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The Bull is back: New beginning for Loughney, Raiders

Former Raider fullback Dan Loughney, wearing his “Dan Strong” t-shirt, leads the 2017 Raider football team onto the new practice facility at the high school for the first time Tuesday, Aug. 1. Loughney, a member of Hudson's 2012 state semifinal team, was diagnosed with a brain tumor in April 2016. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 2
Dan Loughney (44) runs through the Appleton North defense in a Level 3 playoff game at Stevens Point Nov. 3, 2012. Loughney carried the ball 27 times for 132 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Raiders to a 40-21 victory. File photo2 / 2

Dan Loughney led the Hudson High School football team onto the field plenty of times as a player, but last Tuesday, Aug.1, may have been the most special.

Loughney, a star fullback on the Raiders' 2011 and 2012 playoff teams, was diagnosed with a brain tumor — a grade 3 glioma — in April 2016 while attending college at UW-Stout. After months of radiation, chemotherapy and MRI's, Raider head coach Adam Kowles asked Loughney to lead the 2017 Raiders onto their new turf practice facility for the first time last Tuesday at the high school.

"I was just overwhelmed," Loughney said about getting the call from Kowles. "If I get to do that; be the first one out on that field? That's just crazy. I was very happy when he asked me."

Kowles said he wanted to send a message to his team by having Loughney lead them onto their new facility the very first day.

"The big message to the team was that we need to earn the right to step on that field every day through hard work and commitment," he said. "It's a new beginning with new facilities, but we can't lose sight of the fact that this is the first step in a long journey with this group."

Loughney knows all about hard work, commitment and long journeys. He was a two-time All-Big Rivers Conference fullback at Hudson in 2011 and 2012, and earned Wisconsin Football Coaches Association All-Region honors as a senior when the Raiders won the BRC with a perfect 8-0 record and reached the WIAA state semifinals.

He gave up football when he enrolled at UW-Stout, and while working his part-time job at the Menomonie bowling alley in January 2016 felt some tingling in his right arm and had difficulty speaking. An initial EKG didn't show anything, but after repeated episodes an MRI in April showed a tumor the size of a golf ball on the left side of his brain.

Neurosurgeons at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester hoped to remove the tumor, but after extensive testing and more MRI's they determined removing it might cause permanent damage to the then 21 year-old and prescribed a treatment of vigorous radiation and chemotherapy instead to prevent it from growing further. Loughney said he completed chemo and radiation late last year, and today he feels great.

"I feel like a million bucks," he said. "The MRI's are going really well. The next one is in about a month or so. I have to do them every three months for two to three years; that's what the doctors have been saying. And it's still stable; no bigger. If it got smaller that would be the best thing ever, but stable is just fine."

Loughney, who picked up the nickname, The Bull, as a youngster, told the Hudson Star-Observer when he was first diagnosed that his doctors said the tumor was unrelated to football.

"We asked about that; could it be related to concussions? And the doctor said it had nothing to do with it," Loughney said in an August 2016 interview. "They said it could have been there a long time, or it just happened."

Loughney returned to school last fall and has one year remaining at Stout as a packaging engineering major with a business emphasis. He said he's grateful for all the support he's received from his hometown, including a fundraiser at the Hudson Bowling Center last year to help with expenses. His friends sold T-shirts at the event with the words "Dan Strong" on the front and "The Bull never backs down" on the back, one of which he wore while leading the Raiders onto the field last week.

"It's amazing what the people of Hudson have done for me," he said. "I really appreciate all the support."

Loughney said he's looking forward to watching the Raiders' first game at the new high school stadium Aug. 25, and returning to school Sept. 6.

"Then we'll go from there," he said.

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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