Monday, April 30, 2012

Draft couldn’t have worked out any better for Curry

       This year’s NFL Draft turned out to be more like the ending of a Hollywood movie script for Vinny Curry. The former Marshall University defensive end had every reason to believe that he would be selected late in the first round.
       In the final analysis, though, Curry got exactly what he had always dreamed of – a chance to play for his favorite childhood team– the Philadelphia Eagles.
       Eagles head coach Andy Reid did not mince words when asked about what he likes most about Curry, who was drafted in the second round as the 59th pick overall. “Vinny has one speed and that’s 100 miles an hour,” Reid told a reporter from
       At first glance, it would seem that Curry might be better off with another team. After all, Philadelphia is loaded with defensive ends. Even so, he still figures to get his share of playing time. The Eagles employ a rotation on the defensive front so they can keep fresh bodies in the game. Having a rotation assures that Philly can continue to put intense pressure on the passer.
       Curry’s talent for putting quarterbacks on their backsides (23 sacks over his last two seasons at MU) is clearly documented. At some point in the future, you figure that he’ll get his shot to be an every-down player because he’s better than average as a run-stopper.
       With Curry on board, starters Trent Cole and Jason Babin will be even more effective. And when you add Curry’s fellow rookies -- Fletcher Cox (DT) and Mychal Kendricks (LB) to the mix -- there’s cause for much optimism that the Eagles will pack a much heavier punch on defense in 2012.
       Make no mistake, Vinny Curry is an impact player. The fact that a team well-stocked with pass rushers still opted to add him to their fold says a lot. And in my opinion, it’s a reflection of some of the pre-draft scouting reports which said that Curry compares favorably to Jason Pierre-Paul of the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

Friday, April 27, 2012

NFL Draft: MU sack artist headed to Philadelphia

For Herd's Curry, tonight SHOULD be the night

       OK, so Vinny Curry sat and watched and sat and watched and never heard his name called on the opening night of the 2012 NFL Draft. No biggie. At best, the former Marshall University star was pegged as a late first-round pick -- a sleeper in the eyes of most of the draft prognosticators.
       But now it's time for Round 2. Bottom line, it will be a huge surprise if he has sit around and wait until the third round before he's selected. Curry, a 6-feet-3, 267 pounds defensive end, is ranked fourth among all of this year's draft prospects at his position. There's no question about his talent for sacking quarterbacks (recorded two sacks in the Senior Bowl).
       The only thing that kept Vinny out of the first round -- I believe -- has to do with pedigree. Marshall isn't exactly one those perennial titans of the college football universe. As far as college football programs go, the Herd is not in the same league with such heavyweights as Southern Cal, Alabama and Oklahoma.
       Even so, that shouldn't keep some team in dire need of a fierce pass rush specialist from picking Curry when the draft enters tonight's second round. Curry has the size, speed and relentless nature that few of his peers have.
       Stay tuned and check it all out when the activity begins at 7 p.m. on ESPN. Tonight is the night that some NFL team will come-a-'calling for Curry.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Looking back: 41st anniversary was a busy day

      On November 14 of every year, there’s always cause for me to pause and push the rewind button in my memory bank.  But things were quite different this past November. It was the 41st anniversary of the Marshall University crash, which killed most of the school’s football team. Since I played defensive back for the Thundering Herd for two seasons, I knew most of the guys who were on that plane.
      The day of the anniversary turned out to be a lot busier than I ever imagined. Guess I should have planned on that. After all, it was only a few months earlier that my memoir – November Ever After – was released. The book, which reveals many aspects of the tragedy that had never been covered, attracted much media interest.
       Things started to buzz around 9 that morning when I got a phone call from one of the local TV stations (WXII-12) who wanted to come to my home to do an interview that would air on the 5 o’clock news. The interview and filming took place right before noon.
      A few hours later, I got a call from one of the National Public Radio affiliate stations. WFDD-FM put together a short segment that was broadcast on one of its news shows later that afternoon.
      The media activity didn’t end with WFDD. By 3:30 p.m., I was on the phone with a news director who wanted a story for his radio network in Idaho. For sure, it was a hectic day. But I thoroughly enjoyed sharing my perspectives with viewers and listeners who live in different parts of the country.
       To get a sampling of some of the memories I shared, scroll down and click on the mp3 file entitled “WFDDNews11-14.”

Radio news: Tragedy touched so many people

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

In two years time, my life changed dramatically

       Looking back on my days as a college jock at Marshall University, I realize just how dramatically life can change. I can still remember the first time I flew into Tri-State Airport at Huntington, West Virginia. The year was ’68 and I was full of hope, determination and optimism about playing college football and earning a scholarship to pay for my schooling.
       But a little over two years after my first flight to West Virginia, life took on an ominous bleakness when the football team’s plane crashed on its return trip from a road game against East Carolina University. Even more devastating was the horrible reality that none of the seventy-five passengers survived.
       The tragedy represented a huge swing in fortunes for a football program that was in dire need of a turnaround for the better. The freshman class of ’68 had some studs. This was the team that went undefeated and routinely whipped the Thundering Herd varsity in weekly scrimmage games.
       More talent came the following year and by 1970, everything seemed to be in place for the Herd to bring some thunder to the gridiron on a regular basis. The ’70 team, which included several players from the ’68 freshman team, had at least five players who I believe would have made a living playing on Sundays in the NFL.
       All of that changed on a chilly and dreary night in November over forty-one years ago. With the demise of such a huge number of players (37), Marshall’s once-deep pool of football talent was reduced to almost zilch.
       In one night, the Herd went from being a program full of promise for the future, to being a devastated program that was forced to rebuild from ground zero.
       I spoke about some of those memories during a radio interview that aired on one of Marshall’s pre-game shows last football season. In the memoir I’ve written – November Ever After – you’ll learn all about different aspects of the crash that until now, have never been addressed. You can listen to the interview by clicking below on the mp3 file entitled “Steve Cotton and author Craig Greenlee.”

Radio interview on Pepsi Tailgate Show

Friday, April 13, 2012

Book/DVD package is now available on Amazon has put together a nice package deal on several books and DVDs related to the 1970 Marshall football plane crash. Each part of the package (see below) provides different perspectives about the tragedy. But when these three works are placed together in one offering, readers and viewers will discover that each item complements the other.
       Feel free to check it out for yourself. Go to the website, click on “books” and enter “November Ever After” in the search box. Click on the photo of the book and scroll down to the “Frequently Bought Together” section. The price of this package is a lot more reasonable than you might ever imagine. Here’s a quick synopsis of each part of the Amazon package.
Remembering Marshall
       Released in 2000, this ESPN Classic documentary on DVD serves as a memorable tribute to those who lost their lives in a horrible plane crash over forty-one years ago. The eyewitness interviews clearly reveal the depths of anguish and despair felt by those who were left behind in the wake of what is still considered the worst aviation disaster in the history of American sports.
Return of the Thundering Herd
       This documentary came out in the weeks leading up to the 2006 nationwide premier of the movie We Are Marshall, which was produced by Warner Brothers. Much of the documentary focuses on how the school and the city of Huntington, West Virginia were able to hold steady and bear witness to one of the most remarkable comebacks in college athletics. The subtitle to this DVD … The Story That Inspired We Are Marshall … is   most appropriate.
November Ever After
       The story of the Marshall crash continues to resonate strongly with people of all ages. Most of what folks know about the night of November 14, 1970, is based on what they’ve read or seen in the book The Marshall Story, along with the above-mentioned films and Ashes to Glory, which was the first documentary devoted to the tragedy (released in 2000 around the time of the 30th anniversary of the crash).
       What sets this book apart from other media works is its inclusion of major events connected with the crash that had never been dealt with in previous productions. Written by a former player who knew most of the players who died, this memoir represents a collaboration of insights and recollections from the voices of those who had never been heard from. November Ever After is story whose time has finally come.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Forty-something years later … story still resonates

        While doing some web surfing, I came across a recent blog entry from a University of Memphis football fan who remembers what it was like when the Tigers came to Huntington, West Virginia in 2010 to play Marshall on the 40th anniversary of the ’70 plane crash that killed most of the Thundering Herd’s team.
       This entry, which appears on the Herald-Dispatch blog, bears witness to how those who weren’t even born during that time are still able to empathize with those who were left behind in the wake of an unforgettable disaster that shocked a college and its surrounding communities.
       There’s a snippet from this entry (see next paragraph) that tells you all you need to know about a passionate fan who had some idea of what folks at MU and in Huntington went through in the days and years following the crash.

      “Although it's been over 40 years, I am sure those who perished are not far from your minds. I am glad you had the courage to build it back up and am honored to have you as an opponent.”

       To read the entry in its entirety, just click on the red-colored link from the archives of the Herald-Dispatch blog. Readers are encouraged to comment about this never-to-be-forgotten event in the history of Marshall University. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Horton remembers close friends who perished in ‘70

       Back in ’69, Marshall University was in the second year of its far-reaching recruiting campaign designed to help revamp its struggling football program. And there was no doubt that MU had no reservations about recruiting black athletes, which at that time, was highly unusual for predominantly white schools.
       Florzell Horton was part of a contingent from Tuscaloosa, Alabama who came to help turn the program around. The members of this contingent weren’t casual acquaintances. They all grew up together and were teammates at Druid High School in Tuscaloosa. The fellas from Alabama were pretty much inseparable. You could tell that they had a bond that went far beyond growing up in the same home town.
       Horton came in with running back Joe Hood, tight end Freddy Wilson and defensive lineman Robert Van Horn. The year before their arrival, Larry Sanders, also from T’town, established himself as an all-star caliber cornerback on the Thundering Herd’s undefeated freshman in ’68. The ‘Bama contingent also included coach Ken O’Rourke, who served as the head coach for the Herd’s freshman team in ’69.
       Horton expected to contend for playing time on the varsity as a sophomore. But he sufferered a shoulder injury which never healed properly. He left Marshall and returned to Alabama. At that juncture, he thought about playing at Tuskegee University.
       A few months after he came home, Horton was stunned to hear the news that his life-long buddies (Sanders, Hood, Van Horn and Wilson) perished in the November 14, 1970 plane crash that killed seventy-five people. There were no survivors.
        I recently ran across an archive article about Horton that ran several years ago in The Tuscaloosa News. According to the article, Horton rarely says anything about the crash. His wife and children have never heard the full story. The following quote from that feature article says a lot about the great sense of loss  that still remains:
       “After the plane crash, I never played any more sports," Horton said. “I didn’t even watch football for a couple of years after that."
       Even though it’s been over forty-one years since the tragedy, it’s clear that the impact of the crash is still quite profound for those who had a connection to Marshall University and Thundering Herd football.

Monday, April 2, 2012

A reader's review from the Goodreads website

        This was a fairly easy, light and brisk read. It is a very enlightening book about an incident that to my knowledge, has not had a ton of exposure. I really enjoyed the background history and the author’s insights into how the crash helped to shape the future of this learning institution (Marshall University), as well as the football program.
       The book is a very worthwhile read for anyone who has an interest the history of this event, and how those who were left behind were affected.
       My only major criticisms were that at times the writing was a little choppy, due to the author weaving his personal perceptions, ideaologies and biases into the story. I think it would have been better if the author would have provided an informative history without his preconceived notions as opposed to writing a memoir type where his thoughts were the primary focus.
       My second point of contention is the race card. Fortunately I was blessed to have a mom who viewed all ethnicities without prejudice, and she passed that onto her children (Thank God!). I grew up having friends of different racial and ethnic backgrounds in our neighborhood and school. I continue to maintain that diversity in my adult years.
       I understand the harsh reality of racism in our nation’s history, as well as the residual effects it has on our society. Racism still lingers and it continues to manifest itself in our culture. I understand the need to inform readers of the racial disparity at the university, as well as the conflicts that arose due to those prejudices. Those conflicts were part of that reality and were factors in the story. I just felt that the author weaved too much of his own personal biases into the story:
      For example:  “In the tradition of the black church, homegoing is a time of jubilation.” (pg 57)
       Is that not true of other ethnicities? I got the impression from the author’s rendition that it mirrored my own church tradition with the blending of us mourning the loss of friends and loved ones coupled with the joy of knowing they are safely in the Heavenly Father’s hand.
       Another example is a racial reference made in describing one of the Marshall students.  
       (Annonymous ladies name) a black co-ed.... Did I really need to know that she was black or white?  Her role in the story was somewhat limited, and the racial factor neither enhanced or brought relevance to the story. Many key people were listed with their race attached to their name if they were black, while people of other ethnicities weren’t mentioned as frequently.
       I just get so tired of this. Perhaps if I was of another ethnicity, I might not share this thought. I just felt that it detracted from the story and further divides the races, when greater harmony is really what is needed.
       Oh well, I am done my little tangent, I just needed to vent.
       Again, November Ever After is a very illuminating read. It’s well worth your time to read it and get a better understanding of a neglected tragedy and its impact on those involved.