By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
TROY — When looking back on his senior season as a Trojan football player — particularly the night Troy Memorial Stadium opened — Troy High School legend Russell “Bussie” Favorite didn’t think about the game itself. He didn’t necessarily recall how he himself performed in the game, nor did he even discuss who won or lost.
The thing that still stands out to him, 70 years later, was the people.
“That thing was packed that night,” Favorite said. “It was amazing. I can remember the crowd yet. I can’t remember much of the game, but I remember that part.”
For Favorite, a 1950 Troy High School graduate and 2015 inductee into the Trojan Athletics Hall of Fame, Troy Memorial Stadium will always be a special place — not only because his senior class was the first to play on its field when it opened 70 years ago, but also because he literally helped to build it. And Favorite and his family, who now live in Alabama, recently visited the city of Troy to admire that handiwork once again.
Favorite is one of the all-time greats in Troy football history, and he will forever be known as the first player in Trojan history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season, finishing with 1,621 rushing yards with 20 touchdowns in his senior year. And though teammate Dick Carnes also broke the 1,000-yard mark later that season to join him, Favorite was the first.
Before that year, though, Favorite was on the work crews putting Troy Memorial Stadium together.
“Back then, it was great — because it was a job,” Favorite said. “We were getting a dollar an hour or something like that. As far as I’m concerned, it was hard work, too. My job, we had to be there at 6 a.m. and get all of these bricks and blocks made up for the older guys. Myself and two other guys had to get it all in place for the bricklayers.
“Then it got to the point where it was getting high. We had a heck of a time — but they finally brought some cranes in to lift the stuff up to them as they went. Then we started laying in all the seats in the stadium. But once football practice started in August, I got out of it.”
Ground was broken on the stadium in October of 1948, according to an old newspaper clipping supplied by Favorite. It was used for the first time on Sept. 9, 1949, for the Miami Valley League football preview — which is an interesting coincidence, considering that the new league Troy will be playing in this season is also called the Miami Valley League.
A crowd of 10,054 fans attended that opening-night game — and for Favorite and his teammates, just arriving to play was a sight to behold.
“We couldn’t dress there, because the locker rooms weren’t ready. When we pulled up in a couple of trucks, you couldn’t believe the line of people. It was just amazing,” he said. “Then when we got out on the field, both sides were just packed with people.
“It was something. We’d never seen anything like it. You look up there, and it’s just like, gee whiz. When the captains went out onto the field for the (coin) flip, you just start looking around. It was quite a thrill.”
And though Favorite went on to play college football, as well as to officiate college football games in front of substantially bigger crowds, that night Troy Memorial Stadium opened is still the one that sticks out in his mind.
“Now, I officiated in front of crowds of 40-50 thousand people, but I was … more mature, let’s put it that way,” Favorite said. “That opening-night crowd is one of the things I can remember about playing. And a lot of the things I can’t remember about playing anymore — I’ll be 89 in September, and my memory’s getting real short,” he added with a hearty laugh.
“We’ve been gone since 1971, but we come back every so often to see how things are going,” Favorite said. “I love coming back here, but my family is all in Alabama or South Carolina now. But it’s always good to come back and drive around and see the town with the family. My wife passed away two years ago, but the kids brought me back here this year, and I was trying to find out if they were doing anything, any kind of dedication, for the stadium’s 70th anniversary.”
For Favorite, seeing the stadium itself honored is the most important part.
“I don’t even care about being mentioned myself. Just look at how many All-Americans have played there, and just look at how many people that thing has drawn over the years,” Favorite said. “The stadium itself just has so much history. And it’s Troy ‘Memorial’ Stadium, too. A lot of Troy boys left high school to fight in World War II. I know 10 or 11 boys that served and then played on the 1946 team. That stadium was dedicated to the service people.
“Can you imagine back in 1949 putting together a 10,000-seat stadium?”
Favorite himself doesn’t need to imagine playing in front of that many people back in 1949.
He can still remember it.
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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