It’s been decades since Jim Taylor, John White and other former Colorado of School of Mines football players slapped on their cleats and took to the school’s gridiron for games against old rivals …
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It’s been decades since Jim Taylor, John White and other former Colorado of School of Mines football players slapped on their cleats and took to the school’s gridiron for games against old rivals like Colorado College.
But when 28 of the school’s players from the 1960s returned to Marv Kay Stadium for their annual reunion on Sept. 11, it often felt like not much had changed.
Sure, faces looked a little older and bodies moved a little slower than they had back then and the men now handed off beers to one another rather than football. But the sense of community and camaraderie felt as strong as ever.
“We just enjoy it,” said Taylor, who played three years for the varsity team starting in 1968, of the reunions. “They’re good guys, they’re all engineers and we all went through the same stuff and that’s why we’re here.”
Taylor said the first reunion of players from the 1960s took place in 2015 when the new Mines football stadium was dedicated to longtime coach and beloved program booster, Marv Kay.
“Everyone said ‘we should this again’ and then somebody said `you should do this every year,” Taylor said. “And now we are doing this every year.”
During the reunion tailgate, which was held in the grass area at the south side of the stadium prior to the current team’s game with New Mexico Highlands University, old teammates recalled some of their more memorable games.
Dave Scriven, who played for the team from 1966 to 1970, recalled a major snowstorm that led to only half the team being able to fly to Durango to face Fort Lewis on a makeshift field on the town’s fairgrounds. That game is immortalized in Mines’ athletic hall of fame.
“One of my teammates and I ended up having to play both ways because we were both offensive linemen and the defensive guys got hurt early on,” he said. “But it was a wonderful game that we ended up winning.”
Also recalled was the aforementioned rivalry against Colorado College, which came to an end after Mines laid down back to back beatdowns.
“They quit playing us,” said Taylor.
Of course, it just wouldn’t have been a football reunion without a little competitive ribbing and chest pumping.
Former wide receiver Jim Honea recalled how he was lucky to play in the mid-1960s just as Mines was embracing a more passing-centric offense, which allowed him to set many passing records.
However, one of his buddies then chimed in that those records didn’t last for long before being broken by Nelson King, who was also at the reunion.
“He broke all of his records,” the teammate said. “Barely.”
However, there was also plenty of humility, at least when it came to taking stock of how the players would stack up to today’s team, which is regularly among the best in the NCAA’s division II.
“We weren’t that good back then,” said Dennis Ulrich, who played quarterback from 1967 to 1971. “I was just talking to the guys and none of us would’ve made this team. We were all undersized—my center weighed 150 and my guard weighed about 140.”
But while football is a boys’ sport, the former player’s wives weren’t the only women at the reunion. Two of the team’s early cheerleaders, Pam Titus and Virginia White, also made the trip.
While White cheered when a Mines fraternity was in charge of providing male cheerleaders and recruiting girls from other local colleges to be their female counterparts, Titus was a part of Mines first group of female student cheerleaders after Mines started to enroll a handful of female students (there were 12 in White’s class including five who would ultimately graduate).
“Marv Kay called us up and said this is the 100th anniversary of football, it’s important that you do a good job out there and we all said `oh no,” said Titus. “But we showed up for the first game, there was six girls and one guy, and that was it from then on they had co-ed cheerleaders.”
While Kay wasn’t able to make the reunion, his presence loomed large as many players recalled his outsized impact on the program and their own lives. Scriven recalled how Kay pushed the team to be a playoff team even when it didn’t always meet that goal and therefore set a standard of excellence.
King, meanwhile, remembered how he told Kay he would need to quit the team before his sophomore year because he could no longer afford to play football after getting married.
“Marv calls me back about an hour later and says `I got you a job as a dormitory supervisor you and your wife you can live in a dorm apartment for free and get free food’ and we did that for three years,” he said. “That’s the kind of guy Marv Kay was.”
But while the reunions are always a celebratory occasion, they also carry the bittersweetness of growing old.
“It’s a little melodramatic, it’s getting to be where the reason you come back is to see who is still alive because we’ve lost a few which is tough,” said Honea. “But it’s fun. And no matter how good you were, the stories make you sound better then you were.”
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