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Lofquist: Loudoun turns on the purple for JMU

Lisa and HB Kilgour with their daughter Taylor, a current JMU student, in Frisco, Texas, to support their son Cameron Kilgour, No. 62 on the JMU team and a graduate of Woodgrove High School. Courtesy Photo
If you were on a flight to Dallas from any of the D.C. area airports two weekends back, you may have noticed there were a lot of people wearing purple. They were all going to cheer for James Madison University in the FCS Championship in Frisco, Texas, and many of them were from Loudoun County.

JMU, once a small teachers’ college nestled into the Shenandoah Valley, has boomed into a sports powerhouse—especially in football. Their fan base has followed along, painting the stadium purple in their win last year against Youngstown State to win their first FCS crown since 2004.

As JMU has grown, so has interest in attending from Loudoun students, pleasing no doubt their JMU alumni parents. The JMU team also can thank Loudoun for six current members of the football team.

“JMU has become a higher priority on students’ lists than previous years … JMU is not only known academically, but also athletically,” said Michael Humphrise, who traveled from Ashburn to be at this year's championship game. After missing the 2004 championship season, he swore not to miss another.

He’s also the president of the Black Alumni Association and has seen JMU stock rise among prospective students and the media.

Humphrise wasn’t alone in flying halfway across the country to support JMU. In response to just one post in the JMU Nation Facebook group, alumni, parents, and current students from Purcellville to Sterling were reaching out to say they were going to the game and what JMU meant to them. Often they weren’t traveling alone, but bringing their families along to cheer for the team.

Mark McKinley, class of 1992, joined his fellow football team alumni in gathering to support the present team, bringing along his 12-year-old son, Conor. His wife, who went to Florida, has accepted that their children are often decked in purple. Like Humphrise, he never misses a championship game and the chance to cheer on his team, remembering when he took the field as No. 66 decked out in purple and gold. He was on the team that won the first playoff game in JMU history, beating Delaware 42-35 in 1991.

Current students saved up to be there in person for the game. Cameron Jay, a sophomore on the JMU Club Cheerleading team, stayed with friends to be able to afford to be at the game after promising herself that she would be there after missing last year’s game. She’s found the number of alumni in Loudoun supportive – “They are always texting me after we win games and then calling me when I’m home for breaks asking if I’m going to the next game or how school is going and how I like it," she said.

“I find JMU fans everywhere in Loudoun. Almost every time you are out and about, someone shouts ‘Go Dukes’ at you! I think people wear their colors with a lot of pride these days, and it is really fun to see that,” said Lyle Reger, class of 1991, who lives in Leesburg with his wife, also a JMU grad.

James Madison University alum Michael Humphrise (wearing the hat) on his flight down to Frisco, Texas, to cheer on his Dukes. Courtesy Photo

In the parking lot of the stadium before this year's game, JMU fans greeted purple-clad strangers with “Go Dukes” and invited them to tailgate. They joked about the NCAA’s ban on streamers, a JMU tradition, which was ignored the minute JMU scored a touchdown. Commiserating on travel experiences, cost of tickets -- upwards of $400 on the ticket re-seller sites -- and the winter blast back home, the fans made a purple wave in the parking lot.

“There is this automatic camaraderie that I think alumni from any university feel, but with JMU I honestly believe that the connection is a bit stronger,” commented Taylor Tashjian, a senior at JMU and a graduate of Broad Run. She also made the trek to be there in Frisco for the second year in a row.

It’s this JMU spirit that kept the JMU crowd in their seats as the clock ticked down and JMU fell to North Dakota State 17-13. As they walked out quietly, JMU fans didn’t leave the parking lot. Instead, they consoled each other, promising to be back next year and asking who was going to the N.C. State game, which kicks off the next football season.

On Sunday, as the JMU diehards found their ways home, the flights to the D.C. area were again crowded with purple—a little more subdued, but no less proud of their team. As each person boarded the plane and walked by someone wearing purple, they would nod, smile, and greet each other as JMU fans do, win or lose ...

“Go Dukes.”

James Madison alum Jen Lofquist is a regular contributor to the Loudoun Times-Mirror. She lives in Sterling and can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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