We Are Marshall | 2006
On the evening of Saturday, November 14, 1970, a chartered jet carrying Marshall University's football team, coaches and fans, was on its way home from a hard-fought game in North Carolina. Less than a minute before its scheduled landing at Tri-State Airport, the plane crashed in the Appalachian Mountains, killing everyone aboard: 37 players, eight coaches and university staff, the flight crew, and 25 prominent Huntington, West Virginia citizens who had made the trip as they always did to cheer their "Thundering Herd." In the aftermath of this stunning tragedy, university president Donald Dedmon prepared to suspend the school's football program for the season--perhaps indefinitely. Assistant coach Red Dawson, who narrowly missed the ill-fated flight, couldn't face going back onto the field. But in Huntington, Marshall football has always been more than a sport: it's a way of life. And this town would rally to save it. After some initial setbacks, they found hope and strength in the leadership of outsider Jack Lengyel, a young coach determined to rebuild Marshall's football program and, in the process, help to heal the community. Less than a year later, on September 18, 1971, Marshall University's brand new Thundering Herd was poised to stage one of the greatest comebacks in collegiate sports. A raw, youthful and inexperienced squad, patched together under the guidance of Lengyel and Dawson, they would defy overwhelming odds just to march onto the gridiron for the school's first game since the accident. That season, it didn't matter whether Marshall won or lost. It didn't even matter how they played the game. All that mattered was that they played.