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Bill Yoast and 'Remember the Titans'

By Stephanie Thomas
Producer - In the movie “Remember the Titans” two high school football coaches, one white and one African American, are forced to work together and they are not happy about it.

Coach Bill Yoast, a white man: “The school board made the decision to put you on my staff, I did not hire you.”

Coach Herman Boone, an African American man: “I didn’t ask to be assigned to your staff so I guess we’re both in a situation we don’t want to be in.”

“They both understood that they were in a tough situation.  But they both had a strong desire to win.  They were both winners,” said actor Denzel Washington, who plays Boone in the film.

Will Patton plays coach Yoast in the film. “Something needs to happen at this point in this town,” said Patton, “and oddly enough this football becomes a metaphor for it happening.”

“What’s fantastic about it is how these young kids came together, black and white, and how they helped this town, this city of Alexandria, to come together over them as a winning football team,” said Washington.

At the home of the "real" Titans of TC Williams High school in Alexandria, Virginia, diversity is no longer a problem.  There are over 84 countries represented and 34 languages spoken.  Coach Bill Yoast and Coach Herman Boone are no longer there but their legacy lives on.

Recently, the Northern Virginia Urban League honored the coaches by naming them Titans in Education & Community Service. Academy Award-winning actor, Denzel Washington presented the awards.

“When we made this picture we had no idea it would turn out the way it did,” the actor said. He went on to say that coaches Boone and Yoast were truly “Titans, two leaders”. Washington said people in sports and films get a lot of credit as being the heroes, but that the true role models are in the community.

Next, Boone addressed the Urban League, thanking them for the honor.

“Thank God you had strong shoulders because had you bent over thirty years ago, I would have fallen flat on my face, he said.

Yoast added his thoughts when he said, “working with Herman and the young men I worked with then, my attitude towards race relations changed forever. “

This movie has been a blessing for both coaches in two different ways.  For Coach Boone it's been a platform for his commitment to civil rights and overcoming obstacles.  And for Coach Yoast it's helped him deal with a very tragic loss in his life.

He remembered his childhood and what influenced him most when he recalled: “In Florence Alabama we had a group that hung out together, and there's a place called ‘Tin Can Holland’…It was a very poor neighborhood. Because I was from a very poor family and we would play, boys and girls would play softball together - we'd compete with the girls ‘cause they’d hold their own with us.  But we always went to church on Sunday and prayer meeting on Wednesday night. And we all went as a group.”

What started out as something to do with his friends flourished into a life-long relationship with the Lord. He fully embraced the principles found in the Bible and those principles shaped his life.  So much so, that he wanted to be a minister.

“When I was very young I was just sort of for the underdog. After I got into sports I realized that you're the guys that need the things that I'm talking about.  And they don't go to church, but most of them are in athletics,” he said. So, he traded the pulpit for the football field.

The opportunity came in Alexandria, Virginia in 1971. He said being thrown into a volatile situation was probably the best thing that ever happened to him. Coach Yoast was married and had four daughters, Bonnie, Angie, Sheryl and Didi. He and his wife were separated which made things more difficult. But he was more determined to be a good father even though they didn’t live with him at that time. Through it all they remained close.

His daughters are married with children of their own, all except Sheryl, who suffered a fatal heart attack one night while feeding her son. Around this time they began production on Remember the Titans. His daughter’s life was remembered in this movie.

For thirty-six years Coach Yoast took the principles of his Christian faith where it was needed -outside the church.   He led by example on and off the football field.  What motivated him?  Love.  He loved people more than church, something that was apparent as he said:

“Forget race, forget religion, forget…just reach out to people…because a lot of people aren't going to make the move first, make your circle bigger.”

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