In 2007 I was a Guest Columnist at the Reno Gazette-Journal covering University of Nevada football. Going in to this gig I had an agenda; to get the University to honor their greatest son, Marion Motley.
I put forth the idea of honoring Motley in my column and then I approached one of my former teachers at Nevada on how to get it done. Gary Hengstler pointed me in the right direction and with the help of Paul Mitchell and others Nevada’s Athletic Department was approached during the 2008 season to honor Motley. Nevada’s Athletic Department agreed and honored him during the 2008 season, which was the 40th anniversary of his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“By commemorating the 40th anniversary of Motley’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” Nevada Director of Athletics Cary Groth said in 2008. “We can share his story with many fans who may not be aware that the ground-breaking path he took toward ending segregation in professional football and achieving the sport’s highest honor started here at the University of Nevada.”
Nevada did a good job celebrating the life of Motley in 2008. They put his image on the scoreboard at Mackay Stadium and on their website they put together a series of films honoring Motley but in my mind it is not enough. To me it’s not enough because Motley’s image was removed from Mackay at the end of the season and I can’t find films of him on NevadaWolfpack.com. If you were a Pack fan in 2008 you got to see Motley but if you weren’t you may not know that he was a pioneer in the desegregation of pro football.
“He was living in the era of segregation in an area that had a reputation as not being particularly inviting to African-Americans that was dubbed the Mississippi of the West,” said Paul Mitchell in 2008, who is the Recruitment and Retention Coordinator at Nevada’s Reynolds School of Journalism and is a member of the committee working to honor Motley’s legacy. “He paved the way for African-American students, African-American administrators and African-American faculty on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. I am, we are, forever in his debt.”
I want the University of Nevada to honor their greatest son by erecting a statue in his honor at the north entrance of Mackay Stadium. I realize that the athletic department is having fiscal issues but maybe it is time for the community to come together and foot the bill for a man barely acknowledged by his alma mater.
In the collegiate ranks the following players and coaches have statues at their home stadium:
Motley’s contributions to the sport are greater than any of the aforementioned statuettes. It’s a sad commentary on the world of collegiate football that Danny Wuerffel has his visage for ever sculpted in bronze outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Florida while Motley, and all of his greatness, is forever shrouded in obscurity. Each and every member of the Wolf Pack community needs to know the legend of Motley and we can do it by coming together and giving him the statue he deserves.
“Every now and then I look at old footage of Motley and I’m never disappointed,” Paul Zimmerman said in his 1999 article about Motley for Sports Illustrated. “Does he remain the greatest all-around player I’ve ever seen? Certainly he’s the greatest fullback. Tireless, devastating, explosive. It’s hard to see how you could play the game any better than he did.”