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Leon High Football Team Reunites

By: Ilyssa Trussel
By: Ilyssa Trussel

For many children today the word polio means getting vaccinations at the doctor, but five decades ago, polio crippled some football players’ dreams, at least for a little while.

"The hospital rooms were filled and they had people in the hallways," said former Leon High football team captain, Jack Montgomery.

It was a fear that gripped the nation and spread to Leon County.

In 1954, polio struck here at home forcing the Leon High School football team to stop mid-season.

"Other teams refused to come into town because they were fearful of it being contagious and they would get it," he said.

But the players didn't hang up their helmets or retire their jerseys. They did what they did best, continued to practice on the field.

"We learned how to overcome adversity, we learned how to work together and work sometimes when you didn't even know if you were gonna play a game," said former running back Blair Culpepper.

Now five decades later, they're paying tribute to their coach.

"Our season was essentially in shambles and he literally raised it from the ashes. He gave us a chance to have a season back," said former fullback John Ross.

"We ended up playing about eight games when we should have played 10, and I guess it just held us together," said former head coach Roger Englert.

Of the 33 players that year, 19 were seniors. Now, 12 are gathered together to relive those memories.

"There isn't a man here tonight that I wouldn't do just anything for to help ‘em out if they called me," said Blair.

It was a season paralyzed by polio, but it took them to this day when together they could look back on the best days of their lives.


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