thorland’s favorite men’s football player, Tom Brady. The team will also have commemorative coins available for purchase.
Authorities say Thorland’s father fatally shot Andy, 33, and then himself on April 1.
“Andy was a good friend to me and to the players on the team,” said veteran player Karen Heizman in an email to Madison365. “He was always up for a good chat about football and he was literally our biggest fan. You could be a player that maybe didn’t see a lot of playing time and he would still tell you what a great player you were and how tough you were and what a great job you did during the game.”
Heizman said she first invited Thorman to the team’s 2013 home opener, and he immediately became a big fan.
“After the game was over, I walked over to the stands and asked him what he thought, and he was sitting here with a HUGE smile on his face and bright eyes and said, ‘I love this, this is all so amazing, you’re all such badasses.’ He was hooked after that,” Heizman said.
Soon thereafter Thorland took on roles with the team as the statistician and lead writer for the team’s newsletter, The Blazin’ Times.
“(The team) meant everything to him,” Heizman said. “Andy loved being a part of the organization and having a place to belong. So many people struggle to fit in, and Andy had a small circle of friends, so finding a home with the Blaze was something he really relished. He was so, so, so proud to be a part of the organization and we were happy to have him as one of our own, in good times and bad times, he was one of us, and losing him has left a void in our football family.”
As a nonprofit organization, the Blaze suggests a donation of $10 per adult at the gate. The team will wrap up its season June 9 with an away game at the Wisconsin Dragons.