Three Decades of Friendship and Football

by Toni Hopper

East Central University HOF induction includes three local men

A trio of high school football players from this region met at East Central University in Ada during their first year in college. That was 30 years ago. Somehow, they have all migrated to Marlow, and the bonds they formed as young men hold steadfast and true today. Two of them work side by side at the high school.

Dr. Ryan Scott, Marlow High School Principal Bryan Brantley, and MHS Assistant Principal Jeremy Gage were all members of the 1993 NAIA National Championship Football team at ECU.

The National Title that was won three decades ago got its moment again earlier this month. About 35 players and coaches returned to ECU for the Hall of Fame Banquet on Friday, Feb. 2, and a recognition ceremony during halftime of the ECU-Arkansas Tech basketball game on Saturday afternoon.

Brantley and Scott attended the ceremony, though Gage was not able to attend. Gage played high school football at Chickasha, Brantley played at Rush Springs, and Dr. Scott played in Marlow. Gage also is a coach for MHS football.

"We have been teammates and friends for 30 years now, and all three proudly live and work in this community," Brantley said. "The three of us started our football and college careers as freshmen together at ECU and all three of us remained on the team for four years."

Gage said his roommate left and Scott became his roommate. "We have been friends ever since and he is my dentist and good friend," Gage said. "Bryan and I grew up only 15 miles apart and came from two different worlds and personalities but the bond is neat and special and has only gotten stronger working together. Specifically, we have to navigate difficult situations that would normally cause conflict between coworkers. That is nonexistent between us because of that bond and friendship created 30 years ago at ECU."

Scott said that the ceremony was nice, but the highlight was reconnecting with his teammates. "There were guys in attendance that I haven't had a chance to see in years, so catching up did the soul good," Scott said. "Lots of things change over 30 years, however, those friends are friends for life."

Gage shared a similar sentiment. "The best outcome and most rewarding thing were the friendships and relationships created during that time. The bond that you create with your college teammates, is one that never decreases over time." He said it was one of the best and most rewarding times in his life.

"We are all proud to be a part of an amazing group of players and coaches that managed to win a National Title a long time ago," said Brantley. "It's an honor to be a part of such a great team, and to be recognized as members of the ECU HOF . . . however, the best part of the weekend was seeing my ECU football brothers and getting to spend quality time reminiscing about "Glory Days!" ECU's Hall of Fame Class includes more than 150 former student-athletes, alumni, coaches, administrators, and teams who have made significant impacts and contributions to the ECU Athletics Department.

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