ORONO — John Huard wasn’t anticipating an outpouring of emotion Saturday while being honored at halftime of the Maine football game.

Huard, a former Black Bear All-America linebacker, received an on-campus salute from the National Football Foundation’s College Hall of Fame.

“I’ve been away from football for enough time now that it’s not like it was,” Huard said about two hours before kickoff. “Yeah, it’s exciting and I’m looking forward to Maine starting and playing well. I just look forward to a game.”

Huard, a native of Waterville, was a first-team All-American in 1965 and 1966 for the Black Bears. He played four years in the NFL with the Denver Broncos and New Orleans Saints. He is the first Maine player inducted to the Hall of Fame, and will be formally honored Dec. 9 in New York City. That will be the 57th Hall of Fame class enshrined, and Huard pointed to the symmetry – he wore No. 57 in the NFL. His No. 32 is one of three retired numbers at Maine.

“I didn’t play it to see how many Hall of Fames, how many honors or achievements I could get,” Huard said. “I just wanted to play the game of football the best I could. Since I was 12 years old, my goal was to play in the NFL. I knew that I had to go to a college and get a degree to do that. I didn’t want to leave Maine. It was a tremendous mix; we had great people here.”

Huard estimated that 15 to 18 of his teammates were on hand to help him celebrate. They were sharing stories about their playing days, and newer events surrounding their children and grandchildren.

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“It’s an unexpected day,” Huard said. “I try to take it the way it is. I was brought up that way. I don’t try to get high and I don’t try to get low. I try to stay in a medium that I can shift if I have to. I’m not going to lose (my composure) at all.”

NEW MAINE men’s basketball coach Bob Walsh was absorbing the tailgate atmosphere 90 minutes before kickoff with a big smile. He figured it had been 20 years since he attended a college football game on a campus. He trekked over to State College, Pennsylvania, in 1995 to see Penn State take on Ohio State, just to soak up the ambiance.

“This is great,” Walsh said. “It really makes a difference in the energy level on a campus to have football going on on a Saturday.”

Walsh’s previous two coaching stops – at Providence College and Rhode Island College – were devoid of football teams.

He would occasionally attend some neutral-site games at the Meadowlands in New Jersey. But his biggest previous brush with college football came when he attended Hamilton College. There, the basketball players were tapped to work the chain gang on the sideline during football games. Dressed in costume.

“It would be something like Winnie the Pooh,” Walsh said. “But this will be a much different experience.”

GOV. PAUL LEPAGE was in attendance and spoke to the players about 75 minutes before kickoff.

Karlton Creech, the university’s new athletic director, was in charge of giving LePage a tour of the campus. He had never met Maine’s governor.

“I hear he’s a character,” Creech said, wearing a blue suit and gearing up for his first football game after moving to Orono from the University of North Carolina. “I’m looking forward to it.”


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