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For Friedgen, 1980 Was Lean but Memorable

Ralph Friedgen
A slightly slimmer Ralph Friedgen is seen dictating orders to the Tribe's offense back in 1980 -- his one year with William & Mary. (College of William and Mary)

The team practiced on the grounds of Eastern State Hospital, whose claim to fame is its standing as the nation's first public facility for the mentally ill. During workouts, Laycock said it wasn't uncommon for some of the residents to wander by and lend their input during Tribe practice.

"I wouldn't tell some of our coaches" about the hospital, Laycock said. "They'd see some guy standing there and think they were alumni or something."

Friedgen remembers one regular visitor in particular.

"There was this guy that used to come to my drills with a hat on," Friedgen said. "And he used to say 'Stay low! Stay low!' I said to them, 'Listen to the guy; he's telling you the right stuff.' He was probably some old coach. That's how I'll be someday."

But the difficult season did have one bright spot against a strong Rutgers team, though even that game didn't come without some drama.

"The morning before the game, Ralph knocked on my door and told me the starting center could not play," Laycock said. "Something had happened with his eye and the backup center was going to play. He was a freshman."

During the game, things got even worse.

"My center in the second half is warming up and pulls a hamstring," Friedgen said. He told me, 'Coach. I can't go.' I said, 'You gotta go, even if they amputate your leg.' "

The Tribe hung on for an unlikely 21-18 victory, spoiling the Scarlet Knights' homecoming.

After the season, Friedgen began a career odyssey that took him to Murray State, the NFL and to Georgia Tech and Maryland -- twice. Meanwhile, Laycock stayed at William & Mary, where he didn't enjoy a winning season until 1983.

Since then, he has built the Tribe into a consistent winner at the Division I-AA level. During his tenure, William & Mary has appeared in the I-AA playoffs seven times, reaching the semifinals in 2004. The run also includes three Atlantic 10 Conference titles.

Even during a 5-6 season last year, the Tribe managed to shock New Hampshire, which was ranked No. 1 in I-AA at the time. The team has also developed a knack for competing hard against Division I-A foes, beating Temple in 1998 while playing Indiana, North Carolina and Marshall close in recent years.

"To see what he's done, to be there 26 years, the fact he stayed loyal and built a program that's won conference championships and knowing where it was when he got there -- he's just done a tremendous job," Friedgen said.

Laycock said Friedgen helped establish a foundation that still has an effect today.

"He was instrumental in getting us started up over here," Laycock said. "There was no place for us to dress, no players and no place to practice, and those were the good things. But he dug in and didn't complain. He kept a positive attitude."

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