Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sports column

October 9, 2013

Column: Big moment at small-college homecoming

ATHENS — Stephen Baldwin picked a big stage to pop a big question.

Baldwin, a reserve linebacker for Concord University, caught up with his girlfriend Laura Spencer at the conclusion of Saturday’s homecoming game, and proposed marriage in uniform.

Spencer said yes at the 50-yard line, as her Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority sisters squealed with excitement.

As the engaged couple embraced, hundreds of surprised Concord fans stopped in their tracks and watched from the hillside and track surrounding the field.

Spencer was her sorority’s candidate for homecoming queen, and thought she had had her big moment of the day when she was cheered by her supporters during the halftime ceremony.

She didn’t win the crown, and she planned to leave the stadium after halftime.

“I’m glad she stayed,” Baldwin said. He said it had been difficult to keep his proposal plan a secret, and she may have suspected what was about to happen.

Baldwin said, “It just seemed fitting. If she won and we won, it’d be a perfect day.”

The Mountain Lions beat Fairmont State 34-17. “It’s still a perfect day,” said the 225-pound athletic training major.

• • •

Part of the charm of small-college football is the informality of the postgame mingling of fans, family and players.

At Concord, that happens where the blacktopped walkway that takes fans down the hill from the bleachers intersects with the path the players take to the stadium entrance. The mingling often continues into the stadium parking lot.

• • •

The crowd, officially set at 5,123, offered a warm round of applause during a pregame introduction of Bill Owens, the first African-American to enroll at Concord.

Dressed in a neat gray suit, the Mercer County native took the field as honorary captain for the pregame coin flip. He played end, defensive back and kick returner for the Mountain Lions in the 1954 and 1955 seasons.

On Thursday of last week, he rode down Vermillion Street as the grand marshal of the annual homecoming parade, after a long conversation with Concord’s acting president, Dr. Kendra Boggess.

On Friday afternoon, dressed in a maroon Concord sports shirt and cap, Owens talked with members of the university’s Black Student Union, Dr. Boggess and a handful of faculty and staff in a “forum” at the student center.

• • •

Bluefield College will have its turn to celebrate homecoming this Saturday. The Rams (0-5) will take on Belhaven (1-4) at 1:30 p.m. at Mitchell Stadium.

The college’s activities include an alumni gathering at 7 p.m. Friday at the Alumni House, a Saturday morning breakfast and the annual Alumni Association meeting at Shott Hall, a tailgating contest at the stadium, and a dinner at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

On Sunday, Harman Chapel will be the site for the third annual Campus Community Homecoming Worship Service.

More information is available at the Alumni and Friends section of the website bluefield.edu, or by calling 1-800-872-0175, extension 4209.

*****

Tom Bone is a Daily Telegraph sports writer and cartoonist. Contact him at tbone@bdtonline. com.

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