/Rest of the story Back when a football team went wrong way, and it turned out right

Rest of the story Back when a football team went wrong way, and it turned out right

Pugh’s story brought back fond memories of another viral Mississippi high school football story. This was back in the days when newspapers could only be read on paper. When the Internet was just beginning, it was only available to governments and universities with supercomputers that were large and cumbersome. This was 1988, when a 46 year-old man with ALS, David Lee Herbert, coached at Tishomingo High, a small school in the northeast Mississippi hills. Some readers might remember. Some readers may not be able to recall. Some aren’t yet born. ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) was still incurable. Herbert was already diagnosed the previous year. His condition was rapidly progressing. He used a motorized wheelchair to coach practices. He also coached games using a wheelchair that was placed in the flatbed truck of a pickup truck. He continued to coach, his son Dave Herbert being the senior quarterback. It was the last game of the season, in November. Tishomingo was at Falkner. The state playoffs were on the line. Tishomingo led Falkner by 16-14. With seven seconds remaining, Tishomingo held the Falkner 35. Here’s the catch: Tishomingo needed to defeat Faulkner four times and lead by two to advance to the playoffs. Falkner was the only town that could make a 52-yard field goal. David Lee Herbert signaled a timeout in order to consider his options. The field goal attempt was not an option. Falkner’s strong defense could have forced him to attempt a “Hail Mary”, but that would be the longest shot. David Lee Herbert had another idea, which he shared with me in a telephone conversation days later. He said, “We calculated our chances of scoring on one play but knew they weren’t very good.” “We decided to move the other way.” Falkner would go 65 yards backwards in order to score a safety, which would result in Falkner scoring two points and sending the game into overtime tied at 16. The coach thought that his team might score a winning touchdown to advance to the playoffs. Although it was a long shot Coach Herbert believed it was the best chance for his team. He had to convince his team. Dave Herbert, the quarterback, said that he thought it was too crazy at first. He was then called to the sidelines for the next play. “But then, when I thought it over, it made sense.” Dave Herbert returned to the field and shared his thoughts with his teammates. They balked. Dave attempted to persuade his teammates by imposing two delay-of-game penalties. One of his teammates told him that his dad had lost his mind. All agreed to let the play go, even though it was difficult at first. Dave Herbert took the snap and turned to pitch the ball to Shane Hill. Hill was the fastest player on the team. Fans of both teams were stunned when Hill raced to the other end zone to score a safety. This tied the score at 16 as the clock was ticking down to 0:00. Tishomingo won the first overtime with a touchdown to win 22-16. They also advanced to the playoffs. The next thing was the most important in Tishomingo history. The news spread fast beyond Tishomingo (pop. 500) even though there was no Internet. 500). Brent Musburger spoke about Herbert two days later on CBS’s “NFL Today.” ABC, NBC and NBC ran clips of the game on the evening news. Paul Harvey featured the “wrong play” on his radio program. Radio talk show hosts across the U.S. tried to find the number of the coach who was “wrong”. David Lee Herbert said to me years ago: “I never expected such much attention.” It was just what had to be done. Perhaps Bear Bryant, Knute Rockne, or Vince Lombardi would have done it. Maybe not. Fast forward 17 years and we are at 2005, the year David Lee Herbert passed away. Linda Herbert, David Lee’s widow, said that the doctors had predicted he would only live for five years. We had 18, and he did. Linda Herbert was a strong and strong woman. This is more than just a football story. This is a love story. Linda Herbert, a teacher, quit her job in 1988 to care for her husband who was suffering from rapid and severe illness. For five years, she cared for her husband at home. The last 12 years were spent in Carrollton. They were close to family. Linda Herbert said that while friends talk about how hard she worked, it wasn’t like a job and she didn’t get tired. He was my best friend. He also loved me so much. He would have done that for me.” ALS, the most cruel of diseases, is a very serious condition. While the mind is sharp, the body begins to lose function organ by organ. David Lee Herbert was the first person to need a ventilator for breathing in 1989. He loved football and watched it on television every chance he got. His wife would cut newspaper articles and magazines about football and arrange them for him to read. David Lee Herbert was unable to communicate for years by blinking his eyes. Then, his facial muscles also failed him. Still, Linda Herbert managed. Do you want to know the definition of love? This is love… Linda Herbert stated that she was so close to him, “I could read his mind.” “I knew his desires almost always. Linda Herbert, who was nearly 14 years old at the time of her husband’s death, died in January 2019 from a lung disease. David Herbert, who lives in Florence, says that Mama was also a hero. “People wouldn’t believe what she did behind closed doors all those years,” continued Dave Herbert. “Lots of people still remember that play, which became famous and was the catalyst.” There was more to my dad’s story.” *** David Lee Herbert was elected into the Mississippi Association of Coaches Hall of Fame. Al Ainsworth published a book entitled “Playing for Overtime” in 2019. Rick Cleveland wrote the foreword.