CHADRON, Neb. — “They Found a Way to Play the Game,” the latest book from longtime Chadron State College employee Con Marshall, is a compilation of two his favorite topics: history and sports.
The book, available by contacting the Chadron State Foundation or Marshall, chronicles the stories of 16 former CSC football players who played for the Eagles from 1912 through 1958. In the introduction to the book, Marshall writes “(the players) weren’t necessarily the best 16 during that period, but all were stalwarts who had interesting stories to tell…”
Fourteen of the 16 are inducted in Chadron State’s Athletic Hall of Fame and Marshall said he personally interviewed 15 of them. The exception was LaVerne McKelvey, who was frequently tabbed as one of Chadron State’s best football players during the 20th century by his peers and alumni. McKelvey had helped defeat the Eagles when he was a senior at Bayard High School in 1919, then enrolled at Chadron State in 1921, and earned all-conference honors five times.
In addition to McKelvey, other entries include stories about Rex Coffee, Clifford Weller, Leo Stangle, Wes Evans, Dub Miller, Francis Montague, Loki Christensen, Bill Bruer, Bob Burden, Bob Brown, Verne Lewellen, Jim Ratelle, Jack Dinnel, J.C. Sollars, and Lonny Wickard. There’s also a salute to Ross Armstrong, CSC’s longtime athletic director and coach when many of the men featured in the book played for the Eagles.
“I wrote the stories because I like history and I like sports. Writing about sports was a big part of my first job as a reporter at the ‘Chadron Record’ and it continued during my long association with Chadron State,” Marshall said.
As soon as I came to work at CSC, I tried to become familiar with athletic records and attempted to expand on them. That sent me looking through the files I inherited and old newspapers for more information. That experience helped me learn more about CSC standouts.”
Marshall said when Armstrong began the Athletic Hall of Fame in the early 1980s, the stories about the former greats started flowing.
“Often times, one story led to another,” he said.
Marshall initially wrote many of the stories in the 1990s, but began compiling and updating them in the spring of 2020. When he originally worked on the stories, Marshall traveled to the homes of several former Eagles, often accompanied by his wife, Peggy. The couple was able to incorporate the interviews into vacations, including stops in Estes Park, Colo., Hill City, S.D., and Lander, Wyo.
As the former CSC Sports Information Director, Marshall also used his time on the road with the football team to his advantage, interviewing Christensen when the Eagles played Montana State University in Bozeman in 1997.
Marshall didn’t have to travel for every meeting. He recalls going to Coffee’s home and Miller’s bar in Chadron to interview them in the 1960s. In later years, Marshall interviewed a few former players when they returned to campus for homecoming, and he visited several ex-Eagles in their homes in the region, including places such as Lingle, Wyo., Wheatland, Wyo., Morrill, Neb., Bayard, Neb., and Rapid City, S.D.
Marshall said he is proud to share the stories about the men and their many accomplishments besides football.
“Most of those featured in the book came from humble backgrounds, survived the Great Depression, and had successful careers. Ten of them were World War II veterans. Three more served in the military after graduating from CSC,” Marshall said. “They represent a lot of principles that are important to Chadron State College.”
Marshall concluded by saying similar stories could be written about numerous other former Chadron State student-athletes, but at this moment, he doesn’t have any plans to work on a second volume.
“They Found a Way to Play the Game” is Marshall’s fifth book centered around Chadron State. He’s previously written books for the college’s 75th and 100th anniversaries, a biography of Armstrong, and the recently published compilation, “Say That Again,” which features prominent speakers who presented at the college.
For copies of “They Found a Way to Play the Game,” contact Marshall at 308-432-6478 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. There is no charge for the book, but it is suggested that those seeking a copy consider making a contribution to the athletic program through the Chadron State Foundation.