By David Fong
The man who built Troy Memorial Stadium — both literally and figuratively — is coming home.
Russell “Bussie” Favorite, one of the first true superstars of the “modern era” of Troy football, will be honored this coming weekend as one of five members of the Trojan Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2015.
“When they called and told me, I was overwhelmed,” Favorite — a 1950 Troy High School graduate — said in a telephone interview from his home in Alabama.”I’ve been on Cloud Nine ever since I found out. I am truly honored. I can’t wait for the big day to get here.”
Favorite, his wife, three of his daughters and his two grandchildren will be in attendance for a ceremony before the Troy football team’s game Friday, and then formally inducted into the hall of fame the following night at a banquet at the Crystal Room in Troy.
When Favorite walks across the Troy Memorial Stadium turf and his recognized during Friday’s pre-game festivities, he’ll be able to look up at stands he helped built with his own two hands.
The summer before Favorite’s senior year in 1949, he was part of the work crew that helped with the construction of the stadium.
“It was hard work,” Favorite said. “They would bring in all the bricks on a truck and there weren’t any forklifts to unload them. We would have to load them into a wheelbarrow by hand and then move them. Then once the brick part was down, we had to put in all the seats. At least they had a lift to put in all the seats.”
What Favorite didn’t realize at the time was he was literally setting the stage for one of the greatest football performances in school history … is own.
That fall, Favorite would become the first player in school history to rush for more than 1,000 yards — backfield mate Dick Carnes would join him later that season — as he rushed for 1,621 yards and 20 touchdowns while averaging 11.6 yards per carry. To this day, his rushing total that year is one of the top 10 single-season performances in school history.
For his efforts, he was named first-team All-Miami Valley League and third-team All-Ohio. He also was selected to play the Ohio North-South All-Star Game.
His impact extended beyond the field, however, as the community rallied around Favorite and his teammates, who finished the season 7-2. He became a household name as thousands flocked to Troy’s new stadium, which — at the time — was the envy of schools around the state.
If Yankee Stadium was “The House That Ruth Built,” then Troy Memorial Stadium is “The House That Bussie Built.”
“The one thing I remember most about playing at Troy was the first game at that stadium,” Favorite said. “I just remember looking up into those stands and seeing all those people. In my entire career, it’s the only time I remember looking into the stands — I was usually too focused on the game.”
Not only does Favorite have the distinction of playing in the first football game at Troy Memorial Stadium, he also played in the first basketball game in Hobart Arena in front of 6,000 fans. He also was a three-year letterwinner — and two-time MVL team champion — in track and field and played the trombone in the school band.
Favorite was recruited to play football at the U.S. Military Academy, but a back injury prevented him from attending. He would go on to school at Vanderbilt University and would eventually become a high school and college basketball referee.
He currently lives in Alabama, but still tries to return home to Troy at least once a year.
“My wife and I are in our 80s and don’t get around as well as we used to, but we wouldn’t miss this for the world,” he said. “We are just so happy and so honored. It’s like a dream come true.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong