"We Are Marshall" Survivor From Charlottesville

By: Lisa Ferrari Email
By: Lisa Ferrari Email

December 22, 2006

"We Are Marshall," the movie about history's worst college sports tragedy began playing in Charlottesville theaters Friday. It's a story about an entire football team lost in a plane crash.

The team's head coach and the wife he left behind are formally from Charlottesville.

Mary Jane and Rick Tolley were soul mates. She grew up on Virginia Avenue in Charlottesville and taught at Charlottesville High School. He was an assistant baseball coach at the University of Virginia. Together they moved to Huntington West Virginia in 1969 where Rick became the youngest football coach in the nation. And Mary Jane never missed a Marshall game except for one on November 14th, 1970.

“It came over the radio and that is how I heard, it said the plane had gone down and there were no survivors,” said Nary Jane Tolley.

Nearly the entire Marshall football team including Mary Jane’s husband, coach Rick Tolley died that rainy night when their plane crashed into a West Virginia hillside.

“Just total disaster, the world had blown up in my face,” said Tolley.

After the crash some wanted to end Marshall’s football program. But eventually there was no doubt the thundering herd would be heard from again.

“That is one thing I know my husband would not have wanted. These people would have died in vane. Football was a big part of their lives,” said Tolley.

Now 36 years later the team’s story of rising from the ashes is finally being told in a major motion picture.

“They were destroyed when the plane crashed but they didn't give up,” said Tolley

Mary Jane Tolley now lives in Richmond. She and other survivors make a cameo appearance in the movie.

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