Herman Boone Inspires Penn State Crowd
Legendary high school football coach Herman Boone, made famous by the Disney movie Remember the Titans spoke to a crowd of admiring attendees at Eisenhower Auditorium last night. The evening opened with the scene from the movie where Denzel Washington has his team run through the woods at 3am until they reach the battlefields of Gettysburg ending with a speech from the coach that would ultimately cause the union of a team divided.
Herman Boone entertained the crowd with his eloquence and humor, telling his personal tales of facing adversity and quoting from those he admired such as Vince Lombardi and Carter G. Woodson. Boone said it himself he’s “just a retired football coach” but the impact he has had over his long standing career has gone on to reach even us here at Penn State.
At the beginning of his speech Boone acknowledged Larry Johnson Sr., who was present in the crowd with his wife. Boone praised Johnson for his tenure as a high school football coach in Maryland as well as all that he has done here for the Nittany Lions with recruiting and defense.
You might be wondering what made the story of the Titans so special that it was picked up by Disney, but Boone had an answer to that too. He said the movie was written because the team found a way to celebrate their differences rather than make them a problem to be solved. As a coach, Boone knew he could not “legislate love” but instead had to find alternative ways to inspire and form a cohesive bond amongst his team members during a severe time of racial dispute.
When asked how he felt when he heard Denzel Washington would be portraying him in the film Boone responded “I thought they coulda found someone better looking” but went on to commend Denzel on his respectful commitment to every role he plays. A true testament to the character of Denzel Washington was the fact that the film itself had a total of $19 million budget, whereas Denzel’s typical salary per film is upwards of $12 million. Denzel actually asked for the honor of playing Coach Boone (knowing he would be taking a major pay cut) in the film that ultimately ended up grossing over $200 million since its premiere.
At the end of his speech Boone received a standing ovation from the audience before entering in to a question and answer section. Members in attendance inquired about everything from ‘did Sunshine really kiss Gary Bertier’ to advice on how to succeed as a college football coach. Boone insisted that there is “no better profession than to be a coach” and that he receives the most payment when players he has coached succeed in their own careers.
Throughout the night Boone kept the audience engaged with his charisma and a few jokes, but what caught my attention the most was a quote from Vince Lombardi: “You have to believe because to believe is to have faith”. I thought this represented the central message Boone was trying to get across, that as students we are the future of our country and we determine what we do and where we go in life. “Dreams have no expiration date” Boone said, as he encouraged students to make the most of their degrees from Penn State, and their desires to live full lives.