Mike Reily ’64 – Grace, Dignity, and Now Permanence

Eph Legends
Eph Legends

 

The Michael Meredith Reily '64 Award

Presented in 2011 for the first time, the Michael Meredith Reily '64 Award is determined by a vote of the players. This award honors the player who best embodies the spirit, ideals, and character of the team as defined by his teammates. The award is presented at the end of each season.

Named in honor of Mike Reily '64 who exemplified over his Williams career the highest levels of perfromance and leadership on the playing field with extraordinary levels of determination, courage, and grace in the face of personal adversity.

Mike Reily was named an All-American in both 1961 and 1962. In November of 1962 it was determined that Reily had Hodgkin's Disease. Although his health deteriorated over the next 18 months, Reily was determined to graduate with his class, remaining a presence on campus, attending classes, presiding over his fraternity, and serving as a co-captain of the 1963 team.

After graduating with his class and receiving his Williams diploma in June of 1964, Reily passed away 31 days later. Reily was respected and loved by his teammates and all who knew him. Mike Reily represented the highest ideal of Williams College and the Williams College football program.

Year Recipient
2018 Jaelon Moaney '19
2017 Chris Hattar '18
2016 Eric Davis '17
2015 John Bond '16
2014 Thomas Cabarle '15
2013 Nate Saffold '14
2012 Chris Cameron '13
2011 Dylan Schultz '12

 

by Dick Quinn, Sports Information Director

Today marks the final chapter of an only-at-Williams story that's been almost half a century in the making. Until now, most of it has been secret.

Last fall Ben Wagner '64 proposed to Sports Information Director Dick Quinn that Mike Reily '64 be recognized as an Eph Legend. 

Having grown up in town and seen Reily dominate Williams football games, Quinn quickly agreed and urged Wagner to contact Head Coach Aaron Kelton about establishing a Defensive Player of the Year award in Reily's name.

Then during last fall's Wesleyan game Assistant Coach Joe Doyle asked Quinn, "Did you know that #50 is a retired football number at Williams?" Quinn hadn't known of any number being retired.

Quinn visited Equipment Manager Glenn Boyer, who showed Quinn a thin, water-spotted, Wilson football cardboard box inscribed "Do Not Issue." Inside were three #50 jerseys; practice, home, and away.

Mike Reily #50

Suspecting that those just might have been Reily's, Quinn checked the headshot sent to him by the college archives and, sure enough, Reily, had worn #50.

Learning about this, Wagner spoke to Frank Navarro, the head coach at the time, who relayed a special memory from just after 1963 season. "Coach clearly remembers Jimmy McArthur [retired equipment manager] bringing up the box with Mike's three jerseys in it," Wagner reported. Navarro is not sure if McArthur or Charlie Hurley (equipment manager put the jerseys in the box. "Coach and Jimmy then spent some time discussing what should be done. They jointly agreed that the jerseys should remain in the box and not be issued again." 

Unbeknownst to all but Navarro, McArthur and Hurley, Reily has had a special place in Williams football ever since. 

"We tried to make as little fuss as we could, because of Mike and because retiring numbers was not as fashionable back then," Navarro had said. "Our hearts were so heavy we had to do something. Mike was so courageous, always caring about others more than himself, and all we could do was just watch him disappear before our eyes." 

No #50 football jersey has been worn by a Williams player in 48 years, though until now almost no one has known why.

There were no official written instructions about not ordering #50. None were needed. The unwritten tribute has been passed down verbally from one well-meaning equipment manager to another over six decades.

"I was told by Dickie (Cummings) when I got here that we don't give out number 50 and I never thought to ask why," said Glenn Boyer now in his 24th year at Williams.  "I just figured that the guys who worked before Dickie told him and that was the way it was."

Reily was such a presence as a football player, wrestler, rugby player, fraternity house president, and person that all who knew him were painfully aware that Reily left this world just 30 days after graduating in 1964. Only now do they know that part of him never really left.

Those who played with Reily agree that no one would ever measure up to him on the field and off so it's just as well no Eph be burdened by having to wear his number. 

Reily came to Williams from Woodberry Forest School In Virginia, where he captained the football, wrestling, and track teams. He was also valedictorian and senior prefect, sat on the honor committee, gave the opening speech of the academic year, and a final speech at commencement. 

The famous Wilson footbal box that has pro-
tected Mike Reily's jerseys for 48 years and
the three jerseys that resided in the box
Photo by Scott Barrow

"Mike Reily remains bigger than life, even after twenty-five years," wrote John Winfield '64 in 1989. "He had it all, including the courage to face death with humor, while his classmates enjoyed release, anticipation of the future, and a sense of accomplishment that spring of our senior year.

"The University of North Carolina and a lot of other schools wanted him badly, but he had a good mind and chose Williams. Had he gone to a Division I school, or for that matter had he lived, he surely would have starred in the NFL – this 230 pounder was [an] All-American in his sophomore year. Mike was a big, good-looking Irishman, who liked people and loved hijinks. 

"Mike led by example. He commanded attention but without a trace of arrogance or conceit. Although he never had the chance to contribute beyond his days at Williams, Mike inspired all of us as he faced Hodgkin's Disease and its attendant surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and debility. Aware of his prognosis, he faced life head-on during his final year. I often think of Mike Reily, not so much as a friend lost, but rather as the embodiment of good and excellence in youth. He is an integral part of our days at Williams. His influence on my life, and on many of our lives, persists." 

"Tackle by Reily," boomed the Weston Field PA with such frequency and authority in 1961 and 1962 that you would have thought he was taking on the visiting team alone. 

Players then went both ways, and right from his sophomore year Reily played center on offense and linebacker on defense. He wasn't just in the middle of the action — he was the action. In his first varsity game he set a record for tackles by an Eph with 15. 

He was the focus of Frank Navarro's famed "Monster Defense," designed for the linemen to tie up the blockers and allow the linebackers to make the tackles. It worked, leading to 8 shutouts in the team's 12 wins in 1961 and 1962.

"Mike could just sense what the offense was going to do, and when he got to the ball carrier he would deliver a crushing blow, but was gracious enough to lift the runner back to his feet," Navarro said. 

After setting the record for tackles in his first game, Reily continued to make his presence known, as recorded in local press accounts. 

An 18-7 win over Springfield: "Springfield had first and goal at the Williams 8. On the first play Leete (Dave, Springfield QB and Williamstown native] drove to the 4. Two plunges by Mike Howard both of which were stopped by soph linebacker Mike Reily, put the ball on the one. On fourth down Leete rolled out to his left, faked a handoff to fullback Howard, and headed for the goal line, Reily was waiting for the Springfield quarterback, and stopped him just short of the goal to end the threat. That was the turning point." 

A 9-3 win over Bowdoin: "Williams put on a typical New York Giants goal line stand as the first half closed, holding Bowdoin from scoring after the Bears had a first down at the four. Four plays netted about two yards, with Sophomore Mike Reily, all the way from New Orleans, the key man in the gallant stand. Time ran out after Bowdoin's fourth try for a TD…. Reily, Williams center, incidentally played one of the finest games on Weston Field since the days of Danny Lewis ['37] and the words 'tackled by Reily,' became monotonous to Bowdoin as the game wore on." 

 
Mike Reily was a center on offense
and a linebacker on defense

A 14-0 loss to Tufts: "Led by senior guard Dan Crowley and All-East center Mike Reily, the Eph line limited the Jumbos to 163 yards rushing, far from their average of close to 400 yards a game."

A 22-0 win over Union: "As usual the Eph defensive line was outstanding. Sparked by Mike Reily and Dan Crowley, the Williams forward wall allowed Union only 21 yards rushing." 

A 14-0 win over Wesleyan set the stage for a 5-2 Eph team to take on undefeated Amherst on Weston Field. 

A November 15 Williams press release noted, "[Head Coach Len] Watters does not feel the Ephmen are strong enough to beat Amherst, but they will give Amherst 'a good football game,' he is certain."

"The Lord Jeffs come into the game about a three touchdown favorite by virtue of 40-6 and 22-8 routs of Tufts and Trinity," he noted, "both of which teams defeated the Ephmen and a 48-8 romp over Wesleyan which Williams topped only 14-0."

Watters was low-balling. His Ephs were ready, at least his defense was, and Williams shocked Amherst 12-0. From the Williams Record: "The Williams defense, great all year, was invincible today. Spearheaded by two big sophomores, Mike Reily and Ben Wagner, it completely stymied the hopeful Lambert Cup aspirants.

"Amherst could not mount a sustained drive until the last quarter. That drive, riding on the passing arm of Jeff quarterback Mark Hallam, was aided by a pass interference call, but was stopped dead when Reily intercepted a Hallam pass inside his own ten. After that, the Ephs controlled the ball and ran out the clock."

In addition to his nine tackles on the day Reily also recorded two interceptions and recovered a fumble.

Reily started off the 1962 season right where he had left off--being dominant—and was nominated for the All-East team four times early in the season.

In a 13-0 win over Trinity in the 1962 opener, Reily had two tackles behind the line of scrimmage and notched a team high six overall.

A 10-0 shutout of Middlebury increased the Eph streak of minutes not allowing a touchdown to 382 and found Reily intercepting a pass and returning it 15 yards.

The Ephs then shut out Bowdoin, extending their streak to 482 minutes without allowing a TD. Reily's eight tackles were second best for Williams.

Reily almost tied his own record for tackles in an 8-0 loss to Tufts, notching 14. 

"I recall that Mike started the 1962 season fine," Wagner said. "We had a good team and we were playing well. Somewhere during the season, Mike started failing things (plays) that he had performed so naturally the year before."

Reily ended the year with 79 tackles, which is surprising considering his diminishing strength and endurance. Reily also managed to continue to perform well at center.  His 1962 awards almost mirror those of his explosive debut season and highlight just what a terrific player he was. 

Reily at his best was a once in a generation player and even in the early stages of a terminal illness, he was a once-in-a-decade, maybe more, kind of player.

1963 coaches & Captains (l. to r.): Frank Navarro,
Mike Reily, Ben Wagner & Len Watters

"I remember as though it was yesterday, Mike and Bill O'Brien, his roommate, returning from an extended stay in Bermuda, or so we had been told, over Thanksgiving break [1962], which must have been three weeks after the season ended and about when that picture [see above] was taken," Wagner said. "I'm reasonably certain that we soon learned that Mike had Hodgkin's Disease."

His teammates and friends also learned that Mike was obsessed with graduating with his class.

"I remember sitting next to Mike [at Commencement] while Secretary of Defense Dean Rusk went on and on for what must have been an hour," said Joel Reingold '64, ice hockey captain. "Every so often Mike would cough, catch himself, and whisper in that burnt sugar accent of his, 'Joe, I just want to graduate.' 

"How did he do it? Mike dated my wife before I did and every single year since we had a most wonderful conversation about Mike and the person he was. At 22 he faced more than I have in my life and he handled it with grace and courage…unbelievable."

Throughout the 1963 season Reily dressed in pads for every practice and every game, knowing he couldn't compete, but knowing he could lead.

"Mike Reily was one the most incredible people I have ever met," Dan Aloisi '65 said, "not just at Williams but throughout my entire life, which includes four years as a United States Marine Corps officer with service in Viet Nam.  The men I served with in the Corps were quite remarkable in their own right, but none could surpass the courage I witnessed while playing football with Mike Reily.

"Mike essentially served as a linebacker coach during practice [in 1963] helping others to develop skills that he possessed.  And when practice was over, I can still see Mike 'doing hills' behind the field house, even though Coach Navarro said Mike didn't have to.  He was our leader and he never expected nor would he ever ask to be an exception.  Mike would make it to the top of the hill and quickly remove his helmet and proceed to cough incessantly due to the weakness of his lungs.  I, and many others, just stood there in awe of his courage.

"I also had a class with Mike.  He would be absent for long periods of time.  Then when he could make it to class you could see the devastation his insidious disease had put upon him.  This once vibrant hulk of an athlete, as on the field, would not give in.  He was swimming in the clothes that he once filled.  His gait was weak and slow.  But he could not give in.  Mike just knew, both on and off the field, that in order to win you had to fight.  And that he did.

"In the summer of 1964, Coach Navarro notified our team of Mike's passing.  This was even more devastating than the initial news of his illness.  Mike's incredible fight was over.  I still have that letter as a reminder of what it means to have courage.  Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the ability to confront it.  That was Mike Reily!"

The Williams News Bureau sent out a release on July 27, 1964 announcing Reily's death in New Orleans. In the release Frank Navarro noted: "Mike was the type of man who would win a football game and not tell anyone about it. He was also a gentleman in the best Southern tradition, unassuming, graceful, and intelligent. He never complained about his illness; in fact, he would make light of it.

"And for all of his success as a football star – one who was constantly in the limelight – he was a man who liked his solitude and quiet."

Jack Vroom '66 recalled his reaction: "I remember hearing news of Mike's death on the radio in a truck going to my job in Kilgore, Texas between sophomore and junior years. My 'colleagues' wondered why it was newsworthy, since Williams was not in the SW [Southwest] Conference. I remember looking out the window trying not to cry, mumbling, 'It's hard to explain.' And that from a second-team tight end that only knew him sick. I envy you all who played with Mike… I also remember his being a smart house president, smarter, and esp. wiser, than the rest of us by at least 2x."

Today this extraordinary Eph will finally get his public due. Ben Wagner along with Reily's three brothers, twins Tim and Jonathan, and Patrick will participate in today's coin toss as Mike's teammates gather in the north end zone.

Later tonight Williams will officially retire the number 50 at the Michael M. Reily '64 Recognition Dinner, where it'll also be announced that an annual Michael M. Reily '64 Award has been established.

The Michael M. Reily '64 Award winner will be determined in a vote by the players who will select the player who best exemplifies the qualities of performance, leadership, and character of the team that Reily exemplified over his Williams career.

MIKE REILY'S AWARDS

1960:

Co-captain of Williams Freshman Football team

1961:

Set Eph record for tackles in a game -- 15

Set Eph team record for tackles in a season -- 89

Charles Dewoody Salmon Award (sophomore with greatest impact on success of the Eph team)

All-East Small College North Team

UPI New England Small College Team

AP All-New England Team

AP All-American Small College Third Team

Western Massachusetts All-Star Team

1962:

All-East Small College North Team

AP All-New England Team

AP All-American Small College Honorable Mention

Western Massachusetts All-Star Team

1963:

Co-captain Williams Football Team,

Jerry Nason Award from New England Football Writers Association (presented to the senior who contributed the most to the success of his team)

*First Williams football player to have his number classified "Do Not Issue"

1964:

Graduated from Williams with a B.A. in English

Michael M. Reily Football Award established at Woodberry Forest School
(Sixth form member who contributes most to success of team)

Michael M. Reily '60 Scholarship Award at Woodberry Forest School (to provide scholarship assistance, with preference given to a boy from New Orleans or Louisiana)

2011:

Michael M. Reily's number 50, 1st retired football number at Williams College, November 12.

Michael Meredith Reily '64 Award created at Williams College to be presented first at the close of 2011 season and annually thereafter.


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On November 18, 1961 Williams fashioned one of the most
stunning upsets of arch rival and undefeated Amherst
with a defense led by Mike Reily that shut down a
vaunted Amherst attack in a 12-0 shocker.

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When Invincible Was Not Good Enough – Williams 12, Amherst 0

by Dick Quinn, Sports Information Director

Captain Bruce Grinnell makes a tackle

The 1961 Amherst football team that head coach Jim Ostendarp had assembled was riding a 9-game win streak when it rolled into Williamstown. Amherst was generally thought to be invincible and most everyone expected the Lord Jeffs to be proclaimed the best small college team in the East after dispatching with Williams.

The Amherst Student, page 4 said of its team: "You can argue about statistics, opponents, injuries, but when Coach Ostendarp puts 11 men on the field, it never seems to matter who they are or how tired they are, they always seem to get the job done. From the brilliant Steve Van Nort down to the last lineman or back, this isn't a good team, it's a great one."

Awaiting the highly regarded Lord Jeffs was a 5-2 Williams team, with but 8 seniors and 32 total players (half of them sophomores), that was coming off a 2-6 year in 1960, putting them at 7-8 in their last 15 games.

The Ephs did, however feature a stingy defense, allowing just 32 points in the first seven contests, which included three shutouts. The question was, would the Eph defense be good enough to contain the Jeffs?

Even The New York Herald Tribune weighed in, noting that Amherst, "had averaged a little more than 32 points a game in its all victorious march this fall. Only one previous foe had scored more than one touchdown against it."

The average score of Amherst's first seven games was 32-7. In addition to a deep and talented corps of running backs, the Amherst attack was directed by sophomore QB Mark Hallam. Hallam had connected on 40 of 60 passes with no interceptions and averaged an impressive 190+ passing yards a game, which was almost unheard of then in the college game that focused mostly on running plays.

Head Coach
Len
Watters

A Williams College press release stated that, "[Head coach Len] Watters does not feel the Ephmen are strong enough to beat Amherst, but they will give Amherst 'a good football game,' he is certain.

"At stake for the high-riding Lord Jeffs is an undefeated season, the Lambert Cup and their third consecutive Little Three crown."

Watters felt his defense could contain the explosive Amherst offense and, if they could lengthen the field for Amherst, maybe even contain the Jeffs. His concern had to be about his offense, which in it first 7 games had scored only 81 points.

"Our offense was run oriented, with an occasional pass, and quick-kicks on third down," noted starting sophomore tackle Ben Wagner. "We were not a-high-scoring offensive machine."

"Coach Watters appeared to distrust the forward pass," commented senior right tackle Price Gripekoven. "Philosophically, I believe, he felt that there were only three possible outcomes to a pass and two of them were not good. His reliance on the third down quick kick may not have been based on his confidence in the defense, nor a lack of confidence in the quarterback corps ably lead by captain Bruce Grinnell, but on his concern for the unfavorable 2:1 odds of successfully completing a forward pass."

In 1961 college players generally went both ways. QB Grinnell was also a safety and sophomore center Mike Reily played linebacker.

Only 23 passes total would be attempted in the game. Six were intercepted, and only 5 completed.

The night before the game, as was custom on Homecoming, the Ephs bunked in Cole Field House to get away from Friday night parties. "I believe we had to check in there at 9:30, with lights out at 10 or 10:15," Grinnell recalls. "I think most of us talked until 11 or 12, and as I remember, no one slept well."

Starting end Rawson Gordon recalls: "We were all very geared up, and I was sure that I would not get much sleep. But the doctor-father of a teammate [Carl Davis] gave me a sleeping pill, and I had one of the most restful nights of my life." And when Gordon awoke the next morning, "I felt terrific and ready to go."

In the shed where the Ephs gathered for pre-game the mood was, "generally quiet," recalled sophomore halfback Chris Hagy. "Everyone had their own way of dealing with nerves. Most stayed quiet and focused, but my roommate and fellow halfback, Tim Goodwin, dealt with nerves by talking. I remember trying to get him to stop talking."

Though the Ephs were well aware of how good Amherst was, "there was just a feeling of confidence," Hagy said. "I don't know why, but I just felt we were going to win, and I think that was the general feeling."

Ben Wagner '64

Maybe it was sophomore naïveté, but Ben Wagner was among those who envisioned the Ephs winning. "I thought it would be a very low scoring game," he said. "I thought that our defense could stop anyone – it was that dominant."

Bruce Grinnell felt the Eph confidence came from being loose and having nothing to lose. "The week of practice was unlike any in my four years at Williams," he stated. "Each day, as a team, we became more and more loose and relaxed. I distinctly remember breaking the huddle on Friday and coming up to the line and instead of getting my hands under the center and preparing for the snap, I got behind guard Dan Crowley, put my hands under him and started calling signals. Needless to say, Crowley nearly jumped into the defensive secondary. We all had a great laugh, including the coaches!"

With the pre-game warm-ups done and the butterflies growing larger and larger, Len Watters addressed the Ephs. With 44 years of football experience Watters didn't want his team overly excited, just ready. He spoke calmly, but ended by saying, "You'll remember this game for the rest of your lives – make it a good memory."

Williams won the coin toss and elected to kickoff. "Len felt if we got good coverage we could hold them deep in their territory and make them punt to us," recounted Assistant Coach Frank Navarro. "Len wanted to use his best weapon, his defense to tilt the game in his favor, and it worked. That kickoff and the five quick kicks kept Amherst out of our territory for almost the entire game."

The first Amherst offensive series lasted four plays and the second lasted just one.

Jeff QB Hallam suffered his first interception of the season (1 of 4 on the day) when ever-alert LB Mike Reily picked off a bobbled pass on the Amherst 27-yard line. Amherst 's defense kept the Ephs out of the end zone and off the scoreboard when they ran out of downs. Placekicking was a weakness of the Ephs, who went for two-point conversions after most TDs.

But again Amherst had the ball for only one play when running back Al Deaet fumbled a handoff and Price Gripekoven corralled the ball on the Jeffs' 23-yard line. Once again the Ephs were not able to get on the scoreboard as Amherst senior right guard and linebacker Jim Aplington ended the threat when he picked off a Grinnell pass on the 2-yard line.  

Bill Chapman '64

The Ephs first scoring drive of 9 yards arose out of a favorite Len Watters' tactic, the quick kick. Eph running back Bill Chapman, received a direct snap from the center Mike Reily. QB Bruce Grinnell under center jumped up to allow the direct snap to Chapman on third down. Chapman then punted the ball, hoping to catch the defense by surprise and result in a punt that would not be returned.

The Chapman quick kick early in the second quarter worked perfectly, traveling 37 yards and rolling to a stop on the Amherst 3-yard line.

The Jeffs earned a first down and some breathing room, but the game changed on the very next play.

Hallam's pitchout was mishandled and the ball bounced back to the Amherst 9-yard line, where the Ephs' Mike Reily jumped on it.

One run by sophomore Dave Johnston and two by classmate Tim Goodwin left the Ephs with 4th and goal on the two. Chapman, the third sophomore back to carry the ball in the series, then scored with a bruising run off right tackle. The two-point conversion attempt, another run to the right side failed, but the Ephs owned a 6-0 lead.

The inspired Ephs held onto the precarious and unexpected 6-0 lead for the rest of the half.

"Amherst hadn't trailed in a single game all year," the Springfield Republican noted. "The Jeffs didn't react well when they fell behind against Williams but the Ephs kept the pressure on for the entire game."

Through the first 30 minutes the Amherst juggernaut had not crossed into Williams territory. The Jeffs would be held out of Williams territory for just over 54 minutes.

While it was surprising that Amherst could not move the ball on the Eph defense, Williams was able to move the ball better than expected. Amherst had allowed an average of 37 yards rushing per game on the season, but on this day Williams would ramble for 142 on the ground and picked up another 30 through the air.

Choppy Rheinfrank '62

Williams was excited at the intermission, but to a man they knew what Amherst was capable of doing. Choppy Rheinfrank, happy to be ahead at the half, was concerned about the final two quarters, "because I knew if they got it together they could quickly score touchdowns."

Hallam hadn't been intercepted on the season, but this day he got picked off on 4 of his 13 attempts. A few passes were broken up or just dropped, and he managed only 2 completions.

"He never saw a pass rush like the one we put on him that day" Rheinfrank recalled. "Every time he threw the ball, we were making him hurry, blocking it, or sacking him."

Amherst's first completion on the day was a pass thrown by halfback Steve Van Nort.

Sophomore standout Reily picked off two and Grinnell one, but it was a third quarter interception that set up the second Eph score.

As Amherst tried to cross into Williams territory for the first time, sophomore Bill Mosher stepped in front of a Hallam pass at midfield and returned it to the Amherst 46-yard line,

Grinnell and the Eph attack then fashioned a 12-play scoring drive that started with a 21-yard completion to junior backup end Bill Holmes.

The Ephs then ran on 11 consecutive plays, with Hagy capping the drive with a four-yard run. "I still remember seeing that goal line go under my body as I was tackled going into the end zone," Hagy said.

Another two-point conversion attempt failed, but the Ephs led 12-0.

"As the game wore on, I worried about how long we would be able to contain the Amherst offense," Gordon said. "In the fourth quarter, they were gathering steam and moving the ball in earnest. Then Mike Reily intercepted a pass within a few feet of our goal line, and that really took the wind out of the Amherst sails."

"The Williams defense, great all year, was invincible today," the Williams Record reported. "Spearheaded by two big sophomores, Mike Reily and Ben Wagner, it completely stymied the hopeful Lambert Cup aspirants.

"Amherst could not mount a sustained drive until the last quarter. That drive, riding on the passing arm of Jeff quarterback Mark Hallam, was aided by a pass interference call, but was stopped dead when Reily intercepted a Hallam pass inside his own ten. After that, the Ephs controlled the ball and ran out the clock."

In addition to his nine tackles on the day, Reily recorded two interceptions, broke up a pass, and recovered a fumble.

"Amherst was probably the better team," Gordon said.  "We won because we wanted it more."

The victory gave Williams its first Little Three title since 1958.

Victorious Ephs return to Cole Field in this photo by Randy
Trabold of the North Adams Transcript

As the North Adams Transcript reported: "The Unmovables were unmoved and the Unstoppables were stopped Saturday afternoon before 9,000 half frozen fans on windy Weston Field as Williams not only posted the major upset of the year in Small College football by beating Amherst 12-0 to win the Little Three championships but also:

  1. Knocked Amherst out of an undefeated, untied season:
  2. Eliminated Amherst from Lambert Cup trophy consideration, the Cup being symbolic of the Eastern Small College championship:
  3. Went into consideration itself for the Lambert Cup:
  4. Produced an All-American (Small College) candidate in Mike Reily:
  5. Gave coach Len Watters "the happiest day of my life," and as fine a getaway present for his final Weston Field Amherst Williams game as any coach could wish….

"The big Amherst threat, late in the game with Al Denett, [sic] Amherst's best back of the day, racing three yards to the 16 and a first down was halted when who again stepped in the way of a pass – Reily."

"Our Monster Defense was a perfect storm for Mike Reily," Navarro noted. "Mike had the ability to watch an opponent on film and anticipate what they would do on the field and that's why he was almost always in the right pace at the right time. Mike would take no personal credit though, for him it was all about the team."

The Amherst Student again: "It was the sutbborn Williams line led by guard Rheinfrank, tackles Price Gripekoven and Ben Wagner, and center Reily which stopped the Lord Jeffs cold. Wagner a 220lb. sophomore bull, was the right [sic: left] tackle in the Williams 6-2-3 defense that completely throttled the Jeffs' running game. Center-linebacker Reily was tremendous; Amherst made too many mistakes to win, but Reily easily was the best football player seen by the Amherst team this year. He was all over the field, tackling, recovering fumbles and intercepting passes."

Here's how several Ephs remember the day:

Ben Wagner: "For many years, I thought about the 1961 game every time the middle of November came around. Now that I am involved in the Mike Reily Recognition Weekend effort , I think almost daily of Mike and the way that he dominated that game."

Rawson Gordon: "In all my life, I have never been more elated than I was at the moment when the clock ran out. I felt a wonderful sense of camaraderie with my teammates and great pride in what we had accomplished."  

Dan Crowley: "I do revisit the game every November and have been delighted to report the sadness of another Amherst loss . . . nearly every year . . . to my friend, Phil Lilienthal, Amherst '62, who served with us in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia, '65-'70."

Carl Davis: "Bruce Grinnell and I relive the game at least twice a year, every year. It was a most memorable event. It still gives us/me great satisfaction to this day. Amherst was to be the #1 small college team in the East, The Lambert Cup, their Alumni were tuned in from all over including Paris, and we put it to them. I am still smiling as I write this almost 50 years later."

According to the Springfield Republican Williams President Emeritus Phinney Baxter congratulated Watters by saying, "It's the best Williams-Amherst game I've ever seen and I saw my first one 51 years ago."

At Williams a 6-2 Eph team can be happier than a 7-1 Amherst team, because when the season concludes with a conquering of  the Lord Jeffs you finish "1-0."

As longtime Eph assistant football coach/head lacrosse coach Renzie Lamb, now President of the Williams Sideline Quarterback Club, says each year to end the final Sideline QB luncheon of the year:

"If you want to be happy for three hours – get drunk.

If you want to be happy for three days – get married.

If you want to be happy for eight days – kill your pig and eat it.

If you want to be happy forever – Beat Amherst!"

The 1961 Ephs found a way to beat the invincible Amherst Lord Jeffs on Weston Field and they will never, ever forget how happy they were when simply being invincible was not enough to beat them.

 

Must see and hear links on Mike Reily '64:

"The Game: Williams vs. Amherst 1961" by Dave Simonds

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"The Forgotten Hero"

by Tim Layden '78

Sports Illustrated November 7, 2011

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"The Forgotten Hero" story continues to live on. In September of 2014 Tim Layden's story was selected by Sports Illustrated as one of the best 60 stories in the magazine's first 60 years. Layden was interviewed about how he came to write the story and how it has been recieved.


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Mike Reily '64 Commemorative Book (PDF)
1961 Game Highlights, Mike Reily remembrances, tributes,
honors & awards, and Hugh Howard's Williams Review article
on Mike Reily: "One More Huddle"
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The Williams College Archives is in possession
of the Mike Reily scrapbook that was created
maintained by Mike's mother. It can be seen
by CLICKING HERE.
Amherst Game Notes
November 12, 2011 Amherst Game Notes
Amherst Downs Williams 31-18
November 12, 2011 Amherst Downs Williams 31-18
Wesleyan Game Notes
October 31, 2011 Wesleyan Game Notes
Williams tips Hamilton 14-7
October 29, 2011 Williams tips Hamilton 14-7
Hamilton Game Notes
October 26, 2011 Hamilton Game Notes
Tufts Game Notes
October 17, 2011 Tufts Game Notes
Middlebury Game Notes
October 11, 2011 Middlebury Game Notes
Bates Game Notes
October 5, 2011 Bates Game Notes
Trinity Game Notes
September 28, 2011 Trinity Game Notes
Bowdoin Game Notes
September 21, 2011 Bowdoin Game Notes
Season Outlook 2011
September 21, 2011 Season Outlook 2011
The Summer of a Lifetime
August 26, 2011 The Summer of a Lifetime