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Seen and ‘Herd’…Famed coach pays visit to Tech

April 19, 2012

 

Former Marshall head coach Jack Lengyel speaks to Tech students about the trials and tribulations he experienced during the tragic 1971 season in Howard Auditorium Monday. –Photo by Sumeet Shrestha

REBECCA ALVAREZ
Staff Reporter

 

Scores of Tech students sat in Howard Auditorium Monday as legendary football coach Jack Lengyel shared his experience and secrets on how he successfully rebuilt a school’s spirit amidst overwhelming adversity.

 

Lengyel greeted Tech students with wishes for success and happiness before speaking to them about the lessons he learned during the restoration of the Thundering Herd football program.

 

“It wasn’t about football,” he said. “It was about finding success in the face of adversity.”

 

Forty-two years ago, Lengyel gave Marshall University renewed hope after a tragic plane crash that claimed an entire team and staff.

 

The accident left the program without a team and coaches, calling upon Lengyel, who was coaching at the College of Wooster at the time, to completely restore the program in a time of mourning.

 

Lengyel was handed several tasks in order to have a team ready for competition by the following season.

 

Recruiting a team and establishing a playbook were among the bigger challenges for the new coach, but the biggest challenge was reviving the spirits of the college town, he said.

 

Eric Clapp, a junior forestry major, attended the speech to see the legend in person, but said instead he gained an eye-opening experience.

 

Clapp said he admires Lengyel for his determination and how he accomplished his goals despite the adversity that was against him.

 

“I learned there’s more to life than waiting for something to happen,” Clapp said. “You just have to get up and do it.”

 

During his speech, Lengyel emphasized that having a strategy and core values allowed him to overcome his challenges by developing the confidence and determination he needed to accomplish his goals.

 

He explained the two concepts are part of the mental aspect of achieving goals.

 

When Lengyel arrived at Marshall, strong strategies and core values proved to be important.

 

The new team consisted of walk-ons and players that were recruited from other sports like basketball, baseball and soccer.

 

But despite the lack of experienced players, Lengyel said he never had any doubts or concerns that could have shaken his determination.

 

His efforts and perseverance paid off in the second game of the 1971 season when Marshall’s inexperienced team defeated Xavier University. It was the Herd’s first victory since the crash.

 

“Attitude is just as important as aptitude,” he said. “A good attitude pushes you that much higher.”

 

To demonstrate his point, he asked the audience to stand up and put their hands above their heads, and then asked them to stretch a little bit higher. He helped the students see that the small extra effort did not help them reach too much higher, but it was still higher than their original goal.

 

Lengyel said the goal of the 1971 season was to bring the town and university back to life, and winning games that season was the fruit of the extra efforts given by the new program.

 

Lengyel challenged every student to write out a plan for their goals in the future even though things may change along the way.

 

When things change, students will have to rely on their core values that they have established to help them revise their strategies.

 

“You’re in life’s arena; you have to compete daily,” Lengyel said. “Everything is mind over matter.”

 

Email comments to rha014@latech.edu.

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