MILITARY MATTERS: Are you ready for some football?

By Chuck Leonard  - bio | email

FORT BENNING, GA (WTVM) - One look at the photo and you immediately recognize the man in the dark sweater.

His name is Dwight Eisenhower, and when the picture was taken in 1926, Maj. Eisenhower was serving as the head football coach of the Ft. Benning, Ga. Doughboys. Back then, the troops played a regular schedule against other military teams.

Flash forward to the 21st century and a game played last October. The Doughboy Bowl featured a team of 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat soldiers against the newly formed team from Columbus State University. The Hammer Brigade won 29-13.

Ft. Benning sports director Ken Wetherill says that game may have started something. "What we didn't want to do was just have one football game." Wetherill is an ex-Marine but loves being at one of the nation's leading Army post. "Part of my goal when I came to Ft. Benning was to bring back the Doughboy football team.

And he's doing just that. "We've been working in the whole off-season to get more games scheduled, and have opened it up to the entire installation for tryouts instead of just 3rd Brigade team."

Wetherill says if phone calls and emails are any gauge, close to 250 people are expected to fight it out for 40 roster spots.  The tryouts are scheduled for August 18, from 6-8pm at Essebagger Field.

Frederick Woods knows just how popular the sport can be. He first strapped on a helmet 50 years ago.  "You played to a packed house, you really did, because the post was open in those days. The civilian community, since you know football is a big thing in the South, they would come out for the game."

During the game last October a photograph was made from the stands at Doughboy Stadium and turned into a poster. Incredibly, it is almost exactly like a painting done 83 years earlier.

Wetherill explains, "When we were having the big football game, we knew we were going to have a huge turnout. I just asked if it was a possibility we could re-create that shot, and actually it is. I mean it looks just like it, just with real images and people in it instead of a painting. It's an incredible picture.

Wetherill would also like to recreate the glory days of Doughboy football.  Too bad Ike isn't around any longer.