We Are…Marshall


This isn’t just another holiday flick to use as an escape from the usual holiday bustle and boredom. We Are Marshall is a thought-provoking and emotional history lesson, made relevant to us today. My friend Tom Wing is an evangelist for historical interpretation. He’s taught me to recognize the discipline of historical interpretation when I see it. This movie is just that.

The whole concept behind interpretation is to tell a story through artifacts or events and to engage hearts and minds.

The filmmakers worked closely with Marshall, with the surrounding town of Huntington, West Virginia, and with the families, friends, and colleagues left behind following the horriffic aircraft tragedy that killed 75 team members, coaching staffers, boosters, radio announcers, and boosters from Marshall University in the early 1970s.

Official We Are Marshall Movie Site

Browse through the “about the movie” section, and plan to spend plenty of time at the “tell your story” section. Yes. This site allows for interactivity. Basically, the question is, “Who inspires you?”

The entire story is poignant. Heck, my dad thought the coach, played by Matthew McConaughey, was funny. My favorite storyline comes early in the film, as the town considers suspending the football program. The character Nate Ruffin (pictured above) is among the lone survivors of the team. He missed the fateful last game because of a shoulder injury. Ruffin was a leader who outsmarted his elders. With heart, with passion, and with a certainty that reviving the team was best for the university and the town. He had a plan, delegated authority, and believed hundreds, if not thousands, of people would back him as he petitioned the board of visitors to revive the football program.

Nate Ruffin died in 2001, but he saw Marshall University survive, thrive, and return to national football prominence. Marshall has won NCAA-2A championships in recent years. Without him, there’d have been no football program. Without a football program — national championships or not — new generations of Huntington residents might not be able to see, and experience, hope for survival. Without Nate Ruffin, Huntington, West Virginia would be a different place today.

Without Nate Ruffin, there’d be no movie to inspire millions of us in our daily lives; to create a better place; to be better citizen leaders; and to dream big dreams.

I won’t forget Nate Ruffin, or the story of his commitment.

“Tolley” refers to Marshall Head Coach Rick Tolley who died in the autumn 1970 crash.

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