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Herman Boone, Football Coach Portrayed In 'Remember The Titans,' Dies At 84

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Today the city of Alexandria, Va., just outside Washington, D.C., is mourning and remembering a titan.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "REMEMBER THE TITANS")

DENZEL WASHINGTON: (As Herman Boone) You smiling. Why are you smiling?

DONALD FAISON: (As Petey Jones) Football's fun.

WASHINGTON: (As Herman Boone) You think football is fun?

FAISON: (As Petey Jones) Yes. No.

WASHINGTON: (As Herman Boone) No?

FAISON: (As Petey Jones) Sorry, sir. It was fun.

WASHINGTON: (As Herman Boone) Not anymore, though, is it?

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

That's Denzel Washington in the 2000 film "Remember The Titans." He's playing T.C. Williams' head football coach Herman Boone. The real Coach Boone died at home yesterday from lung cancer. He was 84.

SHAPIRO: Boone's coaching tenure at T.C. Williams came as the city of Alexandria's public schools were integrating during the Vietnam War. He was the Titans' first African American head coach, and he led the school to that now-famous state championship title in 1971. Former T.C. Williams student athlete MacArthur Myers says Coach Boone's influence transcended sports.

MACARTHUR MYERS: Myself and a lot of other African Americans didn't have a vision of what you do after high school. We knew that the war was going on, so they were drafting us left and right. College was not on the radar because we weren't - some of us weren't trained to think beyond high school. So Coach Boone would sit with me and say, think beyond the war. He said, if that's not the only option you have, you can go to college. And I winded (ph) up going to American University.

CORNISH: According to Myers, Coach Boone was his homeroom teacher and also the school's driving instructor, wrestling coach and black student union adviser.

MYERS: He was a stabilizer. He was always available, flexible, but he was no-nonsense. He would allow you to be yourself, but he would always look at you with the expectation you're supposed to know what to do what's right.

CORNISH: And when asked if Denzel Washington's depiction of Coach Boone was accurate, MacArthur Meyers said it was on point.

MYERS: He was on point because Coach Boone acted as an adviser, and the young person that wrote the script also went to T.C. Williams. So Denzel - he got it right.

SHAPIRO: A few years ago, Coach Boone told an audience that the film wasn't just about football. He said it was showing the world how one can overcome their fear of diversity.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HERMAN BOONE: And under my leadership, I'm proud to say that this football team, even under extreme conditions, became one of the best football teams in America. And even though they did not like one other at first because they were different colors and different races, they learned early in their lives to accept the soul of an individual rather than reject any member of that team based on the color of their skin.

SHAPIRO: Former T.C. Williams High School football coach Herman Boone died Wednesday at age 84.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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