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A Time To Come Together

Nov. 20, 2010

This past Saturday, the Golden Eagles pulled off one of their biggest wins in recent years, topping the UCF Knights by a score of 31-21. This win marked the first time since the TCU game in 2003 that Southern Miss has defeated a Top 25 opponent.

For most of our athletes, this victory ranked as one of the highest points of their careers. But as we all now know, the celebration was short lived.

Just hours after the game, Martez Smith, Tim Green and Deddrick Jones were shot at a local establishment. All three continue to struggle with their injuries. Martez Smith remains paralyzed from the waist down and the long-term prognosis is uncertain. Although Tim Green has a long road of recovery ahead he is still wearing his warm smile and concentrating on recovering.

This is a very tragic event for the university, the athletics program and our entire football team. One of the greatest tragedies is that this happened to such solid individuals. Martez, Tim and Deddrick are young men of outstanding character, loved and respected by their teammates, coaches and the Southern Miss staff. Martez , a senior, is going to receive his academic degree this December.

Even while lying in hospital beds, their thoughts were of the team. All three apologized for letting the team down, although they certainly owed no apology to anyone. When I visited Martez in the hospital, he thanked Southern Miss for giving him a chance to play for the Golden Eagles. These moments were both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time, and they reminded me of how fortunate we are to have such fine student-athletes on our team at Southern Miss.

The days ahead will be difficult and filled with challenges. This is a time for everyone who loves the Black and Gold to come together and rally behind this team and the three young men who cannot be on the field with them. They need and deserve our wholehearted support.

I applaud the leadership of Dr. Saunders and Coach Fedora during these tough times and hope everyone will continue to stand behind them. We also are extremely grateful to the medical doctors and nurses who are treating the athletes, Forrest General Hospital and its staff, which has provided such outstanding care and all the area enforcement agencies for their diligent work during this time. We are also most appreciative of all the telephone calls, cards, emails, Facebook messages, etc., that have come from our fans and other colleagues and institutions around the nation.

The University of Southern Mississippi will not be defined by this tragedy. Rather,

we will be defined by how we respond to it. There is no doubt in my mind that we will respond by showing unity and resilience, pulling together like the family that we are. Please join me at The Rock this coming Saturday for the Houston game and show our team that they have the full support of the Golden Eagle Nation.

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