Coach featured in the film Remember the Titans to speak here Feb. 6The high school football coach portrayed by Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington in the film Remember the Titans will share his inspirational story at 7 p.m. on Feb. 6 in Tennessee Tech University’s Derryberry Hall Auditorium.
Herman Boone, the former coach of T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., who helped his newly integrated team overcome racial tensions to win the 1971 state football championship, will speak about his lessons in diversity as a part of TTU’s Black History Month activities.
“The beauty of Herman and of what he did was that it was sort of unconscious,” said screenwriter Gregory Allen Howard in a Washington Post interview.
At the time Boone took over as head football coach at T.C. Williams, if you asked him if he was trying to make a point about diversity to the students who played on his team, Howard said, he would have answered, “No, I just want to win football games.”
The team — like the community — was anything but united in 1971, however, because the recent consolidation of three schools and integration had resulted in racial strain and the persistence of old rivalries.
In a move many members of the white community viewed simply as a gesture of goodwill to the black community, Boone was selected as the new head coach instead of local favorite Bill Yoast, who’d successfully coached the white Hammond High football team.
“He had to get the players to get along to win football games,” Howard said. “And it worked for just that reason — because it wasn’t self-conscious. He did something quite beyond what even he realized.”
Boone and Yoast, in fact, worked to put aside their own prejudices to reach a remarkable solidarity that set an example for their players and the community.
With a unified team whose common vision was to respect each other as well as to win football games, the Titans compiled a 13-0 season record, became one of the best high school football teams in Virginia and won the state championship that year.
Co-sponsored by TTU’s Minority Affairs, Athletics and University Programming Council, Boone’s presentation is a Center Stage event that is free and open to the public.