Southern Airways Flight 932 was a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 that Marshall University chartered to transport the Thundering Herd football team to Greenville, North Carolina, via Stallings Field in Kinston, North Carolina, and back to Marshall’s campus in Huntington, West Virginia.
On the evening of November 14, 1970, the aircraft clipped trees on a ridge just one mile short of the runway at Tri-State Airport in Ceredo, West Virginia, and crashed into a gully. There were no survivors. In all, 75 people lost their lives. The deceased included the 37 players and head coach Rick Tolley and five members of his coaching staff.
In the wake of the tragedy, President Donald Dedmon (David Strathairn) leans towards indefinitely suspending the football program, but he is ultimately persuaded to reconsider by the pleas of the Marshall students and Huntington residents, and especially the few football players who didn’t make the flight.
Dedmon hires a young new head coach Jack Lengyel (Matthew McConaughey), who with the help of Red Dawson (Matthew Fox) the sole surviving member of the previous coaching staff, manages to rebuild the team in a relatively short time. The new team is composed mostly of the 18 returning players (three varsity, 15 sophomores) and walk-on athletes from other Marshall sports’ programs.
Since everyone knows what is in store, the first part of the movie is especially poignant as you meet the players and know their lives are destined to end far too early. What a typical moviegoer might not be familiar with is the character of Jack Lengyel, a man who was the only one willing to come forward and try to salvage the football program.
McMcConaughey gives a stirring performance as Coach Lengyel as does Matthew Fox as Red Dawson, the assistant coach who gives up his seat at the last minute to another person. The guilt of being a survivor eats at him and nearly destroys his life.
Director: Joseph McGinty Nichol
Year of Release: 2006
Character to watch: Matthew McConaughey as Jack Lengyel.
Journal your answers to the following questions after you watch the movie.
- How does this particular character’s journey compare with yours?
- Did the character develop certain characteristics during the movie that you have or that you would like to have? If so, what are those characteristics?
- What obstacles did this character face? What was his or her biggest challenge?
- What would you have done differently if you had been in the same position as the character?
- Is this character the type of person you would be friends with? Why or why not?