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Unsung heroes of Marshall football

By Frank Giardina

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Last Thursday, the Marshall athletic community stopped to observe the 43rd anniversary of the 1970 plane crash.  

Rebuilding the football program wasn't easy in Huntington. There were no winning seasons from 1971-83. During the 1970s and '80s, there were many unsung heroes who toiled long hours and absorbed many injuries and bruises to play games that they knew they could not win.

Football is a tough game even when you are winning. It is even tougher when you are losing and swimming upstream on most Saturdays. Here are some names that helped rebuild.

  • Danny Abercrombie: Sonny Randle called him Apple Butter and he was one of many great athletes from Big Creek High School in McDowell County. His sister, Tywanda, starred on the MU women's basketball team. 
  • Mike Barber: The former Winfield star became the first nationally decorated player of MU's modern era. The 1987 team forever raised the bar by playing in the NCAA Division I-AA title game and Barber was the headliner of that team.
  • Tony Bolland: This former DuPont Panther had size, speed, footwork, toughness, personality, a work ethic, academics and a smile that used to light up the community of Rand. He has had a long and distinguished career in law enforcement.
  • Tom Bossie Jr.: Bossie was a star at Charleston Catholic back when the Irish played football. His teammates would tell you he was the hardest-hitting defensive back on the Young Herd teams.
  • George Elliott: An undersized defensive lineman from Parkersburg High, Elliott was one of the more courageous players in Marshall history. No matter what the score or the team's record, he played hard every down and every play against opponents twice his size.
  • Fuzzy Filliez: He could be considered Marshall's first great star after the plane crash. He came from New Martinsville to Huntington and set an NCAA record for consecutive games of catching a pass.
  • Carl Fodor and Brian Swisher: A popular pass-catch combo from the northern part of the state, Fodor, from Weirton, and Swisher, from Sistersville, helped lead Marshall to a historic winning season in 1984.
  • Ed and Mike Hamrick: Herbert Hoover's contribution to Marshall was in two parts. Ed was the starting kicker and became student body president and has long been a champion of the environment in our state working with the DEP. Mike was a four-year defensive end, team leader and is now MU's athletic director. 
  • Mike "Greek" Johnson: "They" told him he was too short and too slow to play Divison I football as a defensive back out of South Charleston. "They" were wrong. He was a four-year letterman in the late 1970s, and he married the Homecoming queen.
  • Carl Lee: One of our state's all-time great players, the South Charleston product went on from Marshall to a 12-year NFL career. In his four years at MU, his teams won only eight games but he would make plays that jumped out at you.
  • Allen Meadows: A lineman from Scott High in Madison, he was the cornerstone of Marshall's first recruiting class in the winter of 1971, the first class after the crash. 
  • Rick Meckstroth: The emotional leader of the Young Herd defense, Meckstroth was a "tough guy" linebacker from 1971-73. He was a freshman from Cincinnati when the plane crashed. He adopted Huntington as his home after the crash and his son, Aaron, played at Spring Valley and West Virginia.
  • Steve Morton: A former Charleston High star on teams that won AAA state titles in 1969 and 1970, Morton was a defensive end at Marshall from 1973-75. He was named the team's MVP as a senior.
  • Chuck Wright: A football and track legend at Stonewall Jackson, Wright held state track throwing records for many years. He was a freshman when the plane crash occurred and was forced into a position of team leadership as a sophomore.
  • Reach Frank Giardina at flg16@hotmail.com">flg16@hotmail.com.

     


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