Defiance College students have seats at the stadium as comfortable as those in their living rooms. In fact, they came from their living rooms. The atmosphere is definitely different at a Division III game.
DEFIANCE - As 6-5, 245-pound starting offensive tackle Reuben Hendon talked, tears rolled down his face.
While his Defiance College teammates were celebrating their 28-15 victory over Adrian in a Division III non-conference game yesterday, Hendon was struggling to find words to describe his feelings.
And his uncertain future.
This may have been Hendon's last college football game for a while.
The 21-year old sophomore is in the Marine Corps Reserves as a weapons specialist. His unit is based in Perrysburg.
Hendon and the rest of his platoon have been on call since Tuesday, when terrorists attacked New York City and the Pentagon.
“We have been on highest alert since the first incident Tuesday, so it's been real nerve-racking for me,” he said. “It's been hard to keep my focus all week, with both school and football. I always thought something like this could happen when I joined the reserves, but I never thought I'd get called.
“As it is now, I could be called out anytime. I don't know how long I'll be gone or where I will be going. I'm living day-to-day right now. If I have to go, I have to go - it is my duty. Obviously, our country comes before my football.”
Still, it doesn't make things any easier for Hendon, who attended Mott High School in Warren, Mich.
“We've prepared for these kinds of situations and I feel comfortable about any situation I may be put in, but I just hope we can work things out,” Hendon said, his voice trailing off.
“Not knowing what's going to happen, that's what is scary. I've got family here. I've got a football team here, too, that I am very close to.
“It's going to be very tough to leave these guys.”
Hendon isn't the only Defiance player on call. Freshman linebacker Ed Gregorek, a member of the Army Reserves, also has been on standby since Tuesday's tragic turn of events.
Prior to yesterday's game, Defi-ance president James T. Harris and Adrian president Stanley Craine staged what they hope is a once-in-a-lifetime ceremony at Coressel Stadium to honor the victims of the tragedy.
Harris and Craine were joined on the field by more than 3,000 fans, and players and coaches from both teams for a moment of silence, followed by a prayer and a joint singing of the national anthem.
Fans from both teams formed a large circle and held hands throughout the 15-minute ceremony. So did the players.
“That was really a special moment,” Defiance athletic director Dick Kaiser said. “I don't know about anybody else, but I was crying. I'm a pretty emotional guy, and that got the best of me.”
“I think it was something we all needed,” Adrian coach Jim Lyall said. “It's been a pretty tough week for all of us.”
Defiance coach Greg Pscodna said he's never heard it more quiet on a football field. Nor had senior quarterback Kevin Kelly.
“There was no one talking,” Kelly said. “It was complete silence. I think that shows just how much all of us think about the tragedy that hit us.”
Although all 58 Division I-A games had been called off by late Thursday afternoon, Kaiser said he and Adrian officials decided at noon on Friday to go ahead with their game.
“We had a nice crowd here today, but we didn't have 50,000 or 100,000 fans, like the major colleges do,” he said. “We didn't have to fly. The two schools are 55 miles apart. We don't have the logistical problems the big schools have.
“This is what Division III football is all about. It's not about scholarships - we don't have any. It's not about tickets sold.
“It's not about bowl games. It's about letting the student-athletes have an experience.”
“The ceremony we had before the game, you would only see it at the Division III level,” Pscodna said. “You would never see a ceremony like that at Michigan, Ohio State or Toledo.
“That's the good thing about this level of football. The fans are right there on the field, right along with the players.”
Marion Grodi of Erie, Mich., wore a red, white and blue shirt with American flags on it.
She traveled to the game yesterday to watch her godchild, Dustin Winkler, play. Grodi said she was happy the game was played when so many other events in the sports world had been canceled.
“I think everybody needed to get away from the television set for a few hours and have a little fun,” Grodi said. “It worked for me.”