From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
We Are Marshall is a 2006 American drama film directed by McG about the aftermath of the 1970 plane crash that
killed nearly all of the Marshall University Thundering Herd football team;
the rebuilding of the program; and the healing that the community
undergoes. It stars Matthew McConaughey as head coach Jack Lengyel, Matthew
Fox as assistant coach William "Red" Dawson, David
Strathairn as University President Donald Dedmon and Robert Patrick as
ill-fated Marshall head coach Rick Tolley. Georgia governor George "Sonny" Perdue
has a cameo role as an East Carolina University
football coach. The
movie is rated PG. The
movie was scored by Christophe Beck and written by Jamie
Keith Spears was the Marshall University consultant.
On the evening of November 14, 1970, Southern Airways Flight
932, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 which Huntington, West Virginia's
University chartered to transport the Thundering Herd football
team to Greenville, North Carolina
via Stallings Field in Kinston, North Carolina and
back to Huntington, clipped trees on a ridge just one mile short of
the runway at Tri-State Airport in Ceredo,
West Virginia and crashed into a gully. The team was returning
from their game against the East Carolina University
Pirates — a 17–14 loss. There were no survivors. In all, 75 people
lost their lives. The dead included the 37 players; head coach Rick Tolley and five
members of his coaching staff; Charles E. Kautz, Marshall's
athletics director; team trainer Jim Schroer and his assistant,
Donald Tackett; 22 boosters; and five crew members.
In the wake of the tragedy, President Donald Dedmon leans towards indefinitely
suspending the football program, but he is ultimately persuaded to
reconsider by the pleas of the Marshall students and Huntington
residents, and especially the few football players who didn't make
the flight. Dedmon hires a young new head coach Jack Lengyel, who
with the help of Red Dawson, manages to rebuild the team in a
relatively short time. They are aided by the NCAA's waiver
of a rule prohibiting freshmen from playing varsity football (a
rule which had been abolished in 1968 for all sports except for
football and basketball, and would be permanently abolished for
those sports in 1972). The new team is composed mostly of the 18
returning players (three varsity, 15 sophomores) and walk-on
athletes from other Marshall sports programs. Due to their lack of
experience, the "Young Thundering Herd" ends up losing their first
game, 29-6 to the Morehead State Eagles. The Herd's first
post-crash victory is a heart-stopping 15–13 home win against Xavier University in the
first home game of the season.
After the game, Annie Cantrell (played by Kate Mara) narrates the aftermath:
"The following week, Marshall lost to the Miami Redskins, now Miami RedHawks 66 to 6. They
would win only one more game in 1971. Jack Lengyel resigned as head
coach in 1974 with a record of 9–33. He would later become athletic
director at the Naval Academy, where he was
later inducted into the athletic Hall of Fame. Donald Dedmon
accepted the presidency at Radford University where he would
remain until he retired in 1994. Gene Morehouse's son Keith
followed in his father's footsteps and became a broadcaster for
Marshall football where he remains today. Reggie Oliver started
every game for the Thundering Herd until he graduated. He later
returned to Marshall as an assistant coach and now lives in Ohio.
After graduation, Nate Ruffin moved away from Huntington, got
married and started a family. In 2001, after an illness, Nate died
at his home in Virginia. He would return to Huntington one last
time for a reunion with his old teammates. Red Dawson left the team
at the end of the year. He never returned to football."
Filming of We Are Marshall commenced on April 3, 2006,
in Huntington, West Virginia, and
was completed in Atlanta, Georgia. The premiere for the film
was held at the Keith Albee Theater on December 12, 2006,
in Huntington; other special screenings were held at Pullman Square.
The movie was released nationwide on December 22, 2006.
Several aspects of the film were changed for dramatic
purposes, although the gist of the story was retained.
We Are Marshall was released on DVD, HD DVD and Blu-Ray in the United States on September
Deborah Novak and John Witek, who produced the 2000 documentary
Marshall University: Ashes to Glory filed a $40 million lawsuit in federal court in California accusing Warner Bros. and
others associated with the We Are Marshall film of fraud, copyright infringement and breach of
who directed Marshall University: Ashes to Glory, is a
Huntington native and Marshall alumnus. On November 19, 2008, a
judge ruled in a summary judgment that the case was not built on
solid ground and chose to dismiss it.
Comparisons to actual
- The name of the movie is based on a cheer performed by students
and players at the university, which is also featured prominently
in the movie. There is some argument about when the cheer actually
began, but it is generally dated after the time period of the movie
- The flight was not identified by a Marshall playbook. It was
actually identified when a wallet belonging to one of the players
- In the movie, newspaper headlines are from the combined Sunday
newspaper of the Huntington Herald-Dispatch. In the scene
where Coach Dawson views the November 15, 1970, newspaper, he sees
a picture of himself as presumed dead. In reality, it was graduate
assistant coach Gale Parker, who is not shown in the movie, who
switched plane seats with assistant coach Deke Brackett. Parker in turn returned
with Dawson to Huntington (Dawson and Brackett had made the
recruiting trip to Virginia together). And the actual November 15,
1970, edition of the Huntington newspaper carried Brackett's photo
and listed him as presumed aboard the plane, which was in fact the
case. The weekday afternoon Advertiser ceased publication
in 1979 and the seven-day paper is now The
Herald-Dispatch. In one scene, a secretary refers to the
paper as the Herald.
- In the movie, Herndon Stadium in Atlanta was used as
the football home stadium of Marshall. From 1927 to 1990, Marshall
played its football games at Fairfield Stadium, which has since
been torn down. The East Carolina game was filmed at James Hallford
(formerly DeKalb Memorial) Stadium in the northeast Atlanta suburb
of Clarkston. And the Morehead State game was
filmed at Tara Stadium in Jonesboro, a south Atlanta suburb and
fictional home of "Gone With The Wind" book and movie. However, the
Morehead State University football field shown is Jayne Stadium, the
actual field at Morehead State, with the coaches walking on the
field in the movie.
- Coaching legend Bobby Bowden of Florida State
University was the head coach at West Virginia University at
the time. Bowden asked NCAA permission to wear Marshall jerseys and
play Marshall's final game of the 1970 season against Ohio, but was
denied. In memory of the victims of the crash, Mountaineers players
put green crosses and the initials "MU" on their helmets. Bowden
allowed Lengyel and his assistants access to game film and
playbooks to acquaint themselves with the veer offense, a variation of the option offense
which aids teams with weak offensive lines after Lengyel discovers
that the team is unable to run the Power I formation he favored. Lengyel
credits Bowden with helping the Young Thundering Herd recover.
Bowden reportedly became emotional while viewing the movie, and has
said that he was the original candidate for the Rick Tolley
- In the movie Bowden refers to a willingness to help Marshall
since the Herd and WVU will not play each other "that season." In
reality the two teams, although both in the NCAA University
Division at the time, did not play each other at all. Their 1997
game was the first football matchup between the two schools in
- In the movie, a radio announcer calls Marshall's opponent the
"Xavier Pirates." In real life, the school's nickname was, and
still is, the Xavier Musketeers.
- The game against Xavier actually ended on a last second play,
although it wasn't the one shown in the film. Some argue, including
the head coach at that time, Jack Lengyel, that the true life play used
in 1971 was more dramatic. In that play, a screen pass back to the left after
quarterback Reggie Oliver had drawn most of the defenders to the
right on a rollout, fullback Terry Gardner caught the pass 13 yards
short of the goal line and with no time left in the game ran the
ball into the end zone, aided by a block from junior tackle Jack
Crabtree, a member of the 1970 team not on the plane because of an
injury. It was Marshall's first home game and win since the crash
of the plane in 1970 killed the team and coaches. Because of its
win over Xavier, which discontinued college football after the 1974
season, Marshall actually finished 1971 with a better record (2–8)
than the Musketeers (1–9).
- None of the cheerleaders were at the East Carolina game, as
there was no room for them on the plane, and they did not drive to
the game and back on their own as depicted in the film.
- When Ruffin and the others leave the Keith Albee Theater and
see the traffic, the traffic is headed the wrong way. The traffic
would have been headed the OPPOSITE way, towards Ceredo, not
- In the end credits of the movie, clips are shown of some of the
more prominent players in Marshall history, such as Miami Dolphins
Pennington, New England Patriots receiver Randy Moss, and Tampa Bay
Buccaneers quarterback Byron Leftwich.
- The real Red Dawson can be seen in the movie as the coach of
- 1971 quarterback Dave Walsh can be seen in the movie as an
assistant for Xavier.
- The real Jack Lengyel had a cameo appearance in the movie.
Another notable cameo was by Keith Morehouse, the current sports
director for WSAZ-TV in
Huntington and play-by-play announcer for Marshall broadcasts. He
followed in the footsteps of his father Gene Morehouse, who was
Marshall's play-by-play announcer when he was killed in the crash.
Keith's future wife was one of the 18 children left orphaned by the
- Punter Bob Eshbaugh makes an uncredited cameo appearance on the
Marshall sidelines during the game against Morehead State.
- In the movie, the kicker that made the field goal before
halftime of the Xavier game was played by former University of Georgia kicker
who is also the all-time leading scorer in the SEC.
- Survivor: Palau and Survivor: Guatemala
castaway Bobby Jon Drinkard plays #4 in the
- Sonny Perdue,
Governor of Georgia, has a cameo role as an
East Carolina assistant coach.
Levens, a former Green Bay Packer running back, has a cameo as
the Xavier head coach.