Great Shot! – see the video

Our Basketball teams both scored huge SSAC conference wins on the road last night at Auburn-Montgomery.

The Women won 55-53, with sophomore Ariel Wilson recording her 1000th career point in a Blazers uniform.

The Men won 77-76 on a shot at the buzzer on an amazing team play and 3 pointer by Jordan Bedford.


Hal Mumme story on why he came to Belhaven University

The Clarion Ledger wrote a fun story about why Hal Mumme came to Belhaven as our head football coach.

If you’ve not yet had the chance to meet Hal, I hope you will. He’s one of football’s great legendary coaches – recently ranked as the 4th most influential coach in college football.

Veteran coach Mumme relishes chance to rebuild Belhaven
Riley Blevins, The Clarion-Ledger 11:27 p.m. CDT September 6, 2014

Hal Mumme pointed to a pile of business cards stacked on the corner of his desk.

“Head Football Coach” is imprinted on white cardstock below his name.

Something is missing, he joked.

“Some people flip houses for a living. I flip football programs,” he chuckled. “They should stick that on there.”

That’s what Mumme came to Belhaven to do.

But this move seems odd to some.

Mumme, who was hired in January, isn’t your typical football coach at a private NAIA school with an undergraduate enrollment just over 2,000.

That becomes apparent upon setting foot in his office. The walls are adorned with relics of his coaching past, which includes stints at Kentucky, Valdosta State, Southeastern Louisiana, New Mexico State and SMU.

There’s photos of Tim Couch, the former No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 NFL draft who Mumme coached at Kentucky, and Mike Leach and Dana Holgorsen — now head coaches at Washington State and West Virginia, respectively — who alongside Mumme are a part of a coaching trio that is said to have invented the Air-Raid offense.

But Mumme sees nothing strange in the move to Belhaven.

He’ll tell you Belhaven has always been on his radar.

It started in the summer of 2001, just after Mumme resigned from Kentucky amid an NCAA investigation.

Dennis Roland, who had been on Mumme’s staff at Kentucky in 1997, was the head coach at Belhaven. He had asked Mumme to help run a camp.

“I just remember really liking the place,” Mumme said. “I fell in love with it.”

Mumme was serving as SMU’s passing game coordinator last season when he heard the job was open.

He set up a meeting. It was nothing but a feeler.

Or so he thought.

“I didn’t think I was going to apply for the job,” Mumme said. “But (Belhaven President Roger) Parrott is the best recruiter on this campus. I walked in just wanting to ask a few questions. I walked out the head coach.”

Mumme calls Parrott’s enthusiasm for football “infectious.” After all, Parrott helped bring the sport to Belhaven.

“That was a big deal for me. Presidents who start football are a special breed,” Mumme said. “Football is their son. It’s not their stepchild. They really care about it. We have great plans for the future.”

They start with Belhaven making the jump to the Division-III American Southwest Conference next year. After that, Mumme hopes to build a new stadium.

“Jobs aren’t about what level you’re at. They’re about who you work with,” Mumme said. “The art has always been more important than the venue.”

Mumme said his ultimate goal is to win a Division-III national championship.

But for now, he rolls out the worn cliché used by first-year coaches across the country. “I have to change the culture.”

The Blazers have won their first two games under Mumme — most recently a 32-14 victory over Mississippi College on Saturday — which makes Belhaven one win away from matching its win total from last season.

Mumme said he uses the same rebuilding tactics at each stop. “You have to have a great capacity for boredom,” he said. “That’s where you start.”

To better explain, he borrowed a quote from the Eagles. Yes, the rock band.

“I was up late one night in the 1980s watching VH-1,” Mumme said. “Some guy asked the Eagles why they were so great. They said they played the same cord over and over again until it was perfect. Then they moved onto the next. I thought that was perfect for football, too.

Mumme also said obsessing over “the little things” is vital.

Specifically, travel.

To better explain, he took a page out of Bill Walsh’s book. Yes, the famed late San Francisco 49ers coach.

“Bill Walsh went out of his way to make sure players had the same experience they had during a home game on the road. He’d install bigger airplane seats. And they took two planes instead of one. They’d eat the same foods and all that,” Mumme said. “Today, everyone at the big level is first class. In D-III, being first class gives you a huge advantage. Our goal is to travel better than anyone. That helps us get things going in the right direction.”

Wins and losses are an easy way to gauge if a program is headed in the right direction.

But that’s not what Mumme enjoys most about his “flipping football programs” profession.

He likes finding the die-hards — those fans who attend every home game no matter the team’s record or the weather.

“It’s the same type of people at each stop. Those people with the long faces who approach you right when you’re hired. They’ll always give you some advice on how to fix it,” Mumme said. “I love finding those people a few years later, shaking their hands. It’s almost like an ‘I told you so’ moment.”

Contact Riley Blevins at (601) 961-7344 or Follow @Riley_Blevins on Twitter.

Significant Day for Belhaven Track

This was only our first year of intercollegiate track, we had two athletes qualify for the NAIA national track meet in Orange Beach, Alabama.

We are proud of Vinnessa Barthelomew and Josh Reed or their success, and Head Coach Caleb Snyder who is building a quality track program from the very beginning.

The coach told me  he expects to have over 20 new track athletes enrolling this fall.

It was a treat to be with, and I was amazed how relaxed both coach and Josh are after he jumped 6 feet 7 inches.  And below is a video I took of Josh attempting 6’9″ – he finished 16th in the nation.

photo - Version 2





5/23/2014 11:31:00 PM
GULF SHORES, Ala. – Vinnessa Barthelomew and Joshua Reed both competed in the NAIA National Outdoor Track and Field Championships this weekend at the M. Miller Blackwell Stadium in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Both athletes made the championships to cap off a historic inaugural season of Belhaven Track and Field.

“Overall it was a great meet and both Vinnessa and Josh represented Belhaven very well,” Head Coach Caleb Snyder said. “They should be proud of the foundation they have helped build for the program and of their own accomplishments.”

Barthelomew, a junior sprinter from Westwego, La, finished 22nd in the preliminaries of the 100 meter dash Friday afternoon. She crossed the line with a time of 12.33 seconds. Barthelomew qualified for nationals with a time of 12.22 in the 100 meter dash at the Mississippi College Season Opener March 1st.

Reed, a sophomore from Clinton, Miss, placed 16th in the high jump at the NAIA National Championships with a mark of 2.01m. Reed just missed finishing higher in the standings due to the number of attempts. He then just missed clearing the bar at 2.06m which would have been a season best. Reed won the Southern States Athletic Conference title and punched his ticket to the NAIA National Championships with a mark of 2.03m.

“This has been an exciting year for the Belhaven Track and Field program,” Snyder added. “I’m looking forward to continuing the success next year.”

Remarkable Video of Max Gunbin

Three weeks ago tonight, international student from Russia, sophomore Max Gunbin, was involved in a very serious auto accident when the car he was riding in was hit by a drunk driver.  Max was thrown from the car.

If a police officer had not seen the accident and immediately called for help, Max would have most likely died at the scene of the accident.

During the first day or two following the accident we were fearful Max might not survive his injuries.  And then, as he started breathing on his own, the worry turned to what brain damage might have been caused by the significant amount of blood he had lost.

But the campus never stopped praying and trusting that Max was in God’s hands.

When his parents arrived from Siberia, and he heard their voices, Max started to respond in a new way.  His parents have been thankful for the love of the campus toward them.  We introduced them in chapel and prayed for them. And Friday, I gave them Bibles in Russian to assure them of our continued prayers.

Max is back on campus. The faculty have been wonderful to work with him to enable him to complete the semester with additional work this summer.

Today, just three weeks after the accident, our Tennis Coach, Levi Patton (who has been a hero through all this) sent me this video of Max back on the tennis court last night.  Max is still in a neck brace and moving slowly, but it is remarkable to see this video just three weeks after this horrific accident.

Thanks to God who is the great healer.


Winter Olympics Chaplain to Speak on Campus Wednesday

Ms. Myrna Gregory has worked in the field of sports and recreation ministry, including Lifeway Christian Resources and Upward Sports.  As part of her responsibilities, she has worked in different areas of sports missions.

In 2005, she taught an Introduction to Sports Ministry course as an adjunct faculty member at Belhaven University.   In the area of volunteerism, she has served as a sports chaplain at the summer and the winter Olympics.

She most recently served in her 7th Olympic Games as a member of the International Sports Chaplains (   The purpose of the organization is “to communicate Christ’s love in the Olympic arena as they focus on sharing, loving, telling, and showing Jesus to the people assembled at the Olympic Games”.

On next week as the Sochi Olympics 2014 draw to a close, Myrna will be sharing some of her experiences from the Sochi Olympics at the new Football and Sports Administration Building (Old Red Cross Building) on Riverside Drive.

  • Wednesday, Feb. 26th at 11 a.m.
  • Thursday, Feb. 27th at 9:25 am
  • Thursday, Feb. 27th at 11 a.m.

The Sports Administration Department is glad to have this unique opportunity to have Myrna to speak to our students as it is part of their vision to expand sports administration reach in the $400 billion dollar a year global sports industry through sports ministry opportunities, sports missions and the Olympic experience.

For further information, you may contact, Sports Administration Department Administrative Coordinator, Megan Tait at

Information Regarding Our Master’s Program:

Information Regarding Our Bachelor’s Program:


Men’s Tennis Ranked in the Top 10 for the First Time in 20 Years

Congratulations to Coach Levi Patton and the Men’s and Women’s tennis teams.

Here is the story:

KANSAS CITY, Missouri – The Belhaven men’s and women’s tennis teams are both represented in the latest NAIA Coaches’ Top 25 polls, which were released by the national office on Tuesday afternoon.

“Our staff has worked incredibly hard to put together a group of people from all over the world to compete for championships,” Head Coach Levi Patton said. “Our teams have put in many hours to get to this level.”

After defeating Xavier last week in a thriller, the Blazer men climbed three spots to break into the top ten for the first time in 2014. Belhaven currently sits at the 9th spot nationally and will look to continue to rise as the season advances.

“After doing some research, this is the highest ranking the men’s program has seen in 20 years, and we are very pleased with the results this team has produced so far,” Patton said. “Our goal to start the year was a top 8 ranking heading into nationals, and this puts us on the cusp of that.”

The Southern States Athletic Conference claims four teams in the Top 25 on the men’s side, including #2 Auburn University-Montgomery, #13 Bethel, and #15 William Carey, while Coastal Georgia received votes. The Blazers are the only team of the ranked four to have risen in this week’s rankings from their previous spot.

The SSAC proved to be strong on the women’s side, as well, claiming a fifth of the Top 20. AUM remained atop the polls, while Brenau moved up to 5th, William Carey dropped to 15th, and Coastal Georgia landed at 19th. Belhaven landed in the receiving votes category.

Both squads will open SSAC action this weekend, when they will take on Martin Methodist, Emmanuel, and Coastal Georgia in the Mobile Roundup. Friday’s matchup with MMC is set to begin at 9:00 am.

Big Time Coach to Lead Belhaven Football

mumme-179x300Below is the news release that  went to the press this afternoon.  Within hours this news was on the web site of most major news paper in the country, ESPN, Yahoo sports – and it ignited our social media like nothing else – when we announced that the legendary Coach, Hal Mumme, will become the next Head Football Coach for Belhaven University.

You’re going to love Coach Hal Mumme.  He is our kind of leader and educator.  It is so affirming how this all came about, as we’ve seen God’s hand carefully guiding Hal and Behaven to come together.

It is remarkable to have Hal come here – he loves the Lord, he loves Belhaven, he is a legend of college coaching as the architect of modern football offensive strategy, a former SEC football coach (the only one at Kentucky to beat Alabama), and has also coached at the Division III level.
Hal’s wife June is a national advocate for breast cancer awareness and created the push to encourage football players at all levels to wear pink in their game uniforms during the month of October.  She is a business woman of significance, and has written a wonderful book that tells the story of their lives in coaching. They have some great kids, one of whom is head football coach at LaGrange College.

Congratulations to Scott Little for having a steady hand to get us through this wild ride to get to this moment.  We owe Scott a Christmas/New Years Holiday, because he didn’t get an ounce of a break dealing with over 150 candidates for our Head Football Coach position.

Join us for a press conference to meet Hal on Tuesday at 1pm in Barber Auditorium.

Blazers Name Hal Mumme Head Football Coach

JACKSON, Miss.- Belhaven University and the Department of Athletics is pleased to announce that Hal Mumme will be the next Head Football Coach. Mumme comes to Belhaven from Southern Methodist University, where he served as an Assistant Coach and Passing Game Coordinator under Head Coach June Jones in 2013.

“I heard for years Hal Mumme’s reputation as a football genius and innovator,” said Belhaven University President Dr. Roger Parrott. “Then when I got to know him personally, I was amazed at how what we as football fans see on the field is just the tip of the iceberg of this remarkable coach and leader. I am excited for our students, our players, and our alumni, because Belhaven football is going to join the “Air-Raid” and soar, with Hal Mumme coming to be our head coach.”

Under the coaching of Mumme, SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert set multiple single game and single season records during the 2013 season. Gilbert racked up 635 yards of total offense against Temple, seventh most in a game in NCAA history. Gilbert also recorded single season school records, second for most total offensive yards (3795), second in passing yards (3528), and first in completions (335). As a team, the Mustangs recorded 5,222 total yards with 4,097 of those yards coming through the air in 2013.

“I want to thank Hal for his work over the past year,” said SMU Head Coach June Jones. “He is an innovator and a friend. I really enjoyed the time we spent together. We wish him well at Belhaven.”

Mumme not only brings experience as an assistant coach at the NCAA Division I level, but has been a head coach at Division I Kentucky, New Mexico State, and Southeastern Louisiana. Mumme was also the Head Coach at NCAA Division II Valdosta State, Iowa Wesleyan (NAIA), and most recently McMurry (Division III and now Division II).

Mumme spent four seasons at McMurry and led the team to a 27-16 record, including three consecutive winning seasons. Mumme resurrected a McMurry program that had lost 13 consecutive games and had not had a winning season for eight years prior to his arrival. In 2011, Mumme posted a 9-3 record with the team and secured McMurry’s first postseason victory since 1949 by beating Trinity in the first round of the Division III playoffs.

Mumme began his coaching career in the NAIA at Iowa Wesleyan in 1989 and led the Tigers to the playoffs in 1991. In 1992, he moved on to NCAA Division II Valdosta State and then to Kentucky in the SEC where he coached Number One NFL Draft Pick Tim Couch. In 1998, the Wildcats went 7-5 and played in the Outback Bowl, becoming the first coach to take the team to a New Year’s Day bowl game since Bear Bryant in 1951. He is the only coach in the modern era at Kentucky to beat Alabama and numerous college head coaches’ are part of his coaching tree, including current Washington State Head Coach Mike Leach.

“Everyone who knows football realizes Coach Mumme is bringing excitement and successful experience to our program,” said Belhaven Vice President for Athletics Scott Little. “I’m also thankful for the shared vision we have for developing young men in the arena of Christ-centered higher education and championship athletics. We welcome Hal and June to the Blazer family.”

Coach Mumme will be officially introduced at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon at 1:00 PM.

Belhaven University is a member of the NAIA, Southern States Athletic Conference and Mid-South Conference and sponsors 15 intercollegiate sports. Belhaven is an institution that focuses on preparing students academically and spiritually to serve Christ Jesus.

Big Win Today – Bigger Game Tomorrow for Men’s Soccer

The men’s soccer team and coach Brian McMahon continue their successful run to defend our national championship of last year.

Today they beat Mid-America Nazarene 2-1, and advanced the quarter finals tomorrow.

Tomorrow at 1:30, we play Martin Methodist, who beat us twice during the regular season, and in the second round of this tournament, Martin Methodist beat the #1 ranked team by a score of 5-0.

The game tomorrow begins at 1:30 in Montgomery, Alabama.

Below is the full story on today’s game.

Go Blazers!

The Belhaven men’s soccer team advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2013 NAIA National Championship thanks to a 2-1 decision against ninth seeded MidAmerica Nazarene University Tuesday afternoon at the Emory Folmar Soccer Complex. The eighth seeded Blazers scored two early first half goals against one of the toughest defenses in the country and with some outstanding defense of their own held back the Pioneers offense for the victory.

“I give all the credit to our defense and how we played today,” said Belhaven Head Coach Brian McMahon. “We have great respect for MidAmerica Nazarene; they made it to the semifinals last year and played us very tough today. I was very proud of the guys and thought we defended well as a group. We had a game plan and stuck to it and it certainly helped scoring a couple early goals. We were then able to survive the rest of the match.”

The first of Belhaven’s (16-6-1) two goals came off the foot of sophomore Tom Gavin who executed a perfect free kick in the ninth minute. Lippi Souza committed a foul 28 yards from his own goal putting Gavin within striking distance of the net. Gavin struck the shot from the right side of the field, bouncing it off the inside portion of the right post into the back of the net for his third goal of 2013.

The Blazers extended their lead to 2-0 in the 19th minute on a play that was initiated by a Pioneer offside infraction. Belhaven goalie Carl Blundell played the free ball outside the box up the left side of the field finding the foot of senior Will Monsour. Monsour maneuvered into position for a shot and made it count, placing the ball past goalie Chris Eriksson. It was Monsour’s eighth goal of the season and the first assist for Blundell.

MidAmerica Nazarene (14-4-3) did not go quietly and began to ratchet up the pressure on offense. The Pioneers finally broke through for what would be their only goal of the match in the 39th minute. Taylor Esparza did the honors to bring MidAmerica back within one at 2-1. However, Belhaven’s defense would hold strong the rest of the match sending the team back to the quarterfinals for the second year in a row.

Blundell, who had a hand in one of the two Blazer goals, prevented three other potential scores by the Pioneers thanks to three saves in the contest. Blundell earned the victory in net and now has 15 wins to his credit this season. Gavin and Monsour led the Belhaven offense with two shots and one goal apiece. As a team, Belhaven outshot MidAmerica Nazarene 9-5 and owned the advantage in corner kicks 6-2.

Eriksson made four saves in 90 minutes for the Pioneers with Esparza notching their only goal. Eddie Morales ended up being the leading shot taker for MidAmerica Nazarene with two.

Belhaven will now face Martin Methodist College Wednesday afternoon in the quarterfinals. This will be the third match of the season between the two teams with the Redhawks topping the Blazers each time by finals of 1-0 in double overtime.

“Martin Methodist defeated the number one team in the country Monday 5-0 and defeated us twice this year so this is going to be a tough challenge for us,” added McMahon. “We are going to go out and play our best and see what happens tomorrow.”

Wednesday’s kickoff is slated for 1:30 PM.

Men’s Soccer Ready to Defend National Championship

#8 Seed Belhaven Hosts Opening Round of National Tournament

KANSAS CITY, Mo.-The Belhaven men’s soccer team will host the University of St. Thomas (TX) in the 2013 NAIA National Championship Opening round on Saturday at H.T. Newell Field. The Blazers were awarded the number eight seed when the official bracket was announced by the national office on Monday. Saturday’s kickoff is slated for 7:30 PM.

Belhaven is making its 10th overall appearance in the national tournament and has an all-time record of 14-8-4 in NAIA National Tournament play, including National Championships in 1992 and 2012. The Blazers defeated Tennessee Wesleyan College 5-0 in the 2012 NAIA National Championship Opening Round and ultimately advanced to the championship contest, defeating the University of Mobile 2-0 for the programs second national title.

This will mark the second time that Belhaven has played St. Thomas in the NAIA National Championship Opening Round. The Blazers defeated the Celts 2-1 in 2010, the first opening round appearance for the program in the new national championship tournament format. Belhaven is unbeaten at 3-0 in opening round games in the new format.

St. Thomas enters the tournament with an overall record of 13-3-2 and punched their ticket to the field of 32 by winning the Red River Athletic Conference Tournament Championship. This is the second appearance by the Celts and first since 2010 when they played the Blazers at H.T. Newell Field. They are looking for their first win in national tournament play entering this weekend’s game with a record of 0-1.

The National Championship Opening Round will be comprised of 32 teams playing at 16 on-campus sites on Nov. 23. The winners of the National Championship Opening Round games will advance to the final site from Dec. 2 – Dec. 7 in Montgomery, Ala. The 15 final site contests will take place at the Emory Folmar YMCA Soccer Complex.

The official NAIA National Championship bracket can be viewed by clicking here.

Coach Willie Heidelberg

I was shocked this morning to learn of the death of Coach Willie Heidelberg, our Assistant Football Coach.  Coach Heidelberg was found deceased at home this morning, of an apparent heart attack.

Coach Heidelberg has been a part of the Belhaven Football staff longer than any other coach, joining Belhaven as the program began 16 years ago.  He is a Mississippi sports legend, having played football at Pearl River Community College and the University of Southern Mississippi.

It is hard to imagine Belhaven football without Willie.  He’s been there since the beginning, and has been a voice of significance in the life of every Belhaven football player.  I always knew we could lean on Willie because he honored the Lord in everything he did as he cared for our players – he was a winner every single day.

Many of you knew Willie, but may have not known about his significant history in the sports and racial reconciliation history of Mississippi.  He was small, but he cast a very long shadow.

Willie was remembered today by the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame


Willie Heidelburg, a tiny, kind, mild-mannered man who never sought the spotlight but flitted into it nonetheless in October 1970, has died. Heidelburg, an assistant coach at Belhaven, was the only African American on the field on Oct. 17, 1970, when he scored two touchdowns to help Southern Miss defeat fourth-ranked Ole Miss 30-14 in surely the biggest upset in Mississippi football history.

Belhaven head coach Joe Thrasher played for Heidelburg at Belhaven before returning to the school as head coach.

“I would have run through a wall for that man,” Thrasher said. “Our guys now would do the same. This is a hard, hard day for us. Willie was a man of stoic humility. Everybody here loved him. His passion for football was only exceeded by his faith in the Lord. He is going to be missed and cannot be replaced.”

What follows is a column I wrote for The Clarion-Ledger about “Wee Willie” at the state high school basketball tournament in 2010.

The dapper, little man with the wire rim glasses is as much a fixture at the MHSAA/Cellular South State Championships as the funnel cakes, the bouncing balls and the squeaky sneakers.

You’ll find him seated at the scorer’s table directly behind the possession arrows. Game after game, year after year, Willie Heidelburg keeps the official scorebook at the Big House. He hasn’t missed one in 13 years. Barring something unexpected, he’ll have recorded more than 500 consecutive state tourney games before this year’s event ends.

That’s a lot of history for a man who made plenty himself. Forty years ago this coming fall, he was known as “Wee Willie” Heidelburg when he flitted his 143 pounds into the end zone twice to help Southern Miss stun Ole Miss 30-14 in what remains the biggest, most unbelievable upset in Mississippi football history.

Wee Willie was like a black dot on an ivory domino, the only black player on the field for either team that day. His performance foreshadowed sweeping changes in Deep South football. On this, the last day of Black History Month, it seems appropriate to ask the question: Was Heidelburg aware of the ramifications back then as a 20-year-old junior?

“Oh no,” Heidelburg says. “I knew that was a special victory. I knew we had done something big. But, as for me, I was just playing ball. I certainly wasn’t thinking about making history.”

But he did. He carried the ball three times that day, scored twice.

If you ever run into Hamp Cook, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer and an offensive line coach on that USM team, ask him about Heidelburg’s two touchdown runs.

“I couldn’t wait to get back and watch Willie’s runs on film and see how well my guys blocked for him,” Cook once told me. “Hell, we didn’t block anybody. Willie just dodged them all.”

‘Never gets old’

At 60, Heidelburg remains as trim as he was in his playing days. He spent 25 years as a teacher and coach at Murrah, the last 11 as a coach at Belhaven.

He recorded the first six games of the State Tournament on Friday, the first one beginning at 9 a.m., the last ending around 10 p.m.

Of his official scorekeeper duties, Heidelburg says, “It never gets old to me. Here’s the thing, if I wasn’t here working, I’d be here watching anyway. I just love the games.”

There is, as I suspected, a story behind Heidelburg’s basketball scorekeeping, and he laughs as he tells it.

“When I was a junior in high school at Jefferson High in Purvis, I played football for Harry Breland (later the Oak Grove baseball coaching legend),” Heidelburg says. “Well, Coach Breland also coached basketball. He asked me why I didn’t play basketball. He said, that, quick as I was, I’d make a great point guard.

“So Coach Breland watched me play basketball one day in a gym class and he came up to me afterward and said, ‘Boy, I need somebody to keep my scorebook for me.’ That was the last I ever heard about point guard.”

Run for history

Forty years later, Heidelburg says rarely a week goes by when somebody doesn’t mention that day 40 years ago when he ran into the end zone twice and into history – not just black history, Mississippi history.

“I think about it a lot and try to make some sense of it,” Heidelburg says. “As I get older, I ask myself, ‘What really did happen that day? What was the impact?’ ”

I can give him one family’s view. My dad, Ace Cleveland, was the USM sports information director at the time. He had grown up on a dairy farm on the southern end of Hattiesburg. He was the sixth of six children who all worked that dairy farm along with some black helpers. At a very early age, I noticed that the black help always came to the back door. They never came to the front door as all other visitors. They always came around to the back.

Didn’t seem right to me, and I asked my daddy about it. He said it was “Papa’s rules,” meaning my grandfather, a good man in so many ways but a product of upbringing and the times.

Years later, when the Southern Miss football team returned to Hattiesburg from Oxford after stunning Ole Miss, an impromptu victory celebration ensued in front of the athletic dormitory. Dad served as the emcee and called the heroes to the makeshift stage one by one for huge cheers: Ray Guy, Craig Logan, Hugh Eggersman, Rickey Donegan … and Wee Willie Heidelburg, who got the biggest cheers of all.

When Willie walked up, Dad picked him up, bear-hugged him and planted a big kiss on his forehead.

I’ll never forget the moment, and I vividly do remember wishing that Papa had lived to see it.