When two or more ex-athletes gather, Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” permeates the meeting. Such was the case when I hooked up with Rick Berger and Tom Shepherd for a socially distanced pandemic meeting. I mentioned to Rick that Dr. Neill Marshall had mentioned his role in a goal line stand during a double overtime victory when he and an undersized Magnolia line held off a horde of Ravenswood behemoths. It just so happened that Tom was part of that impenetrable wall. That opened up the flood gates.
Among the stories they told, was the time legendary Ohio State University football coach Woody Hayes visited Magnolia High School. Woody coached five national championship teams, 3 Heisman Trophy and 3 Outland Trophy winners. He was also known to be such a good teacher that his staff often went on to be successful head coaches, Lou Holz, Bo Schembechler and Earle Bruce were just a few that went on to national prominence. Tom and Rick wondered who among his underlings that day were people they watched on television later leading their own teams. Adding an Ohio Valley note from memory, I let them know that Woody’s first coaching job was as an assistant coach at Mingo Junction, Ohio.
That triggered a Woody visit I remembered. He spoke at our all sports banquet in Follansbee. The guy could tell a story and hold an audience. Lest you think Woody’s visits to New Martinsville and Follansbee were completely altruistic, that wasn’t completely the case. He came to Magnolia to recruit Mike Dawson. WVU historian John Antonik was told by former WVU Athletic Director Ed Pastilong that Mike had the ability to play safety in the NFL. In Follansbee’s case, he was there to woo Tim Anderson who ended up playing defensive back at OSU, starting on a National Championship team and being a #1 NFL draft pick. I remember watching Tim tackle O.J. Simpson in the 1969 Rose Bowl game.
More water trickled over the dam and I was reminded that my college roommate’s dad, Carlin Dodrill, had once been offered the line coaching job at Syracuse University by Coach Ben Schwartzwalder. Mr. Dodrill declined the job and had a successful career as a basketball, baseball, football coach and teacher at Follansbee High School. You have to know that college assistants didn’t make a ton of money back then and Mr. Dodrill truly loved Follansbee. I wondered what the connection was between Coach Dodrill and Coach Schwartzwalder so I did the appropriate internet research. Coach Schwartzwalder’s first coaching job was at Weston High School followed by a stint at Sistersville High School in 1935. He left there to coach at Parkersburg High School. They were both Ohio Valley coaches and must have become friends. When Coach Schwartzwalder went to Syracuse, he won a National Championship in 1959 and was known for the running backs he coached who included Jim Brown, Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis, Floyd Little, Larry Nance and Larry Csonka.
To me, even more impressive than their football credentials was their service during WW11.Lieutenant Commander Hayes commanded a PC 1251 in the Palau Islands invasion and the destroyer-escort USS Rinehart in both Atlantic and Pacific operations. As a captain in the 82nd (CO of Company G of the 507th) Schwartzwalder earned distinction during the invasion of Normandy and battles that followed during the last days of the war. He played crucial roles in the capture of La FiËre-Causeway and Sainte-MËre-…glise, crucial points of entry into France during the D-Day invasion. By the time the 507th reached the battle for Hill 95, they had suffered more than 65% casualties. Schwartzwalder continued his campaign all the way into Germany and acted as military governor for the town of Essen for a period of six months. He was awarded a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, four battle stars, Presidential Unit Citation and was promoted to the rank of Major for his actions during the invasion. When he was personally decorated by General Matthew Ridgway, the General said, “Ben, I never expected to see you here to receive this award.”
My old pal, H. John Rogers, used to say that the greatest title you could bestow on a person was to call them Coach and that their greatest honor was to say that they fought for their country. During WW11, Mr. Dodrill served our country in North Africa and Italy. Hayes and Schwartzwalder checked both boxes.