On November 12, 1972, a Memorial Fountain was installed outside the Marshall University Student Center. The Memorial Fountain reaffirms a purposeful life and mourns the tragic deaths of 37 football players, eight coaches, twenty-five boosters, and five flight crew members who lost their lives as a result of the ill-fated plane crash of November 14, 1970.
As Mother Nature gives life to the flowers during the spring, the Memorial Fountain Ceremony springs life into the Marshall University Football Program. Every April, Family members of the Young Thundering Herd Football Team, the former teammates and I pay respect at the fountain ceremonies. The act of turning the fountain on celebrates the rebirth of Marshall Football.
During the spring of 1972, Marshall’s legendary coach Jack Lengyel recruited me while I was attending Ellsworth Community College located in Iowa Falls, Iowa. While attending junior college, I excelled in the classroom and on the football field. I earned a Who’s Who Among American Junior College Students award. Moreover, my outstanding football play made me an All-American Junior College Candidate. This recognition attracted notable “blue chip” college football programs from all over the country.
I encountered a life-altering experience and a date with destiny when I answered coach Lengyel’s call. Coach said, “Other schools may want you, but we need you”. With no regrets, I took on the emotionally staggering task of assisting coach with the task of reestablishing football at Marshall. Our task was not so much to win championships but simply to play competitively and position Marshall Football for future success.
I have vivid memories about what could have been. The Marshall Football Staff recruited me in 1969 while I was attending Steubenville High School located in Steubenville, Ohio. Marshall rescinded a full scholarship offer because I didn’t meet the school’s academic standard. Otherwise, I could have been a member on the 1970 team, thus being a footnote linking me to the most tragic sporting disaster in American sports history. However, I wouldn’t have been on the plane because freshman players didn’t travel with the varsity during that era of college football. By the grace of God, I didn’t have to endure the pain of losing those who could have been my teammates because I was attending junior college in Iowa. I will always remember that unforgettable Saturday evening when a news break informed the world about the Marshall University plane crash. I was shocked and saddened to hear the tragic news. I grew numb knowing that I could have been a member of the Marshall University Thundering Herd instead of an Ellsworth Community College Panther.
Ironically, coach Lengyel recruited me to the Marshall campus two years after the plane crash. As I was escorted down Gullickson Hall to meet coach Lengyel and the rest of the coaching staff, I was drawn to the team picture of the 1970 Marshall University football team, the crash victims. It mesmerized me and tugged my heartstrings. With raw fascination I had a connection with Scottie Reese and wanted to finish what he had started. I walked down the hall but stared back at the team photo.
During the fall of 1972, I joined an eclectic group of athletes recruited from other sports, along with freshman players and a host of walk-ons. I can proudly say that I finished what Scottie Reese and the rest of his teammates had started.
In spite of me playing with a torn deltoid and hepatitis during my first year at Marshall, I received a supernatural power that allowed me to practice and play with excruciating pain because the crash victims were resting in their graves. Therefore, I refused to take a practice off.
My personal and emotional ties to the Marshall Football program inspired me to write my first book “Against All Odds – 4th Down and Forever”. The Memorial Fountain designed to commemorate the crash victims is prominently displayed on the front cover of my book.
For the rest of my life, every April I will rejoice the rebirth of the Marshall football with the rest of the Herd Nation and other sympathizers.
On the other hand, I will shed tears before, after and on November 14 at 7:36 pm. In fact, the Memorial Fountain is turned off every November 14 at 7:36 pm exactly. This indicates the death of Marshall Football. May all the lost souls rest in peace.