Sports | November 21, 2021 3:07 pm

39 Years Ago, One of College Football’s Greatest Plays Took Place

A stunning ending to a hard-fought game

Players look back at "The Play"
From left to right, the participants of the 1982 Stanford vs. The University of California game, announcer Joe Starkey, Stanford quarterback John Elway, host Craig Hummer, receiever Kevin Moen, and trombonist Gary Tyrrell, film the special The Play 25 on October 17, 2007 in San Francisco, California.
Don Feria/Getty Images for

It’s a rare event when a college marching band plays a crucial outcome in a football game — but then, the play that’s now immortalized as The Play was an especially rare event. The occasion was a late-season game between UC Berkeley and Stanford — the latter of which featured future NFL great John Elway as quarterback. In the final seconds of the game, the Bears recovered a kick and proceeded to make a desperate run towards the end zone — with players tossing the ball from one to the other as they made their way down the field.

So confident was Stanford in their victory that their marching band took to the field — which further complicated matters, and allowed Berkeley’s Kevin Moen to make a run through the marching band’s members and score the winning touchdown.

Nearly 40 years after it took place, The Play has become an essential part of college football history. In a new article for the Los Angeles Times, James Rainey — who has been researching a book on the game and The Play — offered some insights as to what it was like on the field when a historic event took place.

There are a lot of great details in Rainey’s article, but what stands out the most is the emphasis on togetherness that the Berkeley team had. As onetime player George Niualiku phrased it, “It’s the hunt, not the kill.” And his teammate Fred Williams echoed that sentiment, saying, “The Play is a direct result of that brotherhood.” It’s a welcome feeling — and it’s one that led to a moment that still resonates, decades later.