Thursday, September 10, 2009
Eagle Walk, USM game
We got our “gold on” Saturday.
The Burleson family, along with more than 36,227 others at M.M. Roberts Stadium, cheered on the Southern Miss Golden Eagles in their season opener in Hattiesburg.
There was a sea of gold on hand for the 6 p.m. kickoff. The announced attendance of 36,232 was a record for the facility that was refurbished last year. Of course, there were loyal Braves fans in one corner of the stadium and a few more scattered here and there. It was a great college football atmosphere.
USM had no trouble with Alcorn State, winning 52-0.
Our daughter Emma is a freshman at Southern Miss and loving it there.
She and Andy had a blast in the student section. Pam, Erin and I were about 10 rows up in the end zone – great seats beside the band. It was my first time to see a USM game in Hattiesburg in about 25 years. I hope to go back a couple of times before the season ends.
We’re Eagle fans now. I figure if my daughter and a chunk of my money are going there, we should show our support for this fine university. Plus, I’ve always liked USM, ever since I made my first trip there with good friend and newspaper mentor Rubye Del Harden back in the late 1980s. Then we lived in Laurel, just 25 miles from Hattiesburg, for two years.
The Golden Eagles have been a force to be reckoned with as long as I can recall. They’ve never been afraid to take on the powerhouses of college football, and they’ve pulled off some huge upsets over the years.
Coach Larry Fedora, starting his second season, has USM supporters all fired up. His team is picked as a strong contender for the Conference USA championship this season. The Golden Eagles are going into 2009 with 15 straight winning seasons. USM has gone to a bowl game for six straight years.
Prior to the game, we visited some tailgating tents and enjoyed the “Eagle Walk,” a traditional game day parade on the USM campus.
Every fall before the first home football game, freshmen gather to give the Eagle Walk a fresh coat of gold paint, transforming Eagle Walk Drive into a street of gold underneath the east side of M.M. Roberts Stadium. Emma participated, and she had to show us her name and hand prints painted on a wall outside the stadium.
There is not much that compares with the enjoyment of game days on our college campuses – be it USM, Ole Miss, Mississippi State or others.
Our family’s first in Hattiesburg was special.
The bands from Alcorn State and USM were fabulous, and there was a nice tribute to the late Steve McNair, former Alcorn State and NFL star, prior to kickoff.
My football weekend actually started early, on Thursday night at H.W. Byers. The junior high Lions hosted Byhalia in the first football game on the new field. It was nice to be on hand for a bit of history.
Don Randolph, superintendent of education, welcomed fans from both Marshall County schools, and emphasized the importance of both academics and athletics.
The new stadium at Byers will be named “Eddie Dixon Field,” honoring a man who has given so much to H.W. Byers and its students.
“I never thought I would see football back at Byers,” said a happy Dixon.
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