The Disney film “Remember the Titans” was released 19 years ago.
It is about the T.C. Williams Titans high school football team in Alexandria, Virginia from the early 1970s.
Jason Silverman was a captain on the team and still proudly wears his Titans ring. It usually becomes a conversation starter around Pawleys Island, where he now resides.
“It is an incredible movie,” Silverman said. “Watching it, I cried when I was supposed to cry. I laughed when I was supposed to laugh. It is an absolutely iconic film.”
However as great as the film is, according to Silverman the movie is around 90 percent inaccurate.
“Herman Boone actually arrived at T.C. Williams two years before the movie takes place,” Silverman said. He was an assistant coach. He was a good teacher in terms of respect, but what he had to deal with initially was not race. There were three high schools in Alexandria. An all-white one, an all-black one and T.C. Williams, which was integrated from the moment it opened its doors in 1966.”
Silverman said back then that the school board in Alexandria implemented a plan to achieve racial balance in the city.
“The board took all of the freshmen and sophomores in the city shook them up and sent them to the two other high schools,” he said. “All of the juniors and seniors across the city ended up at T.C. Williams. The football team at Williams was, in essence, the all-city team.”
Silverman said before race ever entered into the equation, Coach Boone had to deal with egos from the football players competing for roster spots.
“He had all of these guys who had started at the two other high schools asking him why they had to try out,” he said. “Boone basically told them that they would have to earn their job and respect every teammate on the team.”
“The issue of race cropped up occasionally, but some of the characters in the movie are inaccurate,” he said. “The guy who gets thrown off the team because his girlfriend is a racist; he didn’t exist. The situation at downtown Alexandria where a restaurant wouldn’t serve black athletes; that never existed. Alexandria was just across the Potomac from Washington, D.C., so you have a lot of people coming in and going. If a restaurant did that in the early 1970s, they would have gone out of business just like that. “
Silverman said that he was working out during the summer of 1970 when he first met Boone.
“I had just finished, drenched with sweat and walking off the practice field and this young man walks up,” Silverman said. “He was looking around and I asked if I could help him. He said his name was Herman Boone and he was a new assistant coach.”
Silverman said that Boone was interested in his workout and asked him what position he played on the team.
“I said that I play defensive back and I run back punts and kicks,” Silverman said. He asked me to do my workout again in front of him. He then asked if I could do it faster. He did this for an additional 45 minutes and I’m thinking that this guy is going to kill me.”
Silverman said that after his he and Boone soon bonded and they had a pretty good relationship after that. According to him, Boone didn’t become the head coach until 1971.
“The head coach at the time was a man by the name of Bill Blair,” he said. “Blair inherited a really good team from T.C.’s first football coach, Herb Holt.”
According to Silverman, Blair later became the athletic director and there was a vacancy for the head coach.
“The far and away favorite for the job was Bill Yoast, the coach at Hammond High,” he said. The school board in its attempt to achieve racial balance made Boone the coach. That created a great deal of controversy and also some dissension on the team from the players who played for Yoast at Hammond.”
Silverman said the portrayal of Coach Boone by Denzel Washington in the movie was also inaccurate.
“Coach Boone was a pretty controlled individual, Denzel he was not,” Silverman said. “He was not a shouter. He had this look that could melt lead. When you came off the field after screwing up, all he had to do was look at you.”
Silverman said that he mostly was a jock during his time at T.C. Williams.
“I wasn’t a bad student,” he said. I think I had a 3.0 GPA, but I wasn’t an inspired student. My first goal in life was to be a high school history teacher and football coach. I was awarded the Coach’s award by Coach Boone. In essence, it meant that I was someone who assisted a lot. I would go to Friday night games and scout the opposition.”
Silverman later went to the University of Virginia and played freshman football but left the team when he knew he wouldn’t have an NFL career.
“Four or five friends and I started an intramural football team that I told is still legendary on campus, he said. “We beat everybody.”
After a 2.2 first-year GPA and a low number in the Vietnam draft lottery, Silverman decided to buckle down and commit himself to academics. That’s when he decided to become a history teacher and gave up the idea of becoming a football coach.
“I went on to get my Master’s and Ph.D.,” he said.
Silverman’s first job was teaching at Yale and then became a Professor of History at Winthrop until he retired. He has been named a South Carolina professor of the year and finished his career with an endowed chair.
He found that many of his students were very interested when news spread that he was a Titan around the Rock Hill campus.
“For a while, many of my students were generally interested in my time as a Titan. About two or three years before I was going to retire, I go into class one day and a young lady in the front row asked me how much I was going to keep from them. She asked me if I was a Titan and I said yes I am a Titan. The class became enamored so I had to bring in my memorabilia.”
After retiring in Dec. 2017 Silverman and his wife Susan retired to the area. He also has a 27-year-old son.
“We had been coming down to Litchfield for 30 years on vacation,” he said. We knew when we retired that we wanted to be in the area. We love this area more than anything.”
Even though he is retired after a 33-year academic career, Silverman still keeps busy through writing.
“I am the editor of two journals and the editor of a third,” he said. “I write a quarterly column and I’m on my twelfth book.”
Silverman said that it is a sad time now that many of his teammates and coaches have passed on. Approximately 15 years ago the old school building was leveled and a new T.C. Williams was built.
“The area that we used to play is completely gone,” he said. “Going to Alexandria now, it is shocking. I still keep in touch with some of the teammates that I was close to.”