(WMC) - Southern Heritage Classic will celebrate 25 years this weekend. None of it would have been possible without one man and one man alone.
Founder Fred Jones dreamed up the monumental event in 1990. Despite making it look easy, Jones said it was anything but.
"He [an old friend] said, 'Fred, if you're going to pull this off, you're going to have the biggest event in town,'" Jones remembered.
Those words were early inspiration for Jones, who is now celebrating 25 years of what has become a world-renowned event.
"And those were powerful words because there were so many non-believers that we could even pull this off this year and nobody believed it, not in Memphis," Jones added.
The classic has seen its fair share of ups and downs over the last 25 years. But Jones always knew in his heart that Memphis was the place to get it started for Tennessee State and Jackson State fans.
"Memphis was a natural place, the location was great, both schools are 200 miles from Memphis," Jones explained. "Great alumni base here. We have great institutions that people know around the world, Beale Street, Graceland ..."
Jones would bring in his own entertainment and use the most popular event in the word as a basis: Super Bowl.
"It's similar," Jones said. "We do the same thing. We've got a great football game, great halftime, great entertainment."
And don't forget: great crowds.
As many as 70,000 fans are expected to attend Southern Heritage Classic this year.
"We try to maximize everything that we do each other. We're going to make this year the biggest that it can be," Jones said.
It's a success that Jones says his former self would laugh about.