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MHS' Agnew among honorees

By By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
Oct. 10, 2003
It has been 40 years since The University of the South went undefeated in football, but the people associated with the small Tennessee liberal arts college haven't forgotten the players.
The Tigers will honor members of the 1963 football team, as well as players from the 1958 squad that also went undefeated, during the school's homecoming game against DePauw on Saturday.
The University of the South, also known as Sewanee, expects to welcome back about 40 players from the approximately 70 on the two undefeated squads, and Meridian native M.L. Agnew will be among those
"The guys came from all over the country, and we had about a 45-man squad," said Agnew, who played tailback on the 1963 team. "It was a wonderful experience meeting all of those different people."
Agnew, who is an Episcopal priest and the Dean at St. Mark's Cathedral in Shreveport, La., almost never went to Sewanee after graduating from Meridian High School.
In fact, the former Wildcats tailback, who was a member of the 1959 Big 8 championship team, said he had never even heard of the school that at the time was all-male and had about 600 students.
"I really didn't know anything about Sewanee," Agnew said. "I thought I would play ball in the SEC or one of the smaller colleges. I went up to Sewanee in February of my senior year, and I fell in love with it."
At Sewanee, Agnew lettered in football, track and field and baseball, and he was a member of the Order of Gownsmen, an academic honor society.
The football team's undefeated season came in Agnew's senior year, and the former tailback said the team just felt the 1963 season was going to be special from the start.
"We had 12 seniors (on the team). We had been together for four years, and we made a commitment to do our best," said Agnew, who was named a first team Little All-American in 1963. "With a little luck and hard work, we were able to go undefeated."
Agnew said the game that sticks out the most in his mind is Sewanee's final contest of the undefeated season.
The Tigers lined up against Washington University from St. Louis, Mo., and Sewanee fell behind 13-7 with a couple of minutes left in the game.
Sewanee drove down the field for the final score, and thanks to Washington University missing an extra-point kick, the Tigers captured a 14-13 win for a perfect 8-0 season.
But more than the final score and action on the field, Agnew said it was the support from the community that really sticks out.
"Sewanee is like a village," Agnew said. "It had two service stations, a general merchandise store, a convenience store, a bank and the college. I think we had about 3,500 people at that last game. It was a tremendous community thing. I guess the stadium would only seat about 2,000, and people were up and down the sidelines. It was a victory for the community."
After graduating from Sewanee, Agnew signed a free agent contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played throughout the 1964 exhibition season with the Steelers, but was cut before the start of the regular season.
Agnew went on to attend seminary in Alexandria, Va., and he played for the minor league affiliate of the Washington Redskins in the Atlantic Coast Football League while finishing school.
Agnew said even though he hasn't been in Meridian since graduating from high school, he will always have a special place in his heart for his hometown.
"I had a great experience at Meridian High School," Agnew said. "Meridian was a great place to grow up and play ball. Meridian was a place of inspiration for me."
Agnew, who serves on Sewanee's executive committee and travels to the school three to four times a year, left for Tennessee on Thursday. He will meet with his brothers, Sam who lives in Jackson and Chris who lives in Decatur, Ala., before going to the University of the South.
"I'm looking to renew relationships with colleagues, and to be quite selfish, I'm looking forward to spending time with my brothers," Agnew said of the weekend. "This time, it is all going to be fun."