This September 2020, the inspiring, epic movie, “Remember The Titans” (grossed $136.7 million world wide) will celebrate its 20th Anniversary (2000) with 18 Award Nominees and 8 Award Wins as of date. However, the legend and pioneer Coach Herman Boone portrayed by Academy Award Winner Denzel Washington will not be present for this honor.
On December 18, 2019, Coach Boone left the football field forever at age 84 after battling lung cancer in Alexandria, Virginia. This city is where the movie depicted the way an integrated high school football team learned to respect, trust, and develop new friendships, to overcome racism on and off the field in 1971.
The Titans’ had an undefeated season (13-0) under the first Black Head Coach, whose strong, strict disciplinary leadership brought the community and team together. They became the Virginia State Champions and the National Championship Runner-Up. President Richard Nixon said, “The team saved the City of Alexandria”.
Ironically, it was in 2019 that we were actually “Remembering the Titans” because in January, the Captain/Defensive End of the 1971 T.C. Williams High School Football team Julius Campbell (portrayed by Woody Harris) died of organ failure at age 65; Carol Boone, wife of Coach Boone (portrayed by Nicole Ari Parker) passed at age 83; Assistant Coach Bill Yoast (portrayed by Will Patton) passed in May at age 94; Petey Jones, Fullback, (portrayed by Donald Faison), died of prostate cancer and then before the year ended, we were saying goodbye to their Hall of Fame Head Coach, Herman Boone.
I was privileged to have met Coach Boone here in Atlanta on Saturday, November 19, 1999 when I was an “extra” on the movie set. On this special day, Walt Disney Pictures wanted to honor the real life Coaches and Players of this historic high school team who overcame so much, all because of Coach Boone’s extraordinary leadership and determination.
Twenty years ago, I didn’t realize I would be a writer, as well, as an interviewer. That day, on both sides of the football field, fans gathered in the stands. I found myself on the field in the midst of all the excitement. I saw Coach Boone and I started asking him questions, just in general conversation. Later, he asked politely, “Who are you a reporter for?” I smiled and replied, “I’m not a reporter.”
As I review that thought, I guess Coach Boone, being the perfectionist he was, saw something in me that I wasn’t aware of at that time. So, I will always remember this special Titan asking me that question. I do remember him saying, “This is a great day and I can’t believe they are giving us this big honor like this and Mr. Washington is making me look real important”. We both laughed. Also, I had talked with several of the 1971 Titan teammates and it was just a great feeling seeing and hearing how they were absorbing all of this. Think for yourself, how it would feel being on a movie set where the movie is about you and what you had accomplished.
I know I was in another world when I started talking to Mr. Denzel Washington who did a phenomenal acting job portraying Coach Boone. By this time, we were off the field but I was still smiling and being amazed talking to him. Denzel was enjoying this exciting day of filming and honoring the real life Titans and so was I.
I will always be proud of this special moment in time and being part of a movie that is used to teach football teams year after year about how you can achieve anything when you put your heart, soul, and mind together as a team and learn from each other no matter your background. In life, we achieve more when we all work together and are not divided. Therefore, Coach Boone’s techniques are always applicable at any time.
So, never forget the lessons taught to us by one of the greatest Titan, Coach Herman Boone and the other Titans who have passed on and for those who are still giving speech engagements. One of the teammates strongly said, “Once A Titan, Always a Titan”.
Thank you Mr. Herman Boone, for caring enough, giving your all in making a difference in Alexandria, Virginia and allowing the entire world to know how you made your mark in history through this movie which is my favorite movie of all times!!! We will continue to watch your movie in 2020, remember your remarkable legacy by respecting and trusting one another and being united once again, especially for our country. Yes, we will always “Remember The Titans”.
The Scholarship Fund of Alexandria; 3330 King Street; Alexandria, Virginia 22302 — Attn: 71 Titans Scholars; Phone (703) 824-6730 or [email protected]