2002 MSU Football Reunion 'fantastic'

If they have as much fun at the next Mississippi State Football Reunion as they had this time, then perhaps, there should be some thought given to holding the event more often.

It may not have been as exciting as putting up a "W" for the Dogs on a Saturday, but it was the next best thing, at least that's what all of the players and coaches were saying without hesitation.

For most of the returnees, it was just as if their eligibility had been restored for four more years. They had a "ball" as most any of them would attest.

The 2002 Football Reunion held on the Mississippi State campus June 14-15, was all about revisiting friends and reminiscing, about the fun and the good times and perhaps, to a small degree, it was a little about some of the tough times they endured.

Players and coaches, cheerleaders and majorettes, from the 1949-1961 era, returned to Starkville and Mississippi State University to enjoy a couple of quality days while reliving some of the most vivid and enjoyable events of their lifetime.

They all had a grand time upon their return to Starkville - from the Golf Tournament directed by Jack Forbus to the tour of Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field - it was fantastic. A banquet was held at the sparkling Leo Seal "M" Club Center, rich with tradition and overflowing with fun and fellowship.

"Master of Ceremonies" Billy Stacy, as adept behind the podium as he was marching the Bulldogs into the end zone, made everyone feel right at home with his engaging style.

"It's a pleasure to see all of you back, and it's great to be bringing you this program again," said Stacy, an All-SEC quarterback during the early 50's.

Stacy, the former Mayor of Starkville, applauded the outstanding work of the reunion co-chairmen - Jimmy Lee Dodd and Charles Weatherly - who did an absolutely terrific job.

"It has been great seeing all the former players, coaches and friends," said Dodd, still as trim as he was when he was selected an All-SEC center in 1957.

The Reunion, with a key assist from MSU's John Correro, Stratton Karatassos, and Wesley Reed, first convened in 1986 at Tupelo. It's held every two years and has gotten bigger and better.

"We've been doing this for 16 years now and its been great," said Dodd. "The people who come always have a good time and it's just great for all of us."

A couple of former Mississippi State assistant coaches - Johnny Majors and Henry Lee Parker - brought a lot to the table.

Majors acknowledged he was humbled to be in such great company. "I'm honored to be here," said Majors, who spent three years in Starkville (1960-62) before launching a distinguished association on the sidelines with Mississippi State coach Jackie Sherrill.

Parker was as refreshing as ever, an MSU assistant coach who showed his loyalty on and off the field (1956-63). They all had a story to tell - some from days gone by and some about things to come.

They told treasured stories about MSU officials - past and present - T.K. Martin, Doc Patty, Bill Foster, Dr. William Giles, Fred Mitchell, and Dean D.W. Aiken, and even about former Gov. John Bell Williams.

Their tales - perhaps getting bigger and better with age - were amusing and humorous to say the least.

Mississippi State's own Dr. Roy Ruby, a superlative after dinner speaker, touched the hearts and minds of Bulldogs everywhere with his down home humor and his ritzy accounts of life on campus as he sometimes had to deal with it.

The theme of his inspiring and sometimes rib-ticking address was what it's like to be the beneficiary of a "good dose of humility."

Perhaps his genuine charm and charisma was best displayed when he shared some of his inner feelings upon being a senior at Belzoni, Miss., a small town in the Delta, "hoping that one day he could wear the Maroon and White despite being a slender 150-pounder.

"I would have given anything to have played football at Mississippi State," he acknowledged referring to the school of which he holds two degrees.

"I still consider all of these athletes as heroes," he said to a resounding round of applause from all the former coaches, players, and their wives.

It's not often that there's an All-American or an All-SEC player at practically every table, but on this occasion their seemed to be one or two in every corner ... from All-Americans Hal Easterwood to Scott Suber, from an All-SEC center Bo Reid to Willie Daniel of Macon, from Charles "Dinky" Evans, who won the Jacobs Blocking Award in 1954, to Dave Dunaway, from Bobby Bethune to Sam Latham, from Frank "Twig" Branch to Walter Suggs, from Ben Ruscoe to James Barnett and from Hank Moseley to Stuart Vance, Jack Vaughan and Jack Forbus.

That was just a sampling of the stars of yesteryear. All-SEC center Jimmy Lee Dodd (1955-57), a teammate of the late Molly Halbert, an All-SEC fullback, both from Aberdeen, Miss., helped lead Mississippi State to a spot in the Top 25 teams in the country in the late 50's. They had a lot of help, too, from stars like Stacy, Latham, Jack Benson, and John Benge, members of the all-conference team.

A couple of outstanding linemen, J.E. Logan, Jimmy "Foggy" Daniels and Weatherly helped pave the way as the Bulldogs nabbed the No. 14 spot in the national polls in '57 under head coach Wade Walker.

"It's just been fantastic seeing your teammates and being able to renew and rekindle thoughts and ideas and to tell a few tall tales," said Logan, who served as Starkville Academy Headmaster for a number of years and for whom the football stadium bears his name - J.E. Logan Field.

"We've really enjoyed this weekend, renewing old friendships. It's been a terrific reunion, fantastic," added Logan.

"This is a great opportunity to get together and I think everybody enjoys it to the fullest," said Reid of nearby, Ackerman, Miss.

Pat Stacy, wife of Billy Stacy, a majorette in the Famous Maroon Band, said she and Billy had a grand time.

"This brings back so many good memories, it's fantastic. We've had a great time seeing everybody again and visiting with them."

There were gifts for almost everyone in attendance. The door prizes were presented with an assist from Jan Bunch, daughter of one of MSU's all-time favorites Carlton "Bo" Reid.

One of the special guests was Mrs. Bob Hartley (Jean), the wife of the late Bob Hartley, one of the greatest goodwill ambassadors Mississippi State will ever have.

Not surprising, the foursome of Bailey Howell, Jack Vaughan, Hank Moseley, and John Scott Suber took the first place trophy, edging Jim Ross, Scott Suber, and Robert "Red" Collins.

"I had a lot of fun and I believe everyone had a good time," said Forbus, still maintaining the pairings were "excellent" in his stimation. "Only one shot separated first and second place and three teams tied for third place."

It was a rib-tickling evening and the company couldn't have been better, all in all, a forerunner of more exciting things to come.

For the untold stories, they'll have to wait until 2004, an "Oscar" event in the making you can be sure.

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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