D&E grid alumni a treasure

In today’s world of competitive sports, it seems that there’s always some kind of scandal.

From the recent arrest of New England Patriot’s star Aaron Hernandez to the scandal involving former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, it seems that honor in sports is a forgotten and ignored notion.

Flashback 60-plus years, though, and it was a different time indeed.

This point was driven home Saturday night during a get-together of Davis & Elkins College football alumni at the 1863 Tavern in Elkins.

George Triplett, Don Watson, Lee Levering and a host of others were on hand to reminisce, catch up and honor fallen teammates of the past as they broke bread – and the 1863’s famous cinnamon roles.

Rice, a member of the 1947 Scarlet Hurricanes, kicked off the evening regaling alumni and their wives about past games, the team’s struggles on and off the field and – most of all – the players’ humble beginnings.

As Rice pointed out, team members back then were not as “worldly” as today’s youth. The D&E teams were made up of honest, hard-working “country boys.” The majority weren’t what you would call wealthy; in fact, it was exactly the opposite. However, as each of the remaining players attending the event would attest, their personal wealth came from another, non-monetary source: their unwavering – and now lifelong – friendships with one another.

Triplett put it best by saying, “We are the most blessed men that ever lived.”

Blessed, indeed. Many former D&E football players moved on to successful careers in the military, medicine, law, the government and the private sector.

Despite those successes, the dining room at the 1863 on Saturday was filled with the most down-to-earth, genuine, upstanding gentlemen to ever walk the playing field at Davis & Elkins College.

As Triplett pointed out, back during their playing days, they always conducted themselves in a way that would not only reflect favorably upon the college, but in a way that would extend that positivity to themselves and their families.

One such example Triplett offered the crowd was the way the team dressed, especially during away games. In the 1940s and 1950s, a shirt and tie was standard – and required – garb for all players.

That was all fine and well, Triplett said, but during his college days he just couldn’t afford the luxury of a necktie. In came teammate Jim Phillips.

Phillips, who had several ties, gave Triplett one to wear. Although Phillips didn’t know it at the time, that simple act, that gift, made a huge impact on his fellow gridiron companion.

Fifty-eight years later, standing in the 1863, Triplett pulled that worn and tattered necktie from a bag as he was talking about his friend.

Also in his hand was a brand new, embroidered tie complete with the D&E logo and Phillips’ jersey number.

Phillips, unfortunately, was unable to attend the festivities, but Triplett vowed to send the necktie to his friend first thing today.

It truly is a rare occurrence to find such honor and friendship in sports in this day and age.

The bond the D&E players share is as strong today as it was more than six decades ago. Through the years, many have seen both good and bad stretches, but across time, illness and distance all remain as close now as they did so many years ago.

These gentlemen are what sports is all about. They embody the true meaning of the game and the unfeigned meaning of good sportsmanship.

They should serve as shining examples for today’s young athletes on not only how to conduct themselves properly on and off the field, but on how to remain humble and true throughout long, successful lives.

– Executive Editor Matthew Burdette can be reached at 304-636-2121, ext. 120 or via email at