Although just a freshman, it has not taken long for Wabash College starting quarterback Liam Thompson to appreciate the history and lore of Little Giant Football. After leading his team to victory on Saturday over Hiram College in the final game to ever be played at Byron P. Hollett Stadium, Thompson appreciated the fact he got to play in a game that added to the history of the stadium and Little Giant football.
“You get to know really quickly the history of this field. All week there have been a lot of videos on social media and we’ve gotten letters from people who played here”, Thompson said. “It was a cool experience to be able to play in the last game on this field.”
Ever since Wabash College officials announced a few weeks ago that the present stadium was going to be razed and replaced with a stadium that is expected to enhance the already successful football program, many fans and former football players have been reminiscing about memories of games that have been played at the football stadium.
Watching the game from the stands on Saturday was a familiar face during home football games. Former Little Giant Dave Knott, who was on the very first team to play in the stadium in 1966, reflected on all the games he had witnessed from either the sidelines or stands. Knott, who lives in Lafayette, has not missed many Little Giant home games since he graduated from the college in 1968.
Knott said when he was a freshman in 1965 he witnessed the last game played on the old field before he and his teammates were able to watch the construction of Byron C. Hollett Stadium. He said after playing on a football field that looked more like a small high school field with wooden bleachers, the new stadium was something to behold.
“During the spring of my freshman year, the players would come out and watch this stadium being built,” Knott said. “It was like seeing the Taj Mahal of Division 3 football being built before our eyes.”
“I was a sophomore in 1966 which was the first year in this stadium. At the time this was the state-of-the-art. Comparing the places we played at on the road, this was by far the best place to play,” added Knott.
Knott, who is known as the first quarterback to start in Hollett Stadium, said that is not exactly true. The coach at the time was Wabash College Athletic Hall of Famer Ken Keuffel, who is known as the “Father of the Single Wing” offense.
Knott said they were the only college in the nation using the offense at the time, and there is no quarterback position listed in the offense. He did play the single wing tailback position which meant he lined up behind the center in what is called in football today as the shotgun or spread offense. He did get to pass the ball.
Keuffel left the team before the 1967 season and Wabash hired Ohio State Assistant Coach Max Urick. Urick installed a traditional offense and Knott became the starting quarterback for his junior and senior seasons.
Knott’s fondest memories of games at Hollett Stadium goes beyond his playing days. His son, Jake Knott, was the starting quarterback during Wabash’s successful days of the early 2000’s.
“Watching my son and his teams play were a lot of fun because they were never behind,” Knott recalled. “They won something like 19 games in a row and I believe, under coach Chris Creighton kinda started this 20 year roll of winning eight, nine or more games each year.”
Present Little Giant coach Don Morel admitted with the attention of Saturday’s game being the last game at Hollett Stadium, it seemed to add more importance to winning against Hiram.
“This has been bittersweet. We are all really excited about the new stadium, but as the week went on and we received more emails and phone calls from former players retelling their stories from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, there was some additional pressure to win the game,” Morel said. “I told my assistants that if we just win 7 to 6 that will be good enough.”
The numbers since the stadium opened are impressive. Wabash has recorded a record of 205-64-4 since the Little Giants played their first game against Valparaiso in 1967. The impressive win-loss record is one of the reasons the Little Giants are ranked fifth in all-time victories in the nation for Division 3 teams.
Saturday’s win added to the long list of Little Giant accomplishments in Byron Hollett Stadium. The victory locked up the North Coast Athletic Conference championship and thereby the Little Giants earned the automatic bid to the NCAA Division 3 national tournament regardless of what happens next week in Greencastle in the 126th annual Monon Bell Classic.