Memories of a heart-breaking day

Published 8:26 pm Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

 East Carolina hosted Marshall in football last Saturday and there was a group of former players that did not care which team won.  They were the 1969-1970 team. You see, I was a member of that team.

I did not play that year but I lettered and stood right beside Coach Mike McGee on the sidelines as his personal assistant. I was medically disqualified but Coach McGee made feel part of the team. When Tony Guzzo kicked the game winning field goal that afternoon with no time left on the clock for our first win of the season.  Coach McGee walked across the field and whispered to the Marshall head coach, you do not have to leave today and his reply to Coach McGee was we need to get back.

We partied at the Elbow Room like most college kids do and was then, that it came across the TV set that the Marshall plane crashed; killing all aboard.  Big men left their wives or dates and headed back to the dorm, some crying, and waited for our leaders, Coach McGee and Coach Randle. He had on a pinstriped suit and wing tip shoes and carried a Bible in right hand. We did not know he had to go to the Holiday Inn and tell their parents their son was killed.  He came off the elevator, about an hour later with his bible in his hand said, ” Today part of your breed has perished”. We headed to Wright Auditorium for a Chapel Program.  He told us that the two co-captains and Dr. Jenkins would fly up to Marshall to witness the wreck.  Steve Davis and George Whitley told us that you could smell the burning skin on the runway.

I do not remember whether we practiced that Monday or not.  Many of our team members had played at Ferrum Junior College with the Marshall players.  I do remember the details of the night and remember one player from Marshall that intercepted a pass and he looked at me eye to eye as he scored a touchdown.  Like Coach said, “part of our breed perished that night”!  I did not what he meant until years later, that is why the teams share a common goal.  Who really cares if they win or we win.  We have been to Marshall and they treated us like kings!!