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Three former ‘Titans’ score big with students

Former T.C. Williams High School Titans football player number 80 Darryl “Blue” Stanton speaks with students at Piedmont High School Friday, (March 27, 2009), about his experiences as one of the ’71 Original Titans. Also pictured are Titans football player number 23 Warren Robinson, center, and the Titans’ head cheerleader in 1971-72 Ethel Ferguson.

Some Union County Public School students had an opportunity to see first-hand how one deals with adversity and challenge when some living legends appeared at their school Friday (March 27, 2009).

Former T.C. Williams High School Titans football player number 23 Warren Robinson, number 80 Darryl “Blue” Stanton, and the head cheerleader in 1971-72 Ethel Ferguson came to Piedmont and Forest Hills High schools to speak to students about the challenges they faced during desegregation and how black and white students came together to be the 1971 Virginia AAA State Champion Varsity Football team.

A movie, “Remember the Titans,” a sports drama released in 2000 by Walt Disney Pictures, was based on their story. It starred Denzel Washington as their Coach Herman Boone.

The movie centers on the football team at the brand-new desegregated T.C. Williams High School, at which Robinson, Stanton and Ferguson were students.

Matt Collier, an English teacher at Forest Hills High School, contacted the members of the '71 Original Titans Foundation, requesting members come to Union County and speak to UCPS students. “We’ve been seeing the need for diversity education at Forest Hills High School and I thought, ‘What kind of group would get that message across?’ I’ve used the movie, ‘Remember the Titans’ in my class, and students told me they would like to hear them speak, and would like to talk to them.”

Piedmont High School is the sister school to Forest Hills High School, and was invited to share in the experience. The three spoke at Piedmont High first, and then traveled to Forest Hills.

“This is an opportunity for us to have folks who can speak to the importance of education to our students,” said Piedmont High’s principal Jonathan Bowers. “Education is the great equalizer. Through education, you can achieve anything. The Titans group is a testament to that.”

The three former Titans took turns speaking to students, and then responded to questions about the movie and their lives at T.C. Williams High School.

“What we learned on the football field, we took with us in life,” said Stanton to more than 1,100 Piedmont High and Middle School students. “We came together as a team and grew from those experiences. We learned to respect each other first. How can you trust one another and play with one another without that?”

“One of the most important things you’ll learn from playing sports is a good work ethic,” said Robinson. “You learn how to be on time and to work together as a team. This is important, not only to upper management, but also to the people who work under you. People also had to learn how to accept change back then. In this world today, you’ll also have to learn to accept change. It’s a continual thing.”

Ferguson said the members of the Original Titans enjoy opportunities to speak to students. “It’s very rewarding to share with them the importance of getting a good education,” she said.

“Back then, all the guys got the scholarships, not the females,” she said. “I love telling students today what an affect not having the opportunity to go to college had on me, and I hope they will think more about their own education. You have to take charge of your own destiny.”

The '71 Original Titans Foundation, established by the coaches, players and cheerleaders from the 1971 Virginia AAA State Champion Varsity Football Team of T. C. Williams High School, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping high school students pursue post-secondary education.

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, Publications Coordinator
Posted: Mar 27, 2009 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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