Virginia Tech will pay tribute to victims of 1970 Marshall plane crash

The Virginia Tech football team will pay tribute to the 75 victims of the 1970 Marshall plane crash when the Hokies make their first visit to Huntington, W.Va. in more than 70 years this weekend. As is well documented, Virginia Tech graduates Frank Loria and Rick Tolley were Thundering Herd coaches at the time and died in the crash.

The Hokies will have a special stickers on the back of their helmets with the initials “RT” and “FL” as well as the number “75” in honor of the number of victims involved in the crash.

Upon arriving at Joan C. Edwards Stadium on Saturday, Beamer will go to the Marshall University Memorial at Spring Hill Cemetery to place a 3x5-inch piece of HokieStone inscribed with Loria and Talley’s name, the numbers they wore at Virginia Tech and both teams’ logos. The inscription will also include the same words that appear above the tunnel leading to Lane Stadium: “For those who have passed, For those to come … REACH FOR EXCELLENCE.”

Tolley played center and linebacker at Virginia Tech from 1958 to 1961 and was the head coach at Marshall in 1969 and 1970.

Loria had his number retired at Lane Stadium after an illustrious playing career in Blacksburg (1965-1967). He played alongside Frank Beamer in Virginia Tech’s secondary during that time and was the Hokies’ first consensus all-American. At the time of the crash, he was Marshall’s defensive backs coach.

Beamer reminisced about Loria’s passing Tuesday during his weekly news conference, saying he first heard the tragic news when he was in Richmond visiting his wife Cheryl, who was then just his girlfriend.

“We were sitting in the living room when the news came across, and I immediately thought of him,” Beamer said. . . .

“He was just a very smart guy generally, but he was smart football-wise. I’ve said a couple times, ‘He kind of knew what the play was that was getting ready to [be] run before they ran it. He had a great football mind, and I considered him a great, great friend.”

Mark Giannotto is a Montgomery County native who covers high school sports for The Washington Post. He previously covered Virginia and Virginia Tech football for five years.

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