There is a photograph.
At a glance, it is more a family portrait than a posed football shot.
Marietta College head football coach Gene Epley looks like one proud father surrounded by some of his many Big Blue football sons.
Big Blue, by the way, was coined by Epley, who died after a three-year bout with cancer this past Sunday. His memorial service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Marietta.
The picture was actually clicked after 1995's season finale against Muskingum College (now University) on a perfect, muddy gridiron day in early November. As the scoreboard reveals in the background, Epley's "boys" did a number on the Fighting Muskies, blanking them 24-0.
If not for a midseason 41-37 setback to perennial powerhouse Mount Union at Don Drumm Stadium, the Pioneers probably would've competed in the postseason that year.
Still, Marietta finished the fall of 1995 third-ranked in NCAA Division III with an 8-1-1 overall record, which included a five-game winning streak after the loss to the Purple Raiders. It was the sixth-best campaign and the second best modern day mark in Pioneer football history.
"Those kids have great memories," said Epley in an interview in 2007. "They think highly of themselves, and they had a great experience - and that's what's important."
Epley, himself, was honored as Ohio Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 1995. How satisfying he had to have been after starting out at the helm at rock bottom in 1991. In three short years, he and his staff built a winner, and there was some carryover. In 1996, the Pioneers were 7-3 and in 1998, they were 6-4.
"After 1995, we were able to recruit here for four or five years," Epley said. "Then, it went down. There were some philosophies changed, and it was a lot more difficult."
Epley coached his last college football game against Muskingum in 2002, guiding the Pioneers to a 31-25 triumph.
Before Epley was hired, the Pioneers had posted only one winning season since 1979, and during one stretch from 1981 to 1984, suffered 34 consecutive defeats.
Sports Illustrated even did a piece on the losing streak.
To make a long story short, after Epley's first winless year at the Pioneer helm, 86 recruits were brought in, and the football program at the college still had a pulse.
"The president of the college took me to a Rotary luncheon and told me that we saved the college, because we brought in 86 football players," said Epley in 2007. "That was the largest class we ever took. Then after that, we were able to recruit here for four or five years."
If timing is everything, then Marietta College was very fortunate to have had Epley when it did.
Just ask all of his football family.
Ron Johnston is the Marietta Times sports editor, and can be reached at 376-5441 or at email@example.com