Thursday, February 12, 2015

Documentary celebrates college football pioneer

Northington broke the color barrier  in SEC football.
Considering how things used to be from way back in the day, major-college football in the Deep South has come a long, long way. Today, the Southeastern Conference (SEC) is widely acknowledged as perhaps the marquee league in all of college football.

There's no disputing that black athletes have had a huge impact on the success of the conference. Many of the most high-profile black NFL players of the current era came out of the SEC ... Cam Newton (Auburn/Carolina Panthers), Julio Jones (Alabama/Atlanta Falcons), Patrick Peterson (LSU/Arizona Cardinals) just to name a few.

Even so, there was a time not so long ago, when the black presence in SEC football was non-existent. Nate Northington changed the face of college football in the Deep South when he signed with the University of Kentucky in 1965. Northington was the first black to play football in the SEC.

The CBS Sports Network will air a documentary about Northington during Black History Month.

Forward Progress: The Integration of SEC Football, will air on the network on Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. (Eastern Time). To learn more about Northington and the documentary, please click on the link below.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Breaking college football's color line in the South

     The CBS Sports Network presents Forward Progress: The Integration of SEC Football, a documentary about Nate Northington, the first black athlete to play football in the Southeastern Conference. The documentary examines the impact that Northington's arrival had on the University of Kentucky, the SEC, along with the sports and cultural landscapes in the U.S.

     The one-hour documentary will during Black History Month on Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time). 
     Forward Progress explores the coordinated effort to integrate SEC football, which started at the highest levels of state government before reaching Kentucky’s athletic department. With the tense racial climate of the time serving as a backdrop, the documentary tells the story of Northington and examines the relationship between him and his classmate Greg Page.
     Page was recruited to play alongside Northington and integrate the conference with him until he was critically injured during a preseason practice and died a month later.
     The documentary features an in-depth interview with Northington, as well as coverage of him speaking to the Kentucky football team and being honored by the University. Northington chronicled his time at Kentucky in his autobiography Still Running, published in 2013.

Go to http://www.cbssportsnetwork.com/channelfinder to find what channel the CBS Sports Network is on in your area. Just input your zip code and cable provider.

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.