While GW student-athletes are making their way back to campus and reuniting with their teammates, alumni of the GW football teams of the 1960s gathered together in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, earlier this summer for their biennial reunion.
GW sponsored football as a varsity sport until 1966, posting a 208-241-34 overall record, and in 1956, the Colonials went 7-1-1 and defeated Texas Western, 13-0, in the Sun Bowl.
Though the team no longer competes, former GW football players have gathered together every other year for the better part of three decades.
At the urging of some former teammates, Rich Hornfeck ('63) organized the first reunion, along with GW Athletic Hall of Famer Dick Duenkel ('63) in 1983 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, with approximately 30 former players from the early 1960s in attendance .Two years later, members of other classes joined, including a large group from the 1950s.
In 1989, football alumnus Dan Ross, who owned a number of hotels in Alexandria, Virginia, offered to host the reunion at one of his venues. "It was really big - bigger than any of the others by far," said Duenkel. With the reunion so close to Foggy Bottom, the group decided to take a trip back to campus.
While the group has met mostly in West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania, teammates have attended from as far as California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan and South Carolina.
"This year we were at Ski Liberty," said Duenkel, who was a defensive end. "It was probably one of the best we've had - we had about 50 returning football players and a total of 88 people when you count wives and girlfriends. It was really a good turnout."
Part of the reason the team has remained so close, according to both Duenkel and Hornfeck, is because they all lived together throughout their collegiate career - in the now-defunct Welling Hall, which resided at the site of the new Science and Engineering Hall.
"We ate all of our meals together in Welling Hall's dining room and our locker room and training room were in the basement of Welling Hall," said Hornfeck, who also served as an assistant coach on the 1966 team and was a faculty member in GW's Health and Physical Education Department from 1965-68. "We did not have a practice field on campus, which required us to ride a team bus to the practice field. These and other conditions provided for an environment in which close friendships were established with one another and are still maintained today."
"When you live with people for one-to-four years, you get to know them pretty well and you get pretty close," Duenkel said. "My son played at University of Virginia, and I've talked to other people from other universities, and no one has a feeling like this. We get back to these reunions and after five minutes it's like we're back in the dorm. Our wives just sit there and laugh at us. Everyone looks forward to them.
"When we all get together it's a really close-knit group," he continued. "It's really special. We talk about everything, talk a lot about the old days. Everybody is all of a sudden a better football player than they were."
"Not only do the former teammates enjoy getting together to discuss how they and their families are doing, but the spouses also enjoy visiting with one another and sharing stories," Hornfeck added. "Our friendship was established at GW when we were student-athletes and has continued throughout our lives. It has been very similar to a family."