THE FINAL 49:
During the final 49 weeks until Kickoff 2013, we will take a moment each week to look at various aspects of the football program.
Feb. 3, 2013
By Tom Whitestone
Saturday was the university's annual Homecoming Day.
The alumni basketball game preceding the thrilling Homecoming Game may not have had the drama of the 49ers 66-65 Atlantic 10 win over Massachusetts -- but it was sure fun to watch.
It was fun to see the reunions, the smiles and the laughs. It was fun to see Jon Heath, who starred in the early 70's, drain threes. It was fun to watch Byron Dinkins, star of the 1988 Sun Belt Championship, bring the ball upcourt -- but truth be known -- it is always fun to watch Byron Dinkins bring the ball upcourt. Dink never goes out of style.
This coming fall, the university will host its first football homecoming. It will still be several years removed from a reunion of sorts for former players. The 49ers only former players are Owls, as they were known when the school played football from 1946-48.
For a while, football's Homecoming will not include long lists of former players.
For the first several years, football's Homecoming will be all about the many alums who didn't get to see football at UNC Charlotte, nevermind play football.
On Oct. 12, 2013, they will return to campus. They will enter through a pillared entrance they may have never seen. They will visit a Student Union that will absolutely amaze. And they will walk to a stadium that they find hard to believe.
The reunions, the smiles and laughs will light up the university.
No, they will not talk about that big football game a few years ago. They won't watch a video of that football conference title. They won't compare football stars from 20 years ago with stars from 10 years ago.
But they will talk. They will talk about how the school has grown. They will talk about how they had hoped for 49ers football. Some will even tell their kids about the time they marched through campus carrying a makeshift goalpost.
Their stories may not include remarkable games -- but their stories will still be remarkable.
And in a few years, when the 49ers do have a list of former players coming back for Homecoming activities, the stories they will tell.
So picture this -- Homecoming 2017. A group photo of former players gathered for the festivities. It will include some of the 49ers' first four-year players.
Stories of starting a program. They'll tell their families that they remember when the stadium was still being built. They'll tell their families about the first practice ever held there. They'll tell their families about playing in that first game.
Their history is being made right now. And it will include the first fall Homecoming. Oct. 12, 2013.
And in time, we may talk of some of these current 49ers with the same reverence with which we speak of Byron Dinkins. As Dink knows, making dreams reality never goes out of style.
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