9 days after Sept. 11 attacks, college football returned with the nation watching

It was a college football game like no other.


It was a college football game like no other.

Nine days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Mississippi State University hosted the University of South Carolina on a Thursday night, with the entire nation watching.

"We knew the spotlight was going to be on Starkville, Mississippi, that day, and that is kind of how we took it – as an honor and a great opportunity," said Josh Morgan, former MSU free safety and current head football coach for Warren Central High School.

Local and state law enforcement surrounded the stadium. FBI agents were also on campus, as young men in their late teens and early 20s prepared to not just play a football game, but to also help heal a nation.

"When you step onto the field, 'Is something going to happen?' You see airplanes flying. You see dogs. It really affects the mental of trying to get prepared for a game," said former MSU quarterback Wayne Madkin.

That day, cowbells were not allowed inside Davis Wade Stadium, and before the game, both teams joined the band, National Guard and ROTC on the field to hold the American flag.

"It was the biggest flag I have ever seen in my life," Morgan said. "It was stretched across Scott Field, and I remember all of us saying, 'Don’t let this flag touch the ground.' I remember all of us pulling it tight and waving it together."

"When I stepped out there and I saw the planes, and I saw the fans and I realized I was dead center in front of it with a million Americans watching, I knew that was something that was going to live in history for the rest of our lives," Madkin said.

Those who were there, will never forget what happened during the moment of silence.

"You could hear a pin drop. Then all of a sudden, instead of 'Go to hell Ole Miss,' it’s 'Go to hell Bin Laden,'" Morgan said.

"I hear it from the left side of my ear, 'Go to hell Bin Laden. Go to hell.' And then the crowd cheers," Madkin said. "It was just loud, and all over the place, and the whole crowd went crazy and got back up again. It is just amazing the things that 20 years later, that still stick out to you."

Madkin and Morgan said being a part of that game is something that will live with them forever.