Unrivaled: Filming the Story Nears Completion

by Bailey Basham, Messenger Staff Writer

After several years of filming, researching, and interviewing, the makers of the documentary on Sewanee’s historic 1899 football team have raised upwards of $200,000 to fund the creation of the film.

Norman Jetmundsen, class of 1976, first learned about the story when he was a student in the ’70s, and since then, he has been enamored with the history.

The story goes that in the year 1899, the Sewanee Tigers football team boarded a train for a six day, 2,500-mile trip, during which they were scheduled to play five games against some of today’s college football favorites. At the end of the trip, broken and exhausted, the team returned to the Mountain having outscored opponents Texas, Texas A&M, LSU, Tulane and Ole Miss, 322–10.

Back in 2018, Jetmundsen began working on the film, along with fellow alumni David Crews and Kate Gillespie. Though the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down production significantly, to date, they have raised about $230,000 toward their goal of $250,000.

“Just like the team of 1899, this documentary has involved perseverance and patience in reaching the goal line,” Jetmundsen said. “We have engaged the services of a professional video editor, Matthew Graves, who has worked diligently on doing many draft edits of the film and helping to fine tune it. We have also recorded narration by an Episcopal priest from Alabama, the Reverend Gates Shaw, who has a wonderful Southern accent and eloquent preacher’s delivery that is perfect for the film.”

Last December, the producers and editor gathered in Sewanee to film some football reenactments in vintage uniforms and gear. The reenactors included David’s son, Battle Crews, and Aubrey Black, son of Robert and Kelley Black. Cal Burrows, the team’s invaluable African-American trainer and the unsung hero of the story, was portrayed by W. Marichal Gentry.

“The reenactments were even better than anticipated and will add to the richness of the documentary,” Crews said.

The team hopes to have the film completed by the end of the year, and Jetmundsen said the team has created a surprise addition to the film that will be revealed before the release.

To support the creation of the film or to tell your piece of the story, visit <www.sewanee1899.org>.