Jersey retirement for a former Magnolia High School superstar athlete was a hot topic of discussion Monday as former teammates of Roy Green — the Class of 1975 standout who went on to become a collegiate All-American and played 14 years in the NFL — voiced their support for such a move, formally requesting for the local school board of education to take action.
“I know that at Magnolia High School, this is something that they do not do,” said Aaron Thomas, a former teammate of Green. “… But I just think this would be a good time to do something for someone that is deserving.”
Thomas went on to remind the Board that 2019 marks the 45th anniversary of the last Panther football state title, of which Green was a standout on both sides of the ball, and that the former Henderson State University All-American and NFL star had already been inducted into the Missouri and Arkansas Sports Halls of Fame. His jersey has been retired by his college team and Green was inducted into the Cardinals Ring of Honor in 2016. During the induction speech, the former All-Pro wide receiver thanked his home town of Magnolia.
“He never forgot where he came from,” Thomas added. “And I think it’s time for us not to forget what he means to us and to just do what’s right.”
Marcus McDonald, another former teammate of Green’s, later added that the group present Monday initiated the jersey retirement issue on their own and not at the request of Green.
Green’s accomplishments are many. His pro career saw him drafted 89th overall as a wide receiver in the 1979 NFL Draft. He played the bulk of his time with the St. Louis (later Phoenix) Cardinals and ended with the Philadelphia Eagles. He retired from the league in 1992.
During his NFL days, Green earned First Team All-Pro and Pro-Bowl honors in 1983 and 1984 and led the league in receiving yards in 1984. He was also a standout special teams player, even tying a then NFL record with a 106-yard kick return his rookie season against the Dallas Cowboys — a moment many present Monday still remembered vividly.
“The first thing he did when they held to mic to him was say, ‘hello Magnolia,’” Thomas added.
Green was also an AIC All-American at Henderson State where he played defensive back and special teams and was part of a 1975 Magnolia High School team that won both basketball and football state championships.
In response, the school board was strongly receptive to the plea, but stated that matters such as renaming a building or retiring a jersey was not standard protocol within the school system. The board did, however, indicate it would attempt to make the request happen.
School Board President Mike Waters thanked Thomas for going about the proper channels to get the ball rolling on the matter, but stated that the board “Can’t just say, ‘hey, let’s retire Roy Green’s jersey.’”
Waters noted that he personally felt the move should happen and that both parties — the supporters for the jersey retirement and the board — would need to work together and navigate already cemented school policies to accomplish the jersey retirement.
“I’ve studied on this for hours because I think it needs to be done,” the board president said. “But [we have to see] what we can do within the restrictions that this board is under.”
Waters pointed to a lengthy school policy book that governs the board. He also highlighted a rule that dates back 67 years, to the construction of Magnolia High School’s present campus, that states no building or interpreted building contents can be named after an individual.
As a possible solution to the jersey retirement, Waters suggested following a similar path taken when the school honored former Magnolia High School coach and longtime athletics director Don Hubbard, where a plaque was made but was not placed inside the stadium. Green’s plaque could include a picture of the star, his number 35 number, and his accomplishments.
“I think we could do something really nice,” he said.
Waters also said that a new policy would need to be written to determine what factors must be met for to retire a jersey and that the board would be bound by that policy going forward. He noted that other groups have desired a building naming or honoring in the past, but that “they were not even in the same room” as Green.
“They’ve been waiting to see exactly what was going to be done with Roy Green,” Waters said. “So we have to have a policy that states exactly what and how this will be handled.”
He later added that the moment Green’s honoring is approved, “somebody else is going to make a run at it” and that everything the school does is “policy-driven” and that “a lawsuit usually follows every one of those policies.”
To complicate matters more, no other high schools in the area, according to the board president, have retired a jersey. This leaves no policy to follow.
“We’re going to breaking new ground with this,” Waters said.
The board also requested that the parties supporting Green to be patient and that it will need to work them as well as the state school board and its legal counsel to form a new policy. Waters stated that he would hope to have the jersey retirement in place by the end of the 2019 football season.
“We can retire his jersey and accomplish it if y’all will work with us,” Waters said to the group.
McDonald on Monday also issued impassioned remarks to the school board, spurring them on to see that Green’s jersey is retired.
“You at the school board are leaders, you’re visionaries,” he said. “… This is a vision that you can change things.”
McDonald later added, regarding breaking new policy ground: “There are managers and then there are leaders. There’s a difference. Managers manage what is already in place, but leaders have visions.”
In response, Waters said, “We will move forward with this,” and that the matter could have policy updates and a first reading ready by the September school board meeting.
In closing, Waters added that recent social media comments claiming the Magnolia School Board did not support athletics are patently false. As proof against the claim, he pointed to board member Lynsandra Curry as a former star basketball player at Waldo, board member Steven Souter as a former Panthers quarterback and baseball player, and Superintendent John Ward who was a former college basketball player. He noted that board member Roger Loper was a high school football player who, later as a Magnolia principal, attended countless sporting events, and that board member William Watson coached at Walker High School and faced the likes of Houston Nutt and Karl Malone. Waters himself said he attended his first Panther game in 1962 and has attended almost every home and many away games during his 23-year stint on the school board.
The president also pointed to past and present athletic facility projects that included a $1 million renovation to Panther Stadium’s interior and press box, a $200,000 lighting replacement, a new scoreboard and twice resurfacing the track. He also highlighted a $2 million indoor practice facility, a $5 million Panther Arena with a “state-of-the-art” band hall attached, a girls softball complex, a boys field house with public restrooms, and a $500,000 weight room and cheer facility.
MHS is also almost complete with a “double-wide” auxiliary volleyball and multipurpose gym and every school campus at Magnolia contains a gym or multipurpose facility and buses.
Responding directly to any comments, Water said: “To use an education term, whoever put that out there, didn’t do their homework.”