Friends and former teammates and classmates have come together to support one of the team’s legendary members as he battles some serious medical issues.

Dale Stone became a legend as a tailback and linebacker during three of Itawamba Agricultural High School’s most dominant seasons in the program’s long history.

Stone’s classmates Becky Jones West and Mike Dozier have led efforts to raise funds for their friend. A GoFundMe page with a letter from Dozier, also a teammate of Stone’s, has raised over $3,500. That doesn’t include any contributions made off the site.

“To all members of the IAHS Class of ’74, to all the boys who played football at IAHS, to everyone who ever heard of the old Tombigbee Conference, our friend and teammate and classmate, Dale Stone, recently had brain surgery and needs your help,” Dozier’s letter begins.

Stone recently began having seizures and subsequently had three surgeries. He currently has blood in his lungs and kidneys and dealing with shortness of breath, the latter of which he described as being the most challenging to handle.

For his part, Stone seems upbeat, despite his medical struggle.s

“I’m blessed that I’m not having any pain with surgery,” he told The Times. “The doctors can figure it out, I just thank the Lord for it,” Stone said.

Many who saw him play, both friend and foe, consider Stone not only to be one of the best athletes to come through IAHS but one of the best that ever played in the Tombigbee Conference. Copies of The Times from the fall of 1973, Stone’s senior year, show photo after photo of him running the ball himself or throwing a block to clear the way for a teammate. He played his first two seasons under head coach Ben Jones. The Indians went 10-1 in 1971 and 10-0 in 1972.

A memory from that loss in 1971, a 13-12 defeat, stands out, Stone said.

“We were down by one point against Amory, and I told Coach Jones to let me run the ball. I just knew I could get it in,” he said. “But [Jones] decided to try for a field goal. We didn’t make it, and Amory won. It was the only game we lost in three years.”

Stone thinks one of the biggest reasons for the success of the team was a simple one:

“All of the players were together, we played as a team,” he said.

If friends, former classmates and teammate agree on how great of an athlete he was, they also agree he was, and still is, a a tremendous person off the field.

“Dale Stone is the heart and soul of the IAHS class of 1974. He was not only respected as an athlete but well loved as a classmate,” U.S. Federal Court Judge Mike Mills, a teammate of Stone’s, said.

Becky Jones West, the daughter of the late coach Ben Jones and another of Stone’s classmates, said he’s the type of person who commands attention from everyone around him.

“When I think of Dale Stone, the first thing I do is smile,” she said. “In high school, Dale was one of those personalities that was bigger than life.”

In 1973, Jackie Spradling took over as head coach and led the talent-rich Indians to a second-straight 10-0 season. Stone was an All-Conference player with the Indians as his teams went 30-1 with him on the roster.

Stone then signed with Jackson State and started as a freshman at fullback for the Tigers. The Tigers went 7-3 in the fall of 1974 and is remembered by many as the senior season of Walter Payton. Stone was responsible for many of the blocks Payton ran behind that season.

After a stint at Jackson State, Stone returned to Fulton and played at Itawamba Junior College where he was an All-State back for the Indians.

After his playing days ended, Stone joined the Crystal Springs Police Department where he became a captain. He then joined the Mississippi Highway Patrol, where he served 17 years until he retired. He was named Patrolman of the Year in both his district and statewide while serving.

West asked friends and classmates who may not have known of Stone’s health issues to consider helping him.

“I encourage anyone who knows and loves Dale to help him get through this rough time in his life. He would never ask for your help, so we’re asking for him,” West said.

Friends who would like to send Stone a note or card can send it to P.O. Box 531 Tougaloo, MS, 39174 .

Donations can also be made through Stone’s GoFundMe page at bit.ly/helpdalestone.

Stone said he wants his friends to know he appreciates the support they have given him.

“I just appreciate what they have done for me while I have been sick. I always knew I had white friends,” Stone said with a laugh. “I don’t have everyone’s contact information to speak with them personally. I just want them to know that I can’t say ‘thank you’ enough.”

abby.loden@journalinc.com

Twitter: @abbyloden

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