Nov. 6, 2016
By Chuck McGill
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – The responses on social media poured in from all over the country.
“Never, ever forget.”
One of the most popular Twitter accounts from the Marshall University athletic department – @HerdEquipment – released three pictures of the helmets the Thundering Herd football team will wear this Saturday when it hosts Middle Tennessee at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. The sides and back of the helmet will pay tribute to two teams: 1970 and 1971.
The tweet, posted at 2:31 p.m. on Sunday, provoked emotional responses from all over the Twitterverse.
“With this being the 45th anniversary of the ‘Young Thundering Herd’ and the 10th anniversary of the movie, as well as the anniversary weekend for the 1970 team, we wanted to incorporate all of that into one helmet design,” said Zac Littleton, Marshall’s head equipment manager.
The anniversary of the ill-fated journey of Southern Airways Flight 932, which crashed on Nov. 14, 1970, will be two days after the game against Middle Tennessee. The green “75” sticker on the back of the white helmet, which for the past few years has been a decal on the sides of the helmet, will remember the 75 coaches, players, crew and community members who perished in the crash.
The green logo on each side of the helmet will be the same worn by the 1971 Marshall football team.
“We came up with a bunch of different ideas, but my thought process was to put the 75 on the back like it is looking forward to the ’71 team,” Littleton said. “I thought it was the perfect chance to switch it up a little bit. It’s not too crazy, but it’s outside of the box of anything we’ve done before.”
The Herd equipment staff’s Twitter account has been buzzing ever since the pictures were released. That account has hundreds of retweets, and major college football accounts also shared the helmet concept.
ESPN’s college football account – @ESPNCFB – called the gesture “So amazing” while sharing the pictures with more than 1.6 million followers of the account. CBS Sports wrote a short story and shared the pictures to more than 90,000 followers.
Littleton said the @HerdEquipment account was flooded with responses.
“I am very pleased with this effort,” tweeted Woody Woodrum, a former equipment specialist at Marshall.
“I was blessed to be coached by Gail Parker – freshman coach of the 1970 Thundering Herd,” tweeted John Wheeler. “I know coach would’ve been impressed.”
“They will be looking down with a smile,” tweeted another person, referring to the 75.
Littleton said he couldn’t find one negative comment about the helmet design.
“There have been a lot of personal messages,” he said. “It has been pretty overwhelming. My phone has been pretty much nonstop. It’s awesome.”