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The Play, Annotated

Few moments achieve enough infamy to become known by a single noun, but The Play — the final four seconds of the 1982 California-Stanford game, the one in which California safety Kevin Moen outmaneuvers Stanford’s defenders and most of its brass section — qualifies. Thirty-five years later, we caught up with the faces (and backs of heads) in Robert Stinnett’s famed photo. Not visible: Gary Tyrrell, the trombonist who took the brunt of Moen’s crushing post-touchdown victory leap.

1. Jamison Smeltz

“I was alerted to the existence of this photo the morning after the game, when my mom phoned me from New Jersey and said, ‘Your picture’s on the front page of the Courier-Post,’ Camden County’s local paper. From our vantage point in the end zone, we couldn’t quite see what was happening. When I saw a blue uniform coming toward me, I turned left and avoided a collision by a foot or so.” Today: Smeltz is a freelance musician and bookkeeper (and former music teacher) in Berkeley. 

 

2. Kevin Moen

“What you’re seeing there is an uncontrolled leap of joy — it was honestly not my intention to run over a band guy or hit Gary. My first thought was, ‘Hey, I’m in the end zone!’ But right then I got mobbed by 20 teammates, so my next thought was, ‘Oh, my God, I’m gonna die!’ And it’s funny, my son grew up reminding me we can never leave a game early. He’s like, ‘Come on, Dad, you know what happens!’” Today: Moen is a real estate professional in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.

 

3. Stu Weiss

“Yes, I’m the cowering sax player in the photo. I was a little shell-shocked that weekend. The night before, my sax had gotten run over near Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco — if you look closely, my sax is pretty beat up. All I saw was a 230-pound guy running through, and I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m not going near him.’ I use the photo a lot — I give seminars and guest lectures at Berkeley, and that’s how I introduce myself.” Today: Weiss is chief scientist at Creekside Science in Menlo Park, California.

 

4. Dwayne Virnau

“The whole weekend was surreal. The day before the game, we had a march through San Francisco in which a crazed motorist drove his car through the band. And we were wearing hard hats because the Cal fans were in the habit of throwing fruit at the band. We take a certain pride in being involved in The Play, but this acceptance did not happen overnight.” Today: Virnau lives in his home state of Texas after working in Stanford information technology for 25 years.

 

5. Richey Neuman

“There’s a great Far Side cartoon that captures my memory of seeing Kevin with the ball. It’s these two pilots flying a plane, and one of them says, ‘What’s a mountain goat doing up here in the clouds?’ I had just seen a really big guy in a Cal uniform and a football run by, and I was like, ‘Oh s---, we’ve done something wrong.’ … I wanted to go away, whatever going away meant.” Today: Neuman is vice president of medical affairs at a Bay Area biotech company.

 

6. Ann Scheder-Bieschin

“I remember this sense of exhilaration that we won, and running out behind the rest of the band, and then, all of a sudden … this. It was going from the highest high to people shouting and yelling and running. I thought, ‘Something big is headed this way — get back to the end zone where you were safe!’” Today: Scheder-Bieschin is an independent educational consultant in the Bay Area and remains involved with the Stanford band’s alumni board.

 

About Champion

Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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