Past Michigan Players talk about their memories of playing in the Pontiac Silverdome

Written by
Jeff Corrion
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On December 3rd, 2017 the Pontiac Silverdome is scheduled to be demolished and thousands of athletes on all levels will relive their memories growing up. Whether it was a Sunday at the Lions game, a state championship played from 1976-2004, youth games, Motor City Bowl (1997-2001) or Wrestlemania - the Pontiac Silverdome is the common denominator.

Many Michigan residents will recall how spectacular Barry Sanders was for the Lions or just the Lions playing there in general. The FIFA World Cup in 1994 at the Silverdome is also mentioned as one of the best sporting events in US history.

Outside of the professional athletes who made the Pontiac Silverdome an icon, many other local high school players have district memories of playing in the "Dome."

In what would be the final college football game in the Pontiac Silverdome, River Rouge RB Chester Taylor snapped Marshall's 3 game win streak during the Motor City Bowl game. Taylor concluded the year with 1,430 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns which led the MAC in 2001. Chester Taylor scored the game-winning touchdown with over 3 minutes left.

In 1980 legendary head coach, Al Fracassa led Brother Rice to their 2nd state title by defeating Fordson 6-0. Dave Yarema (Michigan State) found Paul Jokisch (Michigan) for a 38-yard touchdown.

In 1986 County Day quarterback Charlie Johnson found Steve Mann on the last play to lift the Yellowjackets to an 18-14 win over Muskegon Catholic Central in Class C.

In 1987 Ann Arbor Pioneer's Chris Moore kicked a 35-yard field in the 2nd quarter to defeat Detroit Catholic Central in Class A. It's noteworthy because it's the lowest final score and in 2017 Clarkston beat West Bloomfield in Division 1, 3-2.

1989 was the last year of 4 playoff Divisions and Class B's Final by some is considered the best state final ever. Farmington Hills Harrison / Michigan State standout Mill "The Thrill" Coleman engineered a game-tying touchdown drive in the final 2 minutes. Harrison's Steve Hill kicked the PAT to make the score 28-27 and in the final seconds Hill picked off a DeWitt pass to seal the win.

In 1991 Saginaw Arthur Hill orchestrated a 12-play, 72-yard game-winning touchdown in the final minutes to defeat Detroit Catholic Central. With 1:43 remaining in the game Marvin "Marvellous" Wright called his own number on a QB keeper. Arthur Hill's Howard Foster had his second interception of the day a minute later to seal Arthur Hill's 13-12 victory. Arthur Hill 1992 RB/LB/DT Taj Mustapha who is the father of West Bloomfield/Wisconsin WR commit, Taj Mustapha had the key block on Wright's touchdown provided his insight on the play, "It was a game-winning drive and with 1st and goal we set them up with the trap, then veer and then back to me and he ran off the block for the TD. It was that one moment in time when I knew I had to play my role for the sake of the team. He scores, we are up with less than a minute. I get a sack and pressure on QB and Foster intercepts to seal the deal. State Champs my senior year."

In 1999 Saginaw defeated Brother Rice 14-7 to win the Division 2 state championship. Saginaw 2002 S Kirk Carruth said that Trojans only dressed 29 guys but that list included; the #1 receiver in the country - Charles Rogers (MSU), Jerome Jackson and LaMarr Woodley were freshman starters and Roy Manning went to Michigan, Charles Rogers, Jeremiah McLaurin, and Ron Stanley went to Michigan State. Carruth, Marcel and Jamel Dillard played for GVSU, Terry Jackson played for Minnesota, Otis Washington played at Vanderbilt. Tory Humphrey played at CMU and went to the NFL with the Saints and Packers. Anthony Roberson was a QB, he played basketball at Florida. Carruth also added, "Wonderful feeling playing where Barry Sanders played, we still talk about it."

Saginaw 2000 DB Jeremiah McLaurin who had one of the biggest plays in the finals history with an interception added, "Playing in the state championship in 1999 at The Pontiac Silverdome was one of my best moments as a football player. My team of (Saginaw High) beat (Birmingham Brother Rice) 14-7 for the Division 2 state title. I remember looking up in the lights as BBR QB Matt Baker threw the ball up on my side and as the ball continues to get closer to me, my eyes got so big that I knew it was coming to me and I had the opportunity to ice the game with an interception on the last play of the game to win it (which I did for the 23rd time) and I brought the ball home to the community of Saginaw! One of the best moments in my life and I hope top plays in MHSAA Football History at The Pontiac Silverdome. I also took a piece of the turf when I was coming off the field to add to my collection cause I knew it wasn't going to be there for very long. What an experience and no one can ever take that away from me and my teammates and coaches!"

In 2000 Grand Ledge scored twice in .31 seconds within the final .53 seconds of the game to defeat Eisenhower 19-14. QB Matt Bohnet scored from 5-yards before Grand Ledge recovered the onside kick and took the lead with a touchdown pass from Bohnet to Tim George.

2001 was a crazy year of history being made as Chesaning's Matt ferry returned a punt return in the final 2 minutes of the game to lift the Indians over Orchard Lake Saint Mary's, 14-7. 2001 was the 5th year in a row that Farmington Hills Harrison won a State Championship and the first year of three straight by Detroit Catholic Central in Division 1 from 2001-2003.

In 2004 Jim Schragg of Constantine set a state final record 307 rushing yards as the Falcons defeated Suttons Bay. In 2017 Grand Rapids Catholic Central RB Nolan Fugate was 1 yard shy of tying the longstanding record.

Many others have had incredible moments at the Silverdome and provided their reaction to The D Zone for this exclusive story.

Saginaw Nouvel 2005 WR Blair White who had a successful career at Michigan State as well as two years with the Indianapolis Colts - "Close tough game for us vs. Ravenna. We had a fumble returned 85 yards or so for a touchdown and they ruled it out of bounds afterwards. Replay clearly showed the linebacker, Nick Hurd, to be clearly in bounds. This was the play I remember most vividly when reminiscing. Regardless, we needed to make it happen and did not. As a wide receiver, I personally had a chance to make a couple plays but fell short. What a fantastic experience though in those turf shoes that we purchased specifically for the playoffs - we played the previous week at the Superior Dome where there was also AstroTurf."

Saginaw Nouvel 2004 ILB Drew Weigl - "Well it was the state championship so there was obviously that weighing on my mind the entire day. I can remember watching all the state titles at the Silverdome in years past and was pretty excited about the opportunity to play there.

It was a 4:00pm start when they used to clear the place out between sessions so when we got there the place was empty. I remember jogging out for warmups and looking up and the place just being huge really surreal looking up. They didn’t open the doors until an hour before kickoff so we were already out doing stretches when they let the crowds in and I can remember hearing the people cheering and screaming as they ran from the gate and in to find their seats.

At halftime they didn’t give us a locker room and we sat in chairs in the middle of the hallway.

I was a captain and we lost, worst part was having to do the press conference after losing the biggest game of your life."

Nouvel lost 16-14 to Ravenna in Division 6

Kenowa Hills Head Football Coach, East Kentwood 2002 ILB Sam Becker - "The entire experience was surreal. Everyone in Michigan HS football wanted to make it to the "Dome" and we had the opportunity to make it happen. I remember pulling off the highway to see the Dome listening to the 8 Mile soundtrack on my portable CD player. I remember how they herd you in and out of the locker rooms like cattle. I remember the locker rooms being in shambles when we walked in. I remember the sea of black and red, EK Falcons fans and how loud they were. I remember being nervous for every game, except this one. I remember the elbow tape and the subsequent bloody rug burns from the old AstroTurf and how hard it was! I remember being a special teamer, thinking that I will get my name on Fox Sports with a tackle or a late hit. I remember our big lead, their comeback, and then us coming up short. I remember sitting with my head in my hands in the locker room after the game and I remember my stoic coach showing emotion and love for our team after."

East Kentwood lost 36-26 to Detroit Catholic Central in Division 1

Detroit King 1994 WR Terel Patrick who is now the offensive coordinator at King has 2 recollections of the Silverdome, "First catch of the year 1992 against Brother Rice I caught a 78 yard touchdown to tie the game and it was called back for an ineligible man downfield." Patrick also added, "My 2nd memory was the turf. It was my first time playing on turf, same game against Brother Rice I slid to catch a ball, when I got up all of my skin was on the turf and my lower leg was pink. To this day I still have the scar. The turf at the Silverdome was like playing on a hundred yards of brillo pads. I literally saw all the skin on my leg on the turf."

Detroit King 1995 DT Jonathan Rumbley who was the first team all city, shared his thoughts on his experience at Ford Field, "I remember the field was hard as heck when making tackles! Terel Patrick who is the Offensive Coordinator at King now played receiver I remembered he tried to catch a ball he had carpet burn on the side of calf about 6 inches long. That Silverdome turf was no joke. After we lost the game we met Chris Speilman on our way to the team bus, what a cool dude he was. The last time I was in the Dome ever was when Lions vs Falcons when Barry played his last home game there, that was the year the Falcons went to the SB. That was my first Lions game live and I never have seen so many fights in one game. It seemed like when a paper plane hit someone a fight would break out."

Troy Athens 1985 DE Steve Kowalski played vs. Troy in week 9 in 1983 as the Redhawks won 9-6, "I remember the Lions players walking off the field from practice before our practice and Billy Sims flashing the Hang Loose sign with both hands. And the Red Hawks got the win!"

Romeo 2019 LB Brock Horne's father Aaron Horne who was a standout LB at Ferris State discussed a CYO scrimmage when he played at St. Anne vs. St. Michael of Livonia, "Very cool experience for a young kid. I remember the turf being very rough and getting rug burns and it was laid over cement. It wasn’t a good game playing surface but a privilege to play there. We tied St. Michael 0-0 I do believe."

If you have a moment you would like to share, please comment below or add your picture of being inside of the Silverdome.


Posted by Taj Mustapha sr 11/29/2017

Great article. Gonna miss the Dome.

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