‘We Are Marshall’ coach watches film with students at West

10-31-08 West Coach
Jack Lengyel, the coach credited with rebuilding the Marshall University football team, takes questions after a screening of "We Are Marshall" at LaSala A Ballroom on the West campus on Thursday. (Joshua Snyder/The State Press)
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Friday, October 31, 2008
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The story of “We Are Marshall” came to life for West campus students at a screening of the film hosted by the College of Human Services on Thursday.

Former Marshall University football coach Jack Lengyel spoke to students and took questions after the screening.

The film recounts the story of the Marshall football team, which lost most of its players and staff in a 1970 plane crash, and follows the university’s new coach — Lengyel — and his attempts to rebuild their football program.

Matthew McConaughey played Lengyel in the film, and David Strathairn, Huntley Ritter, and Matthew Fox also played major roles.

Before the event, Lengyel, a Surprise resident, said that he was looking forward to meeting the students and discussing the film and his personal philosophy.

“I’ll talk about the film, how it was conceived, what was true and what was Hollywoodized, and so forth,” he said. “I’ll also use it as an opportunity to share with the students the need to develop a strategic plan for their success.”

Criminal justice freshman Richard Udave said he had never seen the movie and was excited to get the chance to meet Lengyel.

“It’s pretty cool because I’ve never met a star,” Udave said.

The screening attracted students from outside of ASU as well.

Joe Gardner, a freshman at Cactus High School in Glendale, came when his mother saw the event advertised on one of the West campus’ street marquees and encouraged him to attend.

“Over a year ago, I watched the movie, and I’ve been touched by it,” he said. “I got to meet Jack Lengyel, one of my idols, and I’m really excited.”

Social work junior Kate McCausland, who works with the College of Human Services as a peer leader, helped to put the screening together. McCausland got the word out by creating signs and spreading them all over residence halls and simply talking to people about the event, she said. The peer leader had been anticipating the screening for some time.

“I’d heard about the movie and how inspirational it was, but I’d never actually seen the movie,” she said. “I actually held off watching the movie so I could watch it for the first time.”

Dan Turbyfill, the College of Human Services’ event manager, said that the screening was set up through pure chance. He and Lengyel happened to share a mutual friend who introduced them to each other. The two met and decided to share the coach’s experience with ASU students. Turbyfill said he hopes students gained something from Thursday’s screening.

“I think the students ... are going to learn how to overcome difficult times,” he said. “[Lengyel] has just such an inspirational story, and I don’t think they can leave the event without being inspired.”

Reach the reporter at joshua.snyder@asu.edu.