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Plates for the greats

Southern Oregon University football players won't have to look far to be reminded of the program’s past or see how much their community supports them.

Actually, they'll just have to look at their lockers.

The Raiders are selling 5-inch-by-5-inch metal plates with the names of former athletes, alumni, fans and sponsors on each of their new 115 lockers.

The lockers will be housed in the upcoming football facility, which was once Daniel Meyer Fitness Center. The upstairs portion of DMFC will include football and track and field offices, meeting rooms, a reception area and a lounge. Construction is currently taking place.

The locker project is solely the SOU football program’s. Around 30 to 35 plates are still available for naming rights, said SOU assistant Nathan Chin. The sponsorship price starts at $500.

The plates, which will be on the top left of the maple wood lockers, will include the sponsor's name, their position and years played (if applicable) and a third line for a short note of their liking.

"We knew we would get the new locker room, but we wanted to upgrade the lockers and didn't want to be in the same ones that were torn down at McNeal (Pavilion)," Chin said. "Just the way coach Craig Howard runs our program, we want to do it better than it's ever been done before."

The clock is ticking on the fundraiser, Howard said, with the deadline being Aug. 15. To participate, contact Chin at 541-552-6832 or chinn@sou.edu or assistant James Gravelle at 541-552-6189 or gravellej@sou.edu.

"We're taking this project on on our own," Howard said. "It's not funded by the state system, just by guys stepping up and helping our program. ... "This isn't a two-minute drill, it's a two-week drill. There is a sense of urgency with football around the corner here."

Notable names who have already signed up include the family of deceased SOU legend Stan Smith and two other Raider Hall of Famers in running backs Dusty McGrorty and Griff Yates (who both went on to sign with NFL teams). Oregon Tech coaching great Danny Miles (a former SOU standout) and record-breaking quarterback Austin Dodge are also participating.

"The one thing that is really hard in small-college athletics is continuing to stay in touch with your alum," Chin said. "This is one way."

McGrorty, who was a three-time All-American, jumped on the opportunity.

"First of all, just being able to support the program that I put five solid years in bleeding and sweating, and seeing what it is today, I was more than happy to donate," he said. "It is just an honor to actually get my name in there."

McGrorty, who now lives in Riddle, has savored the success of the Raiders, who won the 2014 NAIA championship.

"It is definitely inspiring," said the former St. Louis Ram. "When I came in, the guys before me had laid some groundwork to build the program up. It was sad to see when Jeff (Olson) stepped down, and the program kind of went in the other direction. Coach Howard came in and got it back. You feel like you are a part of that program and you helped build it. Coach Howard went in there and brought back all that tradition."

The lockers are divided by position. Each includes a helmet/shoulder pad rack, a custom logo decal in the back, a red vinyl seat cushion and a custom mesh grill on the lower locker.

"Things are going really well," Chin said of all the changes at the campus. "We will be right on track right about on time for fall camp and getting kids into the locker room. In a short amount of time they are doing a great job."

The end result should be something very special, Howard said.

"A locker room is kind of like a haven or a home for a player," he said.

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email djones@mailtribune.com. Find him online at twitter.com/danjonesmt