FORT CALHOUN, Neb. (KMTV) — When driving into Fort Calhoun, the welcome sign reads 'Gateway to the past, pioneers of the future'. Just a few miles down the road, inside the high school gym on a January night, Owen Newbold never forgets his gateway to the past.The Pioneers' senior is playing his final year of basketball not just for his team but also for the man who taught him the game, his dad Grant.
"Man, he was my best friend," said Owen. "He was my biggest supporter. He'd always tell me to attack the gaps. Go beast. Take more shots. He always wanted me to get my shot off more because he knew I could make it. He loved everybody. He loved Jesus. On Sundays after church, we would pack lunches and go downtown and feed the homeless people. He was vocal at games. One time at a baseball game, he got thrown out because he was cheering a little bit too much."
On July 25th of 2020, Owen was at home less than a month away from starting his junior year.
"I went downstairs to play some games and came up and...yeah," Owen said.
On that day, 46 year old Grant Newbold died due to kidney failure.
"It was just really hard," said Owen.
Owen made hit through most of the basketball season junior year until one day late in the season, when Newbold decided he'd had enough.
"Every game was just really a struggle for me after the games not being able to talk to my dad," Owen said. "It was a lot to handle and I just couldn't take it anymore."
A few months after leaving the team, Owen had a change of heart and asked Coach (T.J. O'Connor) if he could to return to the pioneers for his final season.
"I think we all deserve 2nd chances and 3rd chances and things like that," said Coach O'Connor. "I think a lot of people preach family. If that's truly what you are, you don't let one of your family go."
Newbold has now worked his way back into the starting lineup as Fort Calhoun is in contention for its first state tournament appearance in 99 years.
"Now I'm just very thankful that my teammates forgave me and that coach forgave me," said Owen.
"There weren't a lot of smiles last year," O'Connor said. "It was just kind of a dark cloud so to speak. So to just see him and see the smile come back and see him to be able to enjoy not just basketball but it seems like a lot of other things, I'm just really happy for him."
Before every game, Owen says a prayer for his father and kisses a necklace that has Grant's ashes in it.
"I think about it after the game just what he would say because man, it's hard not hearing his voice," said Owen.
And as Owen honors his gateway to the past, he's also now ready to pioneer the future.
"That's why I wanted to play because I know my dad wouldn't want me to sit out my senior season," Owen said. "So I'm going to put my all in between those lines."