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The One-Hundred-Man Huddle

photo by Sabin Gratz

November 6, 2004: UVM football awakes from a 30-year slump and fields a well-seasoned team with incredible depth — at least 100 players — all of whom talk a good game, despite some wonky shoulders and trick knees. The first campus reunion of UVM football players — some who have traveled great distances to see old buds, some with hearts still unmended from the demise of their sport in 1974 — begins with mounting cacophony as friend finds friend, fittingly, in Patrick Gym's Hall of Fame Room.

The classes of the sixties and early seventies dominate the gathering, but many war-era alumni also are here, bringing memories of battles beyond the gridiron and adding depth of meaning to the day’s oft-described band-of-brothers sentiment.

Torrey Carpenter ’48 is one of the latter. An eventual varsity player, he started UVM in 1940, went into military service, and returned. “I was in so many different classes, I have four sets of numerals,” he says. He laughs heartily at his dubious claim to fame: “I was on a freshman team that not only never won a game but never scored a touchdown.”

Bill Dorozenski ’67 and Ron Gargano ’70 reminisce about “the glory years” of football with season stats of 7-1 and 6-2 in their best years. A game against Massachusetts, whom UVM had never beaten, Gargano says, “was the greatest game I’ve ever seen. … It was 21-7 at half time and ended up 28-21.” The UVM receiver, known for “always grabbing everything,” dropped the tying touchdown pass.

The stories circulating throughout the day and evening — at basketball and hockey games and dinner at Nectar’s — are typical of any reunion. Devious deeds gone undetected (alluded to more than once is a late sixties’ under-the-radar foray to the Champlain Valley Fair, naughty bits censored), accounts of careers, stories of love-conquers-all happy endings, memories of faculty and, especially, of coaches.

Many alumni wait in line to talk to assistant coach John Coons, now wheelchair-bound but resplendent in blue suit and Looney Tunes tie. Others trade tales of other coaches: Bob Clifford, Les Leggett, Larry Gardner, Ed Donnelly, and especially John “Fuzzy” Evans.

Bob Powers ’51 laughs heartily as he describes his team’s arduous pre-season training under coach Evans, “a tough old guy … from the old school. We’d practice … two hours in the morning, two in the afternoon, full equipment, no matter how hot it was. None of this running around in a shirt and shorts. …By the time the season started, half the damned guys were walking wounded. We peaked before the season started.”

Most of the buzz, however, is about players. Gary Holtz ’73, a defensive tackle, says, “To me it wasn’t wins. It was the friendships and camaraderie and the people I haven’t seen in 30 years.”

Former UVM Athletic Director Rick Farnham ’69, a defensive lineman and kicker, agrees. “I have lifetime friendships from football,” he says. When he speaks at out-of-state events, former teammates are in the audience. And, for twenty-five years, he and Paul Simpson ’69, a quarterback, have had Friday lunch together. Farnham believes the bond among football players is the strongest of all athletes. “You work so hard and have very little opportunity to play,” he says. “So … the magnitude of each experience is greater. … And so is the intensity of the relationships you develop with those players.”
—Lee Griffin