The daily blog: Answering why celebrate 35 years later?
Tonight, we’ll celebrate a victory won 35 years ago: State 6, Alabama 3. In my half century of covering Mississippi sports, the game remains one of the most poignant happenings.
Recently I’ve had some folks ask: Why celebrate a game played 35 years ago? To which the answer is: Maybe you just had to be there. But it goes deeper than that.
Most readers will know the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum is a self-supporting institution that exists to preserve and extol the Magnolia State’s incredible sports history. In other words, we have an important story to tell and we tell it with money we raise.
So what better way to raise money than to remember, further document and celebrate a seminal day in Mississippi sports history? In our office, we call this our big fall event. We started four years ago with a Jack Carlisle Roast that was amazingly successful. Three years ago, we celebrated the remarkable Ole Miss Rebels of 1959. Last year, we roasted Jackie Sherrill. All the events have been much fun. All have raised much-needed funding for the Hall of Fame, which has undergone major renovations and the addition of several exhibits.
In 1980, my newspaper job was to cover that Mississippi State team. I knew those guys and knew them well. In 1979, after Ole Miss beat State in the Egg Bowl, I was the guy Emory Bellard told, “We’re going to have a great football team at Mississippi State and you can write that in your damned newspaper!”
I wrote just what Emory said, got it past the editors, and it did not take long for Emory to deliver.
Tonight is going to be much fun for me. Those State players weren’t much younger than I. Kent Hull, the sophomore center from Greenwood, became a really good friend. Bellard called him “Tougher than a rolling bunch of butcher blades.” He was. I later covered him in four Super Bowls. And, oh, I wish he could be with us tonight. Emory, too. Emory is much more than a memory to me.
John Bond, Glen Collins, Johnie Cooks and Tyrone Keys will be here and will join me in a panel discussion of the game after we watch the game and season highlights with good old Jack Cristil making the call.
Bond was the freshman quarterback and by far the biggest difference between 3-8 in 1979 and 9-2 in 1980. Collins was a mountain of a defensive tackle, who made play after play despite double teams. Cooks remains one of the great linebackers in Mississippi history. He made 16 tackles that day when the 400-yards-per-game Crimson Tide Wishbone was limited to 116 yards on 48 carries. Keys was the long-limbed defensive end, a gentle giant who made the fumble-causing tackle that saved the game.
They were great players and great guys then and remain great guys today.
We will have much to talk about. And we will have a packed museum. Yes, we’ll take questions from the crowd.
To all who are coming, thank-you for your support. Thanks especially to Robert Sanford and Meridian-based Benefits Management Group for being our presenting sponsor. (Click on their ad on this page to see what they are all about.) Let’s get ready to have some fun…
To support your Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, click here.
And remember the score: