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Anywhere else in America, McConaughey's outfit would send onlookers' thoughts back to laughable moments of the 1970s.
That was the rainy, fog-shrouded Saturday night when the Marshall University football team, having lost to East Carolina and completing a road trip aboard a charter jet for the first time, crashed into an Appalachian hillside near Huntington's Tri-State Airport.
Everyone stresses this isn't a movie about running off tackle but one about a steel mill community and its university climbing back on track after falling into unfathomable sorrow.
Linden, then a Florida State marketing major, read a brief article about the 30th anniversary of the crash in the school newspaper.
He learned that tackle Eddie Carter wasn't on the plane because, while at home for his father's funeral, his mother kept insisting the plane would crash. Linebacker Nate Ruffin, who missed the flight because of a shoulder injury, became the leader of the team Lengyel pieced together in 1971 with basketball players and walk-ons. Defensive back Felix Jordan was on the team bus, waiting to leave on Friday the 13th for the ill-fated loss at East Carolina, when coaches forced him off and said it would be better to stay home and rest his sore ankle. Ten days ago the crew was filming a scene where surviving players confront then-Marshall president Donald Dedmon, played by Strathairn, demanding they be allowed to play the season's final game, against Ohio University. Watching the scene appreciatively with his wife and daughter is Rick Meckstroth, a linebacker who didn't make the 1970 trip because freshmen weren't eligible then. Meckstroth remembers pulling mattresses out of dormitory rooms and setting up a triage area after news broke that the flight had crashed. For about two weeks, Meckstroth got up and put on the only suit he owned and went to another round of funerals.
The low point of a 2-8 season in which Marshall was shut out five times was a 66-6 drubbing by Miami (Ohio). Lengyel would become familiar to many fans during tenures as athletics director at Navy, Missouri, Colorado and elsewhere. He was hired in March 1971, and the lack of recruiting time left him without an experienced kicker.
While doing movie publicity, Lengyel has talked for the first time about a ritual he had with the team in his four Marshall seasons, when he went 9-33.
The funeral never did end for Red Dawson, an assistant coach who hated to fly and instead used the drive to and from East Carolina to recruit. The torment of losing his colleagues and recruits is made clear when Dawson is asked whether, despite everything, he feels blessed that he wasn't on that flight.
Addressing Dawson's "survivor guilt," Fox says, "You have to realize the guy recruited a lot of those players.
Although little was in The Young Thundering Herd's control during the 1971 season, the movie ends with the team's enduring moment of glory, in the second game of the season, its home opener. Moviegoers likely will leave the theater thinking Hollywood yet again rewrote history for the sake of a happy ending. Looking at it another way, the margin of victory had hinged on a 31-yard field goal delivered in the first half by that cleaned-up kicker, Blake Smith, who had a question for his coach after the winning touchdown. Actors Matthew McConaughey, right, and Matthew Fox, left, speak to former Marshall football coaches Jack Lengyel, second from right, and Red Dawson during filming of the movie "We Are Marshall" in Huntington, W.Va.
Jack Lengyel, who served as the head coach at Marshall University from 1971-1974, was played in the film We Are Marshall by Matthew McConaughey.
As we prepare for the much anticipated start of the 2009 college football season, Sports Then and Now will spend this week getting ready for the college football season with previews of some of the top teams and conferences in the country as well as special features on greats from the past. We kickoff coverage with an interview with a former college football coach whose tenure as head coach at Marshall University was chronicled in the 2006 movie We Are Marshall.  The movie starred Matthew McConaughey and brought renewed attention to a small town that dealt with a big tragedy in 1970.



Though Jack Lengyel is now most associated with his tenure as the coach who kept alive the football program at Marshall following the death of 75 players, coaches, staff and boosters in a plane crash on November 14, 1970, his career in college athletics actually spanned six decades. Lengyel began his coaching career as an assistant coach at his alma mater, the University of Akron, in 1959 and served as an assistant at Heidelberg College and Cornell University before becoming the head coach at the College of Wooster in 1966.
Lengyel and his staff basically had to start from scratch following the plane crash that killed most of the Marshall football team.
Lengyel took a team that had been 0-9 at Wooster before his arrival and turned them into a winning program.
When he took over as head coach at Marshall University following the plane crash only months earlier, Lengyel inherited a program that was questioning its existence and struggling not to be an embarrassment to a very proud and shaken community. Lengyel had run a flip-flop offense at Wooster, but knew that wouldn’t work at Marshall because of the need for experienced linemen. One of the more interesting moments of the movie is a scene where Lengyel and his assistant, Red Dawson travel to Morgantown to “ask” West Virginia head coach Bobby Bowden if they can study the Houston Veer offense, which was run by Bowden’s Mountaineers.
While Lengyel said the fundamentals of that story are true, the reality is that they talked to Bowden and his staff in advance and the entire Marshall coaching staff actually spent three days during spring practice watching practice and films in Morgantown. Using their new offense was sometimes a challenge, as the team didn’t have enough players during spring practice to play all the positions.
The big test occurred at the end of spring practice when Marshall hosted what was then an annual tradition of the alumni facing the current varsity team. It was that same community that welcomed with open arms the filming of the movie We Are Marshall. The 2006 movie We Are Marshall depicted the events following the 1970 plane crash and decision to keep playing football at Marshall. When asked if the movie was an accurate depiction of the events from the early 1970s, Lengyel gave an honest, yet somewhat diplomatic answer. In describing his depiction by Matthew McConaughey, Lengyel jokingly said, “My sideburns weren’t that long, I didn’t have a constant five o’clock shadow and I didn’t dress like Bozo the Clown. Overall, Lengyel, said he was very pleased with the way the studio handled the sensitivity of the movie and made the town feel like part of the production.
The community also helped create the atmosphere for the movie as more than 2,000 people showed up when a call was made for stand-ins.
Conversely, Lengyel said that when the shooting shifted to Atlanta, they had to spend a small fortune on period cars. After shooting campus scenes in Huntington, the crew moved to Atlanta where the football and crash scenes were shot. The movie was premiered in Huntington at a special screening for families of the victims before a full premier for the community. He served as associate athletic director at the University of Louisville and the University of Missouri. After leaving Marshall in 1974, Lengyel spent nearly three decades as a college athletic director. He also has spent significant time stoking a passion that has been with him since he started coaching, technology. While an assistant coach at Cornell in the 1960s, Lengyel was first exposed to using computers for game planning.
At 74-years old and now 50 years removed from his first college coaching job, Jack Lengyel has seen a lot of changes in college athletics, but he is still active, engaged and ready to lend a hand wherever one might be needed. Sign-up to get daily updates of all the great articles and information on Sports Then and Now.


29, 1960: 16 Cal Poly San Luis Obispo football players were among the 22 dead in a crash near Toledo, Ohio. 2, 1970: 14 Wichita State football players died in a crash that claimed 31 lives, west of Denver. 13, 1977: All 14 members of the Evansville basketball team and their coach died in a crash that killed 29, shortly after takeoff from Evansville, Ind.
27, 2001: Two players and six officials associated with the Oklahoma State men's basketball team died in a crash that killed 10, in Beyers, Colo. But this population-50,000 college town needs no props to go there because not a day goes by without eerie flashbacks to Nov.
Murrow in Good Night and Good Luck) and Lost series star Matthew Fox spent three weeks in Huntington in April, filming We Are Marshall. The president tells them no, there are 75 funerals to attend, and there will be time for football later.
But in 1971 he was as obscure as Marshall's players, a Division III coach from Ohio at the College of Wooster, the third person offered the job in Huntington. The last kid on the field was wearing a soccer uniform and soccer shoes, had scraggly hair and a beard and said he had never played football.
Before the first home game, he took the team to the Spring Hill Cemetery, to see the memorial to the players and the six blank tombstones that mark the graves of players whose bodies couldn't be identified.
Although he had played a season in the AFL and football was his passion, Dawson coached just one year under Lengyel, then quit the game forever. To help Fox prepare for the role, Dawson swallowed his fear of flying and went to Hawaii where Fox was filming Lost episodes. He sat in their homes when they were 17 and 18 years old and convinced their parents they should go to Marshall and he would take care of them. The team had just made that first trip to the cemetery and left determined to end the funeral as it took the field against Xavier as a three-touchdown underdog. But Marshall truly did manage to run 10 plays in the final minute and 18 seconds and really did win 15-13 on a last-second touchdown pass called by Dawson.
The film centers on the 1970 plane crash that killed 75 people, most of which were players and coaches on the Marshall football team.By Randy Snyder, Huntington (W. However, after a short stretch in private business, he returned to spend the next three decades in college administration.
He then was the athletic director at Fresno State for two years and then briefly returned to the University of Missouri as athletic director. Lengyel is currently the vice president for business development for XOS Technologies, which is the leading provider of video technology for college and professional coaches.
Learn how to convert online bookmakers free bets into guaranteed cash using the matched betting technique. He later turned down a chance to sign with the Dallas Cowboys, instead becoming a prominent Baptist evangelist. Though technically retired, Lengyel has served stints as the interim director of athletics at Temple University, Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Colorado. I didn't believe the plane was going to crash, but I stayed home out of respect for" his mother, who said it would.



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