Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Colorado fan Lulu Carreon holds up a photo of Buffs linebacker Rick Gamboa. Gamboa won the Buffalo Heart Award on Saturday.

At the end of an emotional week for the entire Colorado football program, particularly a group of seniors playing their final game at Folsom Field, Rick Gamboa needed a moment to compose himself.

After a day of all-around misery for the Buffaloes — from the frigid conditions to the 30 unanswered points by Utah in a 30-7 Utes victory — Gamboa learned he had been named the 20th recipient of the Buffalo Heart Award.

The history of the 20-year old honor actually began with one of Gamboa’s coaches, co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini, receiving the inaugural award in 1998 from the dedicated bundle of fans who sit behind the CU bench. For 20 years the group has continued to honor the Buffs player who best represents the spirit of the program on and off the field.

Denver Broncos rookie Phillip Lindsay won the honor last year. Despite a forgettable loss in his final home game, Gamboa was momentarily overcome by emotion when asked about the award.

“I’d just say it’s a great honor. I spent the past four and a half years putting my heart and soul for this team, for all the brothers I’ve played with since 2015 up to now. I think being recognized as that is something I’ll always be proud of that.

“For me, it’s just knowing the last time I’ll be playing in Folsom. I’m never going to put on a Colorado uniform ever again, and just reliving everything I’ve gone through since I’ve been here the past four and a half years. It’s more joy and happy of what I’ve accomplished.”

Gamboa has been a steady presence in the middle of the CU defense for four seasons, and his final home game could be described as a microcosm of his Buffs career, with several individual highlights scattered amid a tough defensive showing all around.

Gamboa was credited with eight tackles against the Utes, allowing him to pass Laval Short for sixth place on CU’s all-time tackles list with 379. Like the rest of CU’s defense, the Buffs simply were worn down on Saturday, in large part because of a CU offense that couldn’t stay on the field.

Six straight losses isn’t how any of the seniors pictured exiting Folsom Field, particularly after the season’s 5-0 start. But such was the case for Gamboa and his classmates Saturday.

“I wouldn’t say that it hurts right now. For me, it’s just knowing that this is the last time I’ll play in Folsom Field and I’ll never put on a Colorado uniform again,” Gamboa said. “I’ve been reliving everything I’ve gone through since I’ve been here the past four and a half years. I have a lot of joy and am really happy with what I accomplished.”

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