Yesterday’s “Mike Horrocks Day” at West Chester University was perfection. The hillside and ceremony area was overflowing with people. They expected a few hundred, but there was over 2000 to witness the unveiling of the life-size statue. Special gold “Never Forget Mike Horrocks” T-shirts were everywhere. When they took the cover off the statue, the crowd erupted in applause and there were some gasps of astonishment at how striking and beautiful the statue is.
When Mike Horrocks was the WCU quarterback he was respected and loved by his teammates. In his first start, they were 35-point underdogs against the University of Delaware, but Mike guided them 35-27 upset victory. He kept telling his teammates, “We can do this.” He gave them confidence and kept them calm. A couple years ago his teammates got permission to build a statue. A teammate said, “A plaque under the stands wasn’t going to do. We wanted a statue right next to the field that the players could see and touch.” They took donations and held all kinds of fundraisers, including dinners, golf tournaments and sporting pools. Slowly but surely they inched closer to the goal line and yesterday was the touchdown. The statue was unveiled. A testimony of triumph for these college football players, now grown men. We congratulate them for their ambition and determination to make this history at West Chester.
The whole day was great. The unique bond that develops between players was front and center. These guys epitomize the word “teammate”. It was 25 years ago that they all played together and about 40 of them were onhand to see this “team effort” through. They came from all over and they reunited to bring “the best of them” to the field where they practiced, sweated, played, and grew close together. As teammate John Minnino said, “We’ve been reminiscing and this field was like heaven to us.” They were all smiling, feeling warm inside about their amazing accomplishment and gift to their beloved football team and alma mater.
The special bond forged in the military was evident too. The Marines from Mike’s North Carolina squadron were present to show the pride, excellence, honor and loyalty that the Marines have for each other. “Leave no man behind” is the Marine Corps motto and they did their part to bring Mike home. The Commander spoke about the different missions the squadron conducts on a 24/7 – 365 schedule, including humanitarian and special operations in total darkness requiring nightvision goggles. He said, “These were the kinds of missions that Mike flew in the Marines.”
The bond of commercial airline pilots was there too. Many fellow United Airline Pilots were present.
The Horrocks family were truly touched by the tremendous outpour of support from the community. The huge, overflow crowd were all there to let the Horrocks know how much they love them. The Washington Memorial Pipe Band and the Brian Boru Pipes & Drums set the mood with festive bagpipe music that filled the air.
The speeches were terrific, WCU President Greg Weisenstein set the tone by declaring just how magnificent the statue looked and how fitting and important it will be to the students and athletes that come to WCU, inspiring them to “be great”.
The highlight of the day was when Mike’s daughter Christa spoke. She is 18 now, a freshman at a college in South Carolina. An athlete herself, she’s there on a track scholarship. Christa really helped flesh out her father, she said, “He’s not a hero because of how he died, he’s a hero because of how he lived.”
She told stories of how she and her dad would often watch the movie “Sandlot” (sports movie) and there’s a quote in the movie that was a favorite of her dad, “Remember kid, there’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered but legends never die.” Christa said she didn’t get the significance of this quote father’s when she was little, watching the movie craddled in his arms, but she gets it now. She thanked everyone for sharing the stories of her father with her, “Your stories keep his legend alive and help to clear away the fog that occurs to memories and bring him clear into my mind again.”
She began her speech by turning towards all the current football players sitting on the hill, “Let me start by saying ‘Go Rams’ ”
She told us how her father loved playing football at West Chester, how much it was always a big part of him. She challenged the crowd saying, “What will your legend be?” At her side at the podium was her 15-year old brother Mick, both of them were wearing special purple #14 football jerseys with “Horrocks” on the back. Christa’s speech lasted about 10 minutes and every word of it was great. She did an outstanding job of representing the family and giving us some personal insights into who her father was. You could hear a pin drop as she spoke and all through the crowd were smiles, moist eyes and lumps in throats. She was standing next to the statue of her father and you could tell that his arm was around her, holding her again, with great pride.
The WCU Marching Band was outstanding as usual. They played hits like “Stars and Stripes” and the Marine Corps Anthem and God Bless America. Teammate Paul Isenberg read the plaque on the front of the statue. The words were written by Mike’s teammates and Paul was very moved as he read it for the crowd.
The Daily Local has 2 outstanding articles, with pictures and a one-minute video. Click HERE and HERE.
The statue is part of the university now and the players, students, professors, and staff will take ownership of it. As the team ran onto the field for their first homegame of the season, they all touched the statue. May it inspire them to greatness on the field, in the classroom, and beyond.
Previous Daily Local News stories are HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE.