Directed by: McG
Written by: Jamie Linden (screenplay), Cory Helms (story)
Other cast: Matthew McConaughey, Matthew Fox, Anthony Mackie, David Strathairn, January Jones
Release date: December 22, 2006
Genre: Drama, Sport
Running time: 2h11
When a plane crash claims the lives of members of the Marshall University football team and some of its fans, the team's new coach and his surviving players try to keep the football program alive.
On the evening of November 14, 1970, Southern Airways Flight 932, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9 chartered by Marshall University to transport the Thundering Herd football team back to Huntington, West Virginia following their 17–14 defeat to the East Carolina University Pirates, clips trees on a ridge just one mile short of the runway at Tri-State Airport in Ceredo, West Virginia, and crashes into a nearby gully, killing all 75 people on board. The deceased included the 37 players; head coach Rick Tolley and five members of his coaching staff; Charles E. Kautz, Marshall’s athletics director; team athletic trainer Jim Schroer and his assistant, Donald Tackett; 25 boosters; and five crew members.
In the wake of the tragedy, University President Donald Dedmon leans towards indefinitely suspending the football program, but he is ultimately persuaded to reconsider by the pleas of the Marshall students and Huntington residents, and especially the few football players who didn’t make the flight, led by Nate Ruffin. Dedmon hires a young new head coach Jack Lengyel, who with the help of Red Dawson, the sole surviving member of the previous coaching staff, manages to rebuild the team in a relatively short time, despite losing many of their prospects to West Virginia University. Dedmon travels to Kansas City, where he pleads with the NCAA to waive their rule prohibiting freshmen from playing varsity football (a rule which had been abolished in 1968 for all sports except for football and basketball, and would be permanently abolished for those sports in 1972). Dedmon returns victorious.
The new team is composed mostly of the 18 returning players (three varsity, 15 sophomores) and walk-on athletes from other Marshall sports programs. Due to their lack of experience, the “Young Thundering Herd” ends up losing its first game, 29–6, to the Morehead State Eagles. The loss weighs heavily on Dawson and Ruffin, who had been hurt in the first play of the game. The Herd’s first post-crash victory is a 15–13 home win against Xavier University in the first home game of the season.
Filming of We Are Marshall commenced on April 3, 2006, in Huntington, West Virginia, and was completed in Atlanta, Georgia. The premiere for the film was held at the Keith Albee Theater on December 12, 2006, in Huntington; other special screenings were held at Pullman Square. The movie was released nationwide on December 22, 2006.
Several aspects of the film were changed for dramatic purposes, although the gist of the story was retained.