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Randy Snyder/The Herald-Dispatch Actors Matthew McConaughey, right, and Matthew Fox, left, speak to former Marshall football coaches Jack Lengyel, second from right, and Red Dawson during a break in filming of "We Are Marshall" on Tuesday, April 4, 2006, near Twin Towers on Marshall's campus in Huntington, W.Va.

HUNTINGTON -- Actor Matthew McConaughey approaches a 6-foot-9 basketball center, sizes him up and asks the giant if would like to play football for Marshall. At a distance, Jack Lengyel, the man McConaughey is playing in the movie "We Are Marshall," nods his head to show his approval.

"You see that. He walks up to the player and he's very firm like a coach," Lengyel said. "He speaks like a coach."

Lengyel served as Marshall's first football coach after the tragic plane crash on Nov. 14, 1970. The movie is about the crash and Marshall's and Huntington's rebuilding efforts. Warner Bros. Pictures, in association with Legendary Pictures, is making the movie.

Mark Patton of Barboursville, who just wrapped up his basketball career for the Thundering Herd, played the 6-9 center Tuesday -- a composite character named Dave created for the movie. McConaughey watches Patton set a pick that wipes out two players and frees a teammate for a dunk. He calls for time, goes on the court with assistant coach Red Dawson (played by actor Matthew Fox) and invites Patton to join the football team. If  "Dave" hits like that on the football field, it'll be a major find fort the Young Thundering Herd.

"Skip the tie and jacket," Lengyel said. "The costumes make it authentic. Both Matthews are doing a terrific job. It's impressive. They're capturing the essence of the moment."

Dawson served as an assistant coach on Rick Tolley's staff in 1970 and didn't fly to the East Carolina game in Greenville, N.C. He worked on Lengyel's staff in 1971. Today, he's a businessman in Huntington.

"It's a strange feeling," Dawson said as he watched take after take unfold until they got the scene right. "He has some of my mannerisms. He's a super guy. The red hair looks good. He might be on to something."

The movie does stir up memories for Dawson. "It gets easier," he said, referring to coping with the highs and lows of a tragic time.

A.W. Hamilton, who played guard for Marshall and was Patton's teammate, was one of the extras in the scene. Now a graduate assistant, he was joined by Herd players LaVar Carter and Adam Zimmerman. Hamilton kept getting decked on the picks and Carter finished with dunk after dunk.

"It was a great experience," said Hamilton, who reported for work at 7 a.m. "I didn't realize it would take so long."

The basketball players wore gear that represented the early 1970s  -- short pants, tube socks, Converse sneakers and tight jerseys. Before each take, players were splashed with sun block to make it look like they were sweating.

"I like what we wear nowadays a lot better," Hamilton said. "Mark's picks were hard. You keep going down in those shorts and it hurts. I'm looking forward to when the movie comes out and I see my 15 seconds of fame."

Mark Ellis, president of ReelSports Inc., handled the basketball scene Tuesday. He'll do the football scenes when production shifts to Atlanta.

Ellis had a challenging day because he didn't get the script or actors until Tuesday morning. The actors did 20-plus takes.

"Usually my guys are hand picked," said Ellis, the sports coordinator for the movie. "They were still working on the sequence and how it would play best. We walked the guys through it first. You make it look real and let the action tell the story. I was real proud of the guys."

 

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