LOGAN - Doug McElwain had a dream.
And that dream was to someday honor his football coaches at Logan High School with the rebranding of the stadium in their namesake.
After four trips from his hometown of Hendersonville, Tennessee - two of which to make appeals to the Logan County School Board - those dreams came into fruition recently as the stadium was renamed Willis-Nisbet Stadium in honor of former Logan football coaches Todd Willis, Jimmy Joe Willis and George Nisbet.
On Friday, there was a celebration at the Chief Logan Convention Center as dozens of former players from the 1950s and 60s, their families and other dignitaries gathered for a luncheon.
All three coaches are deceased, but their wives attended: Elizabeth "Betty" Willis, June Willis and Jean Ann Nisbet.
Todd Willis was head coach of the Wildcats' football team from 1956-65, producing seven winning seasons, including the 1963 team that went 9-1 and is considered one of the school's best.
"It doesn't get any better than this. I have chill bumps all over," said McElwain, a member of the 1963 team.
McElwain got emotional during his speech when he talked about the coaches and what they meant to him and his teammates.
"He was a no-nonsense kind of person," McElwain said of Todd Willis. "He was all business. All three coaches had different personalities. Our coaches inspired us. These three men made most of us who we are today. We love them, and this a way to honor them."
Following his speech, McElwain received a standing ovation in recognition for spearheading the project. The facility was formerly known as Logan Stadium or the Logan Football Stadium.
"I felt that there was a need to honor these men that meant so much to so many of us," McElwain said. "I went to the school board when I was eight days post-op surgery on my back. I took the humanistic attitude that if this is going to be done, it's up to me. I went up and made my appeal. I came all the way from Hendersonville, Tennessee, just outside of Nashville. It's about a six-hour drive. That day was closer to eight. I had to get out quite a bit and stretch."
Following his first appeal to the School Board, he traveled back to Logan to make his final case.
"A couple of weeks later I came back, and I made one last appeal," McElwain said. "That night they approved it. It was probably one of the happiest days of my life after I got out of coaching. To get this done has been so rewarding, and I'm very very thankful."
Jimmy Joe Willis was at one point head baseball coach at Logan. Nisbet was also the LHS wrestling coach.
"Every year Jimmy Joe Willis, Todd Willis or George Nisbet coached there is a representative from that team here today," McElwain said. "To get that done was quite difficult."
McElwain remembers the 1963 team and season vividly.
After a 26-6 loss to Welch in the opener, the Wildcats reeled off nine straight wins, including five shutouts.
On display at the podium was a gold and blue Logan High School jacket from that year.
"The community got together and bought everyone a jacket. Mine, however, burned up in a fire," McElwain said.
Willis had a 61-36-2 record in 10 seasons. Five of his last six seasons produced winning records.
The 1960 team went 8-2, then 7-3 the following season. After a 3-7 down year in 1962, the Wildcats bounced back to go 9-1 in '63, 8-2 in '64 and 7-2-1 in '65.
On the 1959 team was Fred Colvard, Logan High School's only Kennedy Award winner. He attended Friday's event.
When asked about the Kennedy Award, Colvard, seated at a table and eating, pointed to Johnny Walker and Donald Hylton, two of his linemen 60 years ago and sitting across the table from him.
"These are the men who won the Kennedy Award," Colvard said.
Colvard said all three coaches are deserving of the honor.
"It's time the coaches get some respect," he said. "They touched the lives of so many kids. We were all kids at that point. Coaches should receive more honors than they do as well as teachers. I had the most fantastic coaches are far as techniques. With the direct snap I was a triple threat kind of player as a running back. I did the kicking. I did the passing, and I did the running. I had Todd Willis as a coach for two years in junior high and all three years in high school. Basically, he taught me everything about football."
Colvard said Logan ran the Single Wing offense in those years under Coach Willis.
"I took the direct snap," he said. "Todd had a concept that was, 'Fred if you go they go,' meaning that the outside linebackers if they go back to cover the receivers then I go and follow them. If they come my receivers will be open in the flat. That was Todd. He was so into it."
After winning the Kennedy Award and graduating from LHS in 1960, Colvard went on to play two years at West Virginia University, a year at Florida State then later had short stint with the Ottawa Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League and the Charleston Rockets of the Continental League.
"The equipment is much different today. When I was quarterback at West Virginia, I had no protection on my rib cage," he said. "I was the starting quarterback in 1960 and 1961. I have a lot of love for WVU also. I was a starter with the freshmen team in '60 and a starter in '61. I won some awards there, but I got upset with some things, and I transferred to Florida State with Bobby Bowden. I stayed there one year then I went to Canada. I got hurt then I came down to play in the Continental League."
Colvard said he wouldn't have been a success in life had it not been for Jimmy Joe Willis, Todd Willis and George Nisbet.
"It all started right here," he said. "I was in the initial Hall of Fame at Logan. Todd was, and Willie (Akers) was as well. So it began right here."
Also speaking and serving as the event's emcee was Bob Weisner, former WVOW play-by-play radio "Voice of the Wildcats."
Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. Follow him on Twitter at @PAdkinsBanner or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.