Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Marshall football memoir "paints a different story"

Before I read Craig Greenlee’s 2011 publication, November Ever After, I always thought of Marshall as being a progressive institution that allowed African-Americans a chance to play football during a period when the SEC had not yet integrated.

After doing some research on the SEC, I discovered that Kentucky and Tennessee integrated in ’67 and ’69. The rest of the SEC didn’t integrate until ’71 and ’72. While I still think Marshall was progressive for that time, Mr. Greenlee’s book took me off guard
on my first read. He paints a different story of life on campus for an African American in 1970.

After I reflected on his story (and realized it was his story not mine), I really enjoyed the portions of the book about the Black United Students’ bus trips to attend the funerals of the African-American players who were lost (Chapter 5 in its entirety).

I had not HERD about these bus trips before. It really is a great story. I also enjoyed the stories of Dickie Carter and Felix Jordan. The background on those two is very enlightening for someone who wants to understand more than what the documentary Ashes to Glory and the movie We Are Marshall presents.

In the future, I will blog more about Mr. Greenlee's book. For now I will just recommend that you read the memoir if you want a different perspective on some of the facts you think you know about 1970.

Thundering in MD
Herd Fans Week In Review

Monday, November 10, 2014

From the ashes of disaster, a ministry is born

Ed Carter uses his football background as a means to communicate the Gospel.
November 14 marks the 44th anniversary of the Marshall plane crash. For former Thundering Herd player Ed Carter, the memories will never fade to black.

Ed, a starter at offensive tackle on the 1970 team, would more than likely have been on the fatal flight that killed 75 people, which included most of Marshall’s varsity football squad. Ed was absent because of a death in his immediate family.

Dr. Carter is in his 41st year of ministry.
On the day Ed learned that his father had passed away in Texas, his mother told him in a phone conversation that she didn’t want him going on the flight.  There would be a crash, she explained, and there would be no survivors. Ed didn’t believe her. But because he didn’t want to upset his mother, he agreed to stay for a few extra days after the funeral.

It was a life-saving decision. But that’s only the beginning of the story.

Prior to his graduation from Marshall in 1974, Ed gave his life to Christ. Not long after that, he answered the call to preach. Evangelist Ed Carter is now in his 41st year as founder and director of Death Unto Life Ministries, which is headquartered in Chattanooga, Tenn.

This global ministry has touched the lives of people in America as well as other parts of the globe. Ed recently shared some of his reflections about the night of November 14, 1970 – a night that changed his life forever.

Q: It’s been over forty years since the plane crash. Why does it still matter?
EC: I should’ve been on that plane. The Lord sent me home for my Dad’s funeral and my Mom asked me to stay after the funeral. It’s for that reason that I missed my own funeral.

Q: Over the years, the central theme of your ministry has remained the same. Why do you believe the message still resonates?
EC: The name of the ministry is taken from John 5:24. The philosophy is that when I gave my life to the Lord, I passed from death unto life. Through this ministry, I’ve watched others do the same.

Q: What are some of your most vivid memories from the night of the crash?
EC: I was at my mother’s house when the news came that the Marshall plane had gone down and that there were no survivors. The next day, a reporter from United Press International called my Mom to offer condolences. She told them that it was a mistake – that I was not on the plane – and that I was actually sitting right next to her as she talked on the phone.

Q: How could your Mom know that the tragedy would take place?
EC: There were many times after that night when I asked her how she knew. What I do know is that it was not a premonition on her part. God put that bit of information in her mind when she called me to come home for my Dad’s funeral. I’ve always looked at that conversation as God’s warning to me of what was to come [on November 14].

Q: After your Dad’s funeral, you still had enough time to go back to West Virginia and join the team to make the trip to East Carolina. Are there times when you wonder why you weren’t on that plane?
EC: God is sovereign. I don’t know why I wasn’t on that plane. I don’t know why the lives of my teammates weren’t spared. What I do know is that He had a plan for my life. He saved my life, and then my soul. God allowed me to serve Him by calling me to preach.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

It's a rite of passage for Thundering Herd football

A college classmate of mine (Carol Richardson McCullough)  tagged me on Facebook recently. I was somewhat surprised when I checked it out. It's a newspaper article about Thundering Herd coach Doc Holliday and his insistence on requiring that all new MU players watch the movie "We Are Marshall."

When asked why watching the movie is required, Holliday spelled it out in the article. "I want to make sure they understand what it means to be a football player at Marshall," he said.

For those of you who have followed this blog on a regular basis, you already know my thoughts on the Hollywood version of the Marshall football tragedy and its aftermath. For those of you who don't know, here's my quick take on the film.

It's a good thing that the story finally got some play on the big screen. However, the film leaves out a lot of key details that shouldn't have been omitted. In other words, the complete story is so good that it doesn't need to be altered. That's one of the reasons why I pressed ahead to write November Ever After, a memoir about my time as a former Marshall defensive back who played with most of the guys who were on the fatal flight.

For all the notoriety that the movie provided, it's still only an appetizer when you consider the complete story. As I've said often and will continue to say: November Ever After is the full-course meal. It's a story whose time has finally come.

Given the feedback I've gotten from so many people since the book was published three years ago, a sequel is in the making. I'll provide more details about that in the coming months

The article mentioned earlier in this blog entry ran on October 1 in the Virginian-Pilot newspaper in Norfolk, Va. The piece ran as part of the coverage for the Marshall vs. Old Dominion football game played on October 4 in Norfolk.

By the way, Marshall crushed ODU 56-14 to go 5-0 for the season.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Flashback '70: unforgettable, unbelievable night

On a Friday afternoon in November of 1970, Marshall University's football team boarded a chartered jet plane at Tri-State Airport. Little did anyone know that by the next evening, the Thundering Herd's season would end abruptly and under the most tragic of circumstances.
 Thundering Herd takes the field from back in the day

On the night of November 14, Marshall's plane crashed short of the runway on the team's return trip from East Carolina. There were no survivors among the 75 passengers on board. Crash victims included most of the team and coaching staff, along with athletic administrators, media people, civic leaders, MU athletic supporters and the flight crew.

The school and the city of Huntington, West Virginia were stunned overwhelmed by deep sorrow. Not only did the crash touch everyone on and off the Marshall campus, but it cut across all racial, gender and socioeconomic lines. Right after the crash, there were stories circulating about how some of the players were superstitious and felt uneasy about leaving town to travel on a Friday the 13th.

But that's just part of the story. What really hits home is how life ended prematurely for so many young and talented men. Death prevented them from pursuing their dreams and aspirations. It's especially sad when you look at it from the standpoint of being in your early 20s, a time when most young adults are beginning to come into their own.

November 14, 1970 will never be forgotten. 

The memory will certainly remain fresh in the minds of those who were there at that time. This story, though, has a timeless quality to it that resonates with people who know little or nothing about Marshall University or the state of West Virginia. Even though the story strikes a strong cord among college football fans, it's also well received among those who have little or no interest in college football.

- David K.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Golf tournament honoring 1970 Herd kicker set

Latjerman played a key role as MU's placekicker
Marcelo Latjerman played just one season of varsity football at Marshall University. But during that one season, he showed much promise as one of the nation’s up-and-coming place-kickers. As a sophomore, his longest field goal of the season was a 47-yarder vs. Western Michigan.

Latjerman, a native of Lynhurst, New Jersey, was unable to finish his college career. He was among the 75 passengers who died in the Marshall plane crash on the night of November 14, 1970. There were no survivors in this tragedy which nearly decimated the Thundering Herd’s football team. Although it’s been nearly 44 years since the crash, the memories have not faded away.

Since 2007, the Latjerman family has honored the memory of Marcelo and the 1970 team with a golf tournament. This annual event serves as a fundraiser for a scholarship award which bears his name.

The Marcelo Latjerman Memorial Scholarship Golf Tournament will be held September 12 at the Silo Golf Course in Lavalette, West Virginia. Registration begins at 8 a.m. and tee-off is 10 a.m. Tournament proceeds are earmarked for academic and athletic scholarships at Marshall. Initially held in New Jersey, the tournament was moved to West Virginia last year.

Entry fee is $100 player/$400 per team. The fee entitles tourney participants to a light breakfast, along with lunch, a golf shirt, hat, and a mug. For more information, contact the tournament’s assistant director Mike Stapleton by email at staple8@gmail.com or call 304-634-5274.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A "must read" for sports fans and media junkies

The horrific plane crash that killed most of Marshall University’s football team on November 14, 1970 is well known and will always be a fascinating part of college sports history. But what’s been revealed up until now contains a number of missing links.
Sports writer Craig T. Greenlee’s memoir November Ever After fills that void. The author has a unique connection to this story as a former teammate who knew most of the players who were passengers on the fatal flight.
Greenlee’s book delivers the details that only a seasoned journalist could dig up, and with the reverence that only someone personally touched by the tragedy could provide.
A number of facts about the Marshall story have been curiously left out in other media portrayals. A few examples include:
• The plane crash more than likely averted what could have been a full-scale race riot on the MU campus.
• Ed Carter, a former Marshall player who missed the trip, started an evangelical ministry as a result of him not being on that plane. Carter’s global ministry is still going strong today.
• Star running back Art Harris spoke frequently about death to his girlfriend Janice Cooley in the days leading up to the crash. Cooley confides to readers about how she has coped from the night of the crash until now.
• Approximately 60 Marshall students rode a chartered bus to attend the funeral services of seven of the players who perished. The group went on an emotionally-draining four-and-half day journey that covered over 1,500 miles.
The above is just a sampling; Greenlee covers much, much more.
Credit must be given to the media that have done their part in keeping the spirit of the Marshall football tragedy alive. But those versions are incomplete. Read November Ever After and get the raw, humbling story as told by those who were there.
What people are saying about November Ever After: “I was there. I saw the plane go down. This book was very real to me. Well written, factual. I learned some things I never knew. I’m glad I read it.” Karen Hauk – Amazon reviewer