Herd's revival felt generations later
HUNTINGTON -- Bill Forbes was a "knock-kneed freshman" donning the Herd's No. 33 jersey for the first time when, he said, he first felt the magnitude of the Nov. 14, 1970, plane crash.
"I was getting ready to make my first appearance in a Marshall uniform when one of the coaches in the locker room said there were some folks there who wanted to meet me," Forbes recalled. "In walked a well-dressed, middle-aged couple and they said to me, 'You're wearing our son's jersey and we just wanted to meet you.'"
That jersey, Forbes discovered, belonged to Joe Hood, a sophomore from Tuscaloosa, Ala., and that couple from the locker room were Hood's parents.
"I realized then, in a sense, I was representing their son and finishing his work," said Forbes, a member of the Young Thundering Herd, who graced the football field in the years immediately following the plane crash that claimed the lives of 75 players, coaches and fans. "Needless to say, the number 33 has been very important to me ever since."
Forbes served as keynote speaker for Saturday's spring fountain celebration, a tribute to the "rebirth of Thundering Herd football," a relatively new annual spring gathering to turn on the Memorial Fountain after it is silenced each Nov. 14. The ceremony was dotted with Young Thundering Herd members, former coaches Red Dawson and Mickey Jackson, and the 2013 edition of the Marshall football team.
The lone glitch in the hour-long fountain ceremony, however, came at the moment the fountain was to come alive. A mechanical malfunction prevented the water from flowing, prompting an apology to the crowd by Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick.
"Our maintenance guys will try to get things working as quickly as possible," Hamrick said. "I welcome all of you to come back by this afternoon and, hopefully, the water will be flowing by then."
For certain, it was a full day into evening of activities for fans, alumni and athletes alike, beginning first with the fountain ceremony and concluding with the seventh annual alumni awards banquet in the Memorial Student Center's Don Morris Room. Other activities included a luncheon honoring the 50th reunion class of 1963 and the grand class, those who graduated before 1963, as well as the annual Green and White football game at Joan C. Edwards Stadium at 2 p.m. Fans could be observed setting up their favorite tailgate spots as early as 9 a.m.
Regardless of the activity, the buzz on the campus was much the same throughout: a celebration of how far the program has come and anticipation for what lies ahead.
"One of the most remarkable traits of this university is, when people come together by sheer will and determination to pursue a cause, great things happen," said Marshall President Stephen Kopp. "Today, we celebrate all of the people who would not accept someone else's recommendations for what we could become. The people of 'We are Marshall' are not wired that way because of sheer will and determination and the expectation of success."
"No other team has come from the ashes to glory like we have," Forbes said. "That's why we are proud that we are Marshall."
Forbes urged his remembrance and respect for his No. 33 jersey on to this year's No. 33, wide receiver Devon Smith.
"I encourage you, Devon Smith, to wear that number to respect Joe Hood and all who came after him," Forbes said. "That's what playing football is at Marshall, that's what being a member of the Marshall family is all about."
Follow H-D reporter Beth Hendricks on Facebook or Twitter @BethHendricksHD.
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