Professor reveals real “Remember the Titans”

Jason Silverman
History professor Jason Silverman ‘s jersey from T.C. Williams high school was retired this year. Photo by Shakora Bamberg

Jason Silverman, a history professor at Winthrop University, was captain of the 1970 T.C. Williams high school football team. A year later that high school football team would be famous for the Walt Disney movie “Remember The Titans.”

“We, the Titans, were absolutely ahead of our time. That’s the legacy of Coach Boone. If you listened and paid attention to him then you left T.C. Williams and went on in life not seeing a black person or a white person or a purple person; you saw just a person,” Silverman said.

There were three high schools when he grew up in Alexandria.  George Washington High School was predominately black; Frances Hammond was mainly white and T.C. Williams was integrated.

In 1970, the same year Silverman graduated, the Alexandria school board decided to integrate the other two high schools, so they took all the juniors and seniors in the city and sent them to T.C. Williams.

“So, the movie “Remember the Titans”, is about my school, my team and my coaches, but the difference is it is about a team of juniors and seniors. If you were a starter for that team you were in essence a member of the all-city team,” Silverman said.

The movie focuses on racial problems, because a black coach is made head coach while a white coach is made the assistant coach. Silverman explained that in reality, the problems on the team were about ego, not race.

“When I was a senior, Yoast was the head coach of the all-white school. That’s not the way it happened. One of the things about the movie “Remember the Titans” is that it is basically all wrong,” Silverman said.

While working out on the field by himself, Silverman was the first person to meet coach Boone.

Boone and Silverman introduced themselves and Silverman told Boone what position he played and that he was going to be the captain of the team that year.

“He said ‘if you’re the captain, you’re sort of going to need to be a leader don’t you?’ And I said ‘well yes sir, I do need to be a leader.’ So he said. ‘Well, show me how you lead,’” Silverman said.

Boone asked Silverman to walk onto the field and show him the drills.  After finishing up the drills Boone asked Silverman to do them better.

“By the time I was done, two things had happened. One, I thought I was going to die and two, he and I became very good friends,” Silverman said.

Boone was an assistant coach his first year at T.C. Williams.

Coach Yoast, who happened to be white, was the senior coach.  Boone had only been a coach for one or two years.

“Boone was nothing like Denzel Washington,” Silverman said.

“Boone was the kind of guy that could kill with a stare. The business about Denzel Washington getting in people’s faces was not necessarily true,” Silverman said.

Another difference between the movie and reality was that the movie made an even bigger conflict between the two coaches.

“The two men that I knew they would’ve gotten along better for the good of the team,” Silverman said.

However, the movie did get some things right.

Boone was a superb motivator.  Before becoming head coach, Boone told Silverman, “I don’t care what color you are you’re going to respect each other and you’re going to respect me or you’re not going to play for me.”

According to Silverman, the school board probably figured that the team was going to have even more black players now and they thought that Yoast wouldn’t be able to handle it.

“I don’t think Coach Yoast ever coached a black player in his entire career at Hammond High School,” Silverman said.

“I think one of the beauties of playing for T.C. Williams is there were very few people who looked at another player and saw a color. They looked at players and they saw a player,” Silverman said.

Silverman enjoyed the movie.

“I cried during the movie when I should and got upset when I did. After walking out of the theatre, my wife looked at me and said, “well what do you think of the movie and I said, ‘It’s a great movie it’s just not about the high school I went to,’” Silverman said.

“Boone would often say, ‘no I don’t care who you are or where you started before this is T. C. Williams and you will start from scratch,’” Silverman said.

From the moment Silverman started in 1966, the team was integrated.

Silverman went on to play football at the University of Virginia after graduating from T.C. Williams.

Special To The Johnsonian

"Special to the Johnsonian" is usually reserved for freelance writers around Winthrop's campus.

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