PEELER: 400 Consecutive Football Games, And Counting
BY TIM PEELER
RALEIGH, N.C. – The last time High Point's Dewey Corn missed an NC State football game, his young neighbor, Johnny Evans, kicked an 81-yard punt that helped the Wolfpack beat Penn State, 15-14, in Beaver Stadium.
That was on Nov. 8, 1975, and he hasn't missed a play since.
The 86-year-old Corn has witnessed 209 victories, 185 defeats and five ties during the 35-year streak. He's been to 18 bowl games, including six trips to Atlanta for the Peach Bowl and a lone trip to Tucson, Ariz., for the long-defunct Copper Bowl, where he met Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.
Saturday's NC State-Clemson matchup at Carter-Finley Stadium will be Corn's 400th consecutive Wolfpack football game, a remarkable streak that spans the careers of seven head coaches, 17 All-America players and a half dozen NC State chancellors.
"I just started going and never really stopped," said Corn, who retired from his independent insurance agency in 1986. "I never really had a goal of reaching a certain number of games until I got to about 380. It was just a matter of going to games, and fortunately everything fell into place and I was able to go."
There were some near misses. His brother passed away on a Saturday during the 1991 football season, but it happened to be during an open date. In 1994, his mother-in-law passed away on an open-date Saturday as well. A couple of years ago, Corn attended two games against doctor's orders, while suffering from what he called a "mild case" of pneumonia. He nearly missed a trip to Boston College earlier this year because his wife Christine was not well.
The couple celebrated their 63rd anniversary on Monday.
Corn's history with NC State football dates back to 1946, when he was a freshman majoring in agricultural education. Corn, who spent three years in the Navy as an electronics specialist in the Pacific, had been accepted to NC State and Clemson on the G.I. Bill. He always wanted to go to State, but hedged his bets when he wasn't immediately guaranteed a room on the crowded campus.
He received a letter in the summer of 1946 that there was a room for him in Vet-ville, the west campus housing complex that was hastily built to house NC State's swelling post-war enrollment, and he jumped at the chance to move to Raleigh. In mid-September of his freshman year, he wandered over to Riddick Stadium after his Saturday afternoon class let out to see Beattie Feathers' team beat nationally powerful Duke, 13-6.
His first favorite player? Classmate Leslie "Footsie" Palmer, a punter and halfback who helped that 1946 team qualify for the 1946 Gator Bowl, the school's first post-season game.
He averaged two or three home games and a couple of road games every season from the 1940s into the 1970s, until his two daughters were out of college. He enjoyed watching players like All-America quarterback Roman Gabriel and other stars of Earle Edwards' ACC-championship teams.
He attended every game of Lou Holtz's first year in 1972 and then began his streak near the end of Holtz's tenure. From then on, going to NC State football games was the only thing Corn scheduled for Saturdays in the fall.
"Not every Saturday," Corn quickly reminds a visitor. "There were a few open dates in there and some Thursday games."
There is no doubt, however, that Corn is one of the Wolfpack's most devoted fans.
"What Dewey Corn has done is remarkable," said Wolfpack Club executive director Bobby Purcell. "I don't know that there are very many people in the history of college football that have accomplished what he has.
"Dewey's loyalty and support of NC State football is exemplary."
Corn has also been a big supporter of Wolfpack basketball and baseball over the years. He attends as many regular-season games as he can get to and the ACC tournaments in both sports. He has twice attended the Final Four, but not when NC State was playing. He won the NCAA's ticket lottery to attend the 1992 championship in Minneapolis and the 1993 championship in New Orleans.
Corn, a Wolfpack Club member for 49 years, never had any trouble getting tickets to NC State road games, and he never had any travel problems getting there. It didn't hurt, of course, that one of his daughters once worked for United Airlines and could get him discounted tickets.
There are obviously games that are etched in his memory: the 1986 South Carolina game, when Erik Kramer hit Danny Peebles after time had expired, the 1979 Penn State game when the Nittany Lions kicked a 56-yard field goal to win in the final seconds, the 2002 Gator Bowl win over Notre Dame.
He also has fond memories of players, like his High Point hometown heroes Evans and Ted Brown, who remains the ACC's all-time leading rusher. He enjoyed watching Philip Rivers' record-setting career and he's impressed with Russell Wilson.
"You tend to remember the more recent players," Corn said. "You also tend to remember the players who carry or throw the ball, and people who don't know the game any better than I do overlook the good play of the linemen.
"We have had so many good players that it is hard to single out one or two that are head and shoulders above the others."
Corn doesn't know how long his streak will stretch on. It will depend on his health and his wife's health. But he hasn't regretted a single moment he's spent so far in following his alma mater.
"It's been a good way to spend most of my retirement," Corn said.
You may contact Tim Peeler at email@example.com.