MADISON (WKOW) — Nearly 80,000 people attend the Wisconsin Badgers football games at Camp Randall Stadium, and Mike Thompson is one fan who never misses a play.
Thompson has been a season ticket holder for 27 years. He has a cognitive disability and his family supports his passion by driving him to Madison from his hometown of Neenah, Wisconsin.
On Saturday, Nov. 9, the Badgers beat the Iowa Hawkeyes and Thompson was having a great day — until it was time to leave.
“I notice I don’t see him anymore. It was scary,” he recalled.
He got separated from his family member, then things got blurry.
“I’m always used to being with someone, so it was a little scary and nervous in a way,” Thompson said.
Back home, his family learned he was missing and panic set in.
“When it got to be 15 minutes after the call and 20 minutes after the call it was scary,” said his sister, Jenni Oeftger. “I was praying that everything was going well.”
Meanwhile, Thompson made his way to the street near Gate 6, outside Camp Randall. Nearly an hour passed and then…
“I said hi and he said hi back,” said Badgers offensive lineman Tyler Biadasz.
Biadasz just finished media interviews after the game and was heading back to his house when he noticed Thompson was out of place and looked a little worried.
“I’m lost and I can’t find my friend,” Thompson told the then-stranger. “Can I borrow your phone?”
Biadasz was happy to step in.
“I just wanted to make him feel comfortable,” he said. “I wasn’t going to leave him at all.”
The 6’3” center is used to protecting the quarterback but Saturday night, he wanted to make sure Thompson was OK. He took him back to the house he shares with more than 20 other players.
“Being in a vulnerable spot where you don’t know anyone in the area, that can be scary to anybody,” said Biadasz.
They got a hold of Thompson’s mom who was almost 100 miles away, in Neenah. She tracked down Mike’s ride.
While they waited, Thompson and Biadasz talked football.
“We were just talking about the game and how we did really well when it came down to the wire,” Biadasz remembered.
And then he was on his way.
“I’m glad I got help out,” said Biadasz with a smile.
But to Thompson and his family, he did more than just help out.
“There must have been something about him (Tyler) that he (Mike) knew he would be in safe hands,” said Oeftger.
A day that could have gone differently turned into one Thompson said he’ll never forget.