Remember the Titans – 1971 T.C. Williams HS Football
Remember the Titans (2001) tells the story of the 1971 T.C. Williams High School Football team, located in racially-segregated, suburban Virginia. It chronicles the integration of two schools — one white, and one black — and the interracial football team that’s formed as a result of it. At the beginning of the film, an African American, Herman Boone (Denzel Washington), is named head coach of the team, while the caucasian coach, Bill Yoast (Will Patton) is named his assistant. Prior to the season beginning, Coach Boone is told that he will lose his job if the team loses a game.
During training camp in Gettysburg, the players are initially hostile. Racial differences split them, though, over time, these differences are reconciled as the players begin to work together and accept one another as teammates. This integration is largely inspired by the work of Boone, who goes to such lengths as waking the team up at the crack of dawn to run, hike, and otherwise work together as a unit. It’s during one of these hikes that he takes them to the grounds of the Battle of Gettysburg, where he reminds the team of the conflict that split the country and argues that the same shouldn’t happen to them. Inspired by Boone’s leadership, the team unites.
When they return to Alexandria, though, they find a town that isn’t as united as they are. As the season begins, though, and the team continues to win games, they inspire not only one another, but the town to ignore their racial prejudices and unite as a whole in their journey to win the state football championship. This begins smoothly, as the Titans get off to an undefeated start, though things become complicated when the playoffs begin.
Prior to the state semi-finals, Yoast is told that he will be inducted into the after the Titans lose the game, implying that it will happen and Boone will lose his job. Yoast, recognizing that the game is being fixed because of racially-charged bias, refuses to let this occur. Noticing that the game is being called unfairly, he calls the referee crew out on their behavior and threatens to expose them for trying to get Boone fired. They consent, and the Titans win the game, allowing them the opportunity to play for the state championship.
While celebrating the victory, though, the team is struck by tragedy. Their team captain, Gerry Bertier (Ryan Hurst) is in an automobile accident, hospitalizing him and leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Even though their captain is unable to play, the Titans go on to win the championship nonetheless.
The film ends with the team uniting at Bertier’s funeral ten years later.
Contributing author: Adam Shaw
Remember the Titans – Real Life, Reel Differences
- The film depicts Coach Boone as an inspirational figure who united the team despite their racially-charged dislike on one another. According to many reports, Boone was actually a harsh, unforgiving coach, and many players quit the team as a result of his style.
- One of the most pivotal and inspirational moments in the film is the training session at Gettysburg and the speech that follows. While the team did attend camp in Gettysburg, neither the 3AM run nor the speech actually occurred.
- Throughout training camp, the film depicts the players as disliking one another due to racial prejudice. In reality, players were mostly heated about the competition for positions on the team.
- The city of Alexandria is shown to be racially-charged, with racist inhibitions leading to many individuals working to have Coach Boone fired. As it actually turns out, these racial issues, while present at the time, were greatly exaggerated.
- Prior to a game, Coach Boone remarks that the teams they play are all white. This wasn’t the case. The teams T.C. Williams played in 1971 were all from racially-integrated schools.
- The state championship game, which the movie depicts as a close one against George C. Marshall High School, was actually a 27-0 blowout against Andrew Lewis High School. The actually game between the Titans and Marshall occurred during the middle of the season.
- T.C. Williams is depicted as being victorious largely due to their ability to overlook their differences and unite as a whole. In reality, they were successful because their team was the result of three high schools consolidating into one. Because of this consolidation, the teams were able to field what was essentially the best of the best.
- According to the film, Bertier’s accident happened after the semi-state victory and before the state championship. This was not the case. The accident actually occurred after the season had ended, while Bertier was on his way home from a banquet to celebrate the team’s undefeated season and state championship.
- Amy Tate wrote a research paper that dives more deeply into the facts versus fiction from the movie, revealing through interviews where the movie was not historically accurate.
Where Are They Now?
Herman Boone continued to coach the T.C. Williams football team for 9 more years after the 1971 state championship, never having a losing season during that span. In this video, he shares what was most special about that championship team:
He cites the demands and pressure of being the TC Williams coach as the main reason he left coaching and now tours around the nation as a public speaker. He still resides in Alexandria, Virginia.
An article in Deadspin Magazine depicted a very different Herman Boone than portrayed by Denzel Washington in the movie. The real Herman Boone “treated everybody horribly, no matter what race”, and left in disgrace as head coach of T.C. Williams after a player mutiny, defection of several assistants, and accusations of verbal and physical abuse.
Bill Yoast is also retired from coaching and has, instead, focused on a career as a public speaker, using “Remember the Titans” as an example on the importance of teamwork. He remains in close contact with his former students and players.
Gerry Bertier was involved in an automobile accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down on his way home from a banquet celebrating the Titans’ state championship. Following his recovery, he restarted his life as an athlete, winning gold medals in both shot put and discus at the Paralympics. During this time, he continued to be coached by Bill Yoast.
Bertier was also an advocate for the rights of handicapped individuals. In addition to organizing charitable events in the Alexandria area, he also toured the country promoting building accessibility and other rights. Unfortunately, a second automobile accident on March 20, 1981, killed him. The driver of the car that struck his was later arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.
The “Gerry Bertier #42 Foundation” was started in mid-2005 with the support of original Titans, family members, and coaches to support the Virginia Commonwealth University Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Rehabilitation and Research Center.
Julius Campbell graduated from T.C. Williams in 1973. In his time at T.C. Williams, he was a fixture at defensive end from his sophomore through senior years. He was on the All-American Team, the All-District, All-Metro and All-State teams. The Alexandria Journal named him the Most Valuable Defensive Player for the 1972 football season. His jersey has been retired at T.C. Williams.
He attended and played college football at Ferrum Junior College in Ferrum, Virginia but a bad ankle injury that did not heal properly ended his football career. He returned to Alexandria and worked in the school system and moved on to a career as an Animal Control Officer, first in Alexandria and then in Prince Georges County, Maryland, where he still resides. He has one daughter Sharron Murray. He spends a lot of time with his father and his granddaughter Rejan.
Thomas “Petey” Jones, as recently as October 2014 at age 61, was a security officer at the very same school in which he starred as a football player – T.C. Williams. It’s a job he has held for almost a quarter-century. Here’s an informative article published by the Washington Post which shares more details about Petey’s life before, during, and after that 1971 football season, including some facts that were misrepresented in the movie.
Here’s an interview with Ron “Sunshine” Bass from May 2016, on what he’s been up to: