Members of the East Lincoln Mustang track team, both men and women, pose with a 32-0 sign. The Mustangs, coached by Melvin Morrison, dedicated the season to former Carolina Panther running back Fred Lane. Jenny Walling / LTN Photo
Mustangs head coach Melvin Morrison poses with best friend Fred Lane in 1999. The two used to run together. Contributed Photo
The East Lincoln Mustangs track team just completed an unblemished season winning the Big South 3A Conference Championship.
The 32-0 season was the first time in Mustang history. The â€˜32â€™ serves an even greater importance in irony for the team.
Before the season Melvin Morrison and his runners dedicated the season to former Panthers running back Fred Lane.
Lane wore No. 32 for the Panthers and until his untimely death was the Panthersâ€™ all-time leading rusher.
Lane was shot and killed on July 6, 2000 shortly after being traded to the Indianapolis Colts.
Morrison, who was recently named the 2004 Big South 3A Conference Coach of the Year, was best friends with Lane.
That friendship brought Lane to Lincolnton and East Lincoln many times to visit with kids in a way to give back.
One of the ways Fred gave back was going to track meets with Morrison and his team when he coached at East Lincoln Middle School.
â€œThese kids (his current team) had gotten to know Fred then. He would come and visit me and work with the kids,â€ Morrison recalls.
Morrison and Lane would periodically run together in the offseason to get Lane ready for the rigors of a NFL schedule.
Morrison married this past June and Fred had promised to be in his wedding.
In a way he was thereâ€” his parents Mary and Fred Lane Sr. lit a memorial candle during the Morrisonâ€™s wedding.
The Mustangsâ€™ 2004 track team was similar to Fred Lane. They were both small in numbers, but both possessed the heart of a champion.
â€œOur team is small, being slightly 3A by numbers who competed against teams that will be 3A-4A next year. They (the team) were given very little chance to win the conference even though they were undefeated entering the conference meet,â€ Morrison said.
The Mustangs were given very little chance similarly to Lane who was given slim odds of making the NFL from Lane College.
A knock on Lane from NFL scouts was that he was â€˜too smallâ€™ to play pro football. But Lane would routinely defy the odds through hard work and belief in himself.
â€œThe size of a manâ€™s heart is something that can not be measured,â€ Lane said.
The Mustangs took Laneâ€™s lesson of believing in themselves and ran with it, literally. Last week they ran all the way to a Big South 3A Conference Track Championship, besting Ashbrook by two points.
The runners believe Fred Lane was watching, and smiling. by John Mark Brooks