Talented cast returning for MSU Football Reunion

For most of them, quite a few years has gone by since they last graced the gridiron.<P> Still a number of talented Mississippi State University players and coaches will be returning to Starkville this weekend for the 2002 MSU Football Reunion. They'll talk and reminisce about some of their greatest days in football. Tons of fun is in store.

Sponsored by the Mississippi State University "M" Club Alumni Association, the MSU Reunion is scheduled to get underway Friday, June 14 with the "Early Arrivals Golf Outing" at the Mississippi State Golf Course.

The links event is set to begin at 12:30 p.m. at the well-manicured Mississippi State University Golf Course. Their golf scores may tell a different story, but their achievements on the gridiron will only get "bigger and better" with age as is the norm.

Mississippi State University football players and coaches from the 1949 to 1961 era will be recognized:

MSU Head Football Coaches
Slick Morton (1949-1951)
Murray Warmath 1952-1953
Darrell Royal 1954-1955
Wade Walker 1956-1961

A social is planned the first day of the long-awaited reunion, beginning at 7 p.m. Friday at the Comfort Suites Hotel. There will be ample time for reminiscing which is always one of the highlights.

Another topic on the menu, that will definitely carry a high priority among the former Bulldog coaches and players, will be the anticipation of the upcoming 2002 campaign, explicit with expectations.

Mississippi State veteran head coach Jackie Sherrill, who has raised the bar considerably over the last decade in Starkville, again has his Bulldogs firmly perched among the SEC favorites.

Despite an off year last fall, the Dogs figure to be fighting for SEC laurels come December. It's no easy road to the championship game in this league, regarded as perhaps the most competitive lineup in the land.

"This is a fun event for the former coaches and players and their families and friends and we expect everyone will enjoy it to the fullest," said longtime Mississippi State University Foundation Director of Development Emeritus and co-chair Charles E. Weatherly, a standout end with the Bulldogs under Darrell Royal.

The event is staged on a biannual basis for reunion members and wives/guest and is sponsored by the M Club Alumni Association, co-chaired by Jimmy Lee Dodd, Weatherly and John Correro, Secretary-Treasurer.

"This is always an exciting time with former Mississippi State coaches and players getting ready to return for a weekend of fun and fellowship," said Dodd, an All-SEC center who played under Royal and Wade Walker.

A number of Mississippi State players from the era earned All-American honors under Morton, Warmath, Royal and Walker, and several went on to become stars in the NFL. Some of those same players will be returning this weekend.

One is former All-SEC quarterback-defensive back Billy Stacy, who'll serve as the Master of Ceremonies. Following a celebrated NFL career with the St. Louis Cardinals and a stint as an assistant coach at MSU, Stacy entered the political arena and was elected mayor of Starkville. He had two brothers (Benny & Bobby) and all three played football with the Bulldogs.

Stacy led the Dogs to a 6-2-1 overall record in 1957, including a 25-13 victory over Alabama at Tuscaloosa, Ala., and a No. 14 national ranking.

"We had some talented players, several All-Americans," acknowledged Dodd, who said he was looking forward to visiting with the former coaches and players this weekend.

Some of the players returning include All-SEC QB-DB Sonny Fisher, of Meridian, All-American C-LB Harold Easterwood of Eupora, All-American G Scott Suber of Calhoun City, DB Willie Daniel of Macon, who played with the Los Angeles Rams, QB Bobby Collins of Laurel, All-SEC T Walter Suggs, who played with the Houston Oilers, G J.E. Logan, former Starkville Academy Headmaster, G Ben Ruscoe, and "Twig" Branch.

Also returning will be James Barnett, Bob Bethune, Tom Boisture (Player Personnel Director of the New York Giants), John Correro, Secretary-Treasurer of M Club Alumni, Stratton Karatassos, AD Bulldog Club, Wesley Reed, AD for Development, former assistant coach Johnny Majors and Dr. Roy Ruby.

Jack Forbus of Starkville will take part in the welcome and the Saturday Golf joined by Ralph Bolton, Art Broome, Jim Buttram, Robert Collins, Jack Crocker, David Dunaway, Edward "Dinky" Evans (Jacobs Blocking Award winner), William Faulkner, Bobby Fleming, William Glasgow, Gil Hastings, Buck Kennedy, All-SEC Sam Latham, Wayne Mangum, Tommy Miller, Pap Morris, Hank Moseley, Frank Newsome, assistant coach Henry Lee Parker, Fred Perkins, Clyde Perrere, Bill Priester, Melvin Roland, Jim Ross, Joe Robertson, Herb Ruscoe, Dutch Rushing, Frank Skipper, Bill Thomas, Stuart Vance, and Jack Vaughan, former NFL official.

The Mississippi State University Golf Course will host a Scramble Golf Tournament at 8 a.m. Saturday. The tournament begins with an 8:30 a.m. Shotgun Start.

A tour of recently-enlarged Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field is on the attractive menu, including a tour of the sky boxes, the club level seating and other areas.

The Reunion Banquet is set for 7 p.m. Saturday at the Leo Seal M Club Center with Stratton Karatassos to be on hand for the tour.

All-American LB-FB Joe Fortunato (1950-51-52) has returned to the reunion before, but may not be able to make the trip due to illness in his family. A bruising ball carrier and tackler from Ohio who later drew NFL acclaim with the Chicago Bears, Fortunato gave the Dogs one of the strongest one-two punches in the land with All-American Jackie Parker at quarterback, two players who coach Murray Warmath adored.

Bo Reid (1950-51-52) of Ackerman was selected to the All-SEC team as a center. Tackle Tom Morris ('53) made the all-league team along with SEC MVP Art Davis ('55), guard Bill Dooley ('54), tackle Jim Barron ('55), end Ron Bennett ('56), end John Benge ('57), center Jack Benson ('58), center Tom Goode ('59), currently serving as East Mississippi Community College as head coach and All-SEC picks Johnny Baker ('61) and Howard Benton ('61).

An excellent turnout is in the forecast for the Mississippi State family, forerunners of today's heroes.

Don Foster, a 31-year veteran newspaper writer, is the Sports Editor for the Starkville Daily News. He will be writing regular feature articles for Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports and Mississippi High School sports on the internet.

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