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Before (top): Mark Neiswander, left, Scott Kirby, middle, Stan Dunton, right pose for a photo in the late 1980s. (Photo provided by Stan Dunton)

After (bottom): Mark Neiswander, left, Scott Kirby, middle, Stan Dunton, right recreate their before photo on Nov. 26, 2021. (Photo provided by Stan Dunton)

Mark Neiswander’s lasting Athens impact: a legacy through love, Bengals and Burrow

In August 1975, Stan Dunton met Mark Neiswander in Urbana, Ohio, and they instantly became best friends. Not only were the friends born exactly six months apart from each other, but Neiswander immediately took Dunton under his wing when he was the “new kid in town,” since he moved to Urbana in the sixth grade.

“From the very moment I met him, (he was) a very warm-hearted, open book kind of guy, and we became thick as thieves,” Dunton said. “Within a week, I knew that I had a best friend in the Urbana School District. We grew up together, went to high school together. We were best friends through high school.”

Neiswander was a Cincinnati Bengals fan from the moment he was born. He knew every game and play like the back of his hand.

While the friends were in high school, the Bengals made their way to the Super Bowl for the first time in 1982. The Bengals ended up losing to the San Francisco 49ers, but that didn’t stop Neiswander’s hopes that he would see them reach the Super Bowl again.

In 1983, Dunton and Neiswander graduated from Urbana High School, and this meant one thing: choosing a college. It was at this time when the friends finally went their separate ways, and Neiswander ended up choosing Ohio University.

However, Dunton, along with Dana Parshall — who also attended a different university — had a change of heart, which meant they needed to find a new university to attend. Neiswander, who fell in love with OU, recruited his friends to attend as well. Dunton and Neiswander quickly became roommates for their sophomore year. 

The friends lived on South Green in O'Bleness House their sophomore year. Junior year, before it was university-owned, they lived in Bromley Hall, or College Inn at the time. Senior year, the duo was joined by a few others — Marshall Michaels, Warren Henderson and Dwight Paul — to live on South High Street. 

Neiswander had a pack of friends who stood by his side throughout his life, joining him in making memories. Dunton, Parshall, Michaels, Henderson, Paul, Chris Rodgers, Gary Brockman and Scott Kirby, whom he’d been friends with since he was a baby, were all friends he met during his time in Urbana or at OU.

Back row: Tom Rooney Middle row: Scott Kirby, left, Chris Rodgers, middle, Mark Neiswander, right In front: Dana Parshall, behind, Stan Dunton, in front The friend group gathered in College Inn junior year. (Photo provided by Stan Dunton)

During their time at OU, the group attended countless numbers of football, basketball and hockey games. Although sports games were a source of entertainment, Neiswander found himself falling in love with something else at OU: the Marching 110.

“When we would go to football games, he would enjoy the halftime show, and he always made us stay for the fifth quarter and watch the band perform afterwards,” Dunton said. “He loved the song ‘Long Train.’ He had all their CDs.”

Neiswander was even obsessed with Ronald P. Socciarelli, a former Marching 110 director, and the on-field routines the band performed.

It was the little things about OU that kept Neiswander and his friends connected to the school. In 1986, their senior year of college, the group created an intramural team for softball, basketball and football and called themselves the “Loggerheads.”

Dunton said the group still keeps their jerseys in their closets. Each friend even had a nickname displayed on the back of their jerseys rather than their last names. Neiswander’s was “Brew-Head,” and Dunton’s was “Cement-Head.”

Mark Neiswander's Loggerhead's jersey.

Before they knew it, Dunton and Neiswander found graduation had snuck up on them. The best friends who had been together almost always since sixth grade found themselves having to go their own ways, moving on from their beloved Athens. Neiswander found his job in the steel industry in Philadelphia and Dunton in the food industry in Milwaukee.

Working in their jobs, the two watched the Bengals go to the Super Bowl for their second time in 1989, only to lose to the 49ers once again.  

Mark Neiswander watching the Bengals play in his gear. (Photo provided by Stan Dunton)

While watching the Bengals, the friends also found themselves often watching another team they loved: the Bobcats. 

They never found themselves staying away from Athens for too long. During this time of figuring out adulthood, Neiswander and his friends started a fantasy football league. This brought the group back to campus: tailgating and hanging out, all while going through the motions of life. 

“Even though the six or seven of us are in different parts of the country, we're making it a point to get back there to have fun, to go Uptown to drink some beers, to have dinner, to reconnect and just enjoy ourselves,” Dunton said.

Stan Dunton, leaning into frame, Warren Henderson, back left, Mark Neiswander, middle, and Dana Parshall, right, celebrating one of their reunions at Peden Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011. (Photo provided by Stan Dunton)

Keeping his love for Athens and the Bengals, Neiswander watched Joe Burrow rise to the spotlight after winning the Heisman Trophy in 2019 and beamed with pride as Burrow brought awareness to Athens County. 

Then, in April 2020, Burrow was drafted to the Bengals.

“Mark was the biggest Bengals fan in the world, the biggest Joe Burrow fan in the world,” Dunton said. “He bought his jersey the first day you could — the first day it went on sale.” 

Amid the beginning of 2020 and Burrow’s draft, the COVID-19 pandemic kept the friends separated. They found themselves seeing each other less and playing Euchre and Poker online weekly in order to stay connected.

After seeing each other more in 2021, Neiswander and his friends continued their never-ending bond. On Sept. 11, 2021, the friends attended their last tailgate with Neiswander. 


Dunton and Neiswander spent Thanksgiving together the following month. It would be Nov. 28, 2021, when Dunton would see Neiswander for the last time in person.

It was Dec. 6, 2021, when the group was gathering online to play a game of Euchre, and Neiswander said he could not attend because he thought he had walking pneumonia. It turned out to actually be diabetic ketoacidosis.

As Neiswander’s cough worsened, his wife, Kobi, became concerned. Kobi eventually took him to the emergency room Dec. 9, 2021. She called all of his loved ones: his kids, Julia and Michael, in Texas; his dad, Hobert; his stepmother, Susan, from central Ohio; and his brother David from Washington, D.C. They all made their way to the hospital no matter the distance.

Surrounded by the people he loved, Neiswander passed away from heart failure Dec. 13, 2021, at 1:10 p.m.

“He loved the band. He died at 1:10, and he gave 110% in everything that he did,” Dunton said. “That was the exact time of death. He also gave 110% in everything that he did, in his life, family, friends, coaching, just commitment — one of those people that's always giving. The last person to leave the room, the first person to arrive and just light up the room.”

After his death, his friends and family began thinking of ways to honor Neiswander and his life. Though Dunton finds Neiswander in the little things daily, like setting his alarm for 1:10 p.m. every day so he can remember his friend and the impact he holds on his life, he and other loved ones knew they needed something more to remember Neiswander.

Stan Dunton's phone showing the alarm he has set for 1:10 p.m. every day.

They thought of making a scholarship in his honor: to honor his love for others, his love for OU and, his favorite part, the Marching 110. The scholarship is called the “Mark Neiswander ‘110’ Memorial Scholarship.”

The scholarship is aimed to provide a kid from rural Ohio with an avenue to college they might otherwise not have. Dunton said they want the kid who might not be a good athlete, might not be a 4.0 student or might not have the perfect ACT or SAT score. They just want a kid who embodies Neiswander. They’re looking for someone who is a good, serious student who maybe isn’t the best at spelling or geometry or didn’t partake in athletics. The scholarship is for kids who might have been left behind.

“With the ‘Mark Neiswander ‘110’ Scholarship,’ to help send a deserving kid from rural Ohio to OU, it can be that guiding North Star that made the whole thing possible,” Dunton said.

Aside from the scholarship, Dunton believes the Bengals’ Super Bowl qualification with Burrow leading the charge is no coincidence.


“This kid from Athens is finally going to be the guy that pulls the Bengals and the Bengals fans out of this pit of despair that they've been stuck in for the last 35 years, and my best friend for the last 46 years passes away, and as soon as he passes away, all they do is start winning games, winning playoff games, and here they are on the verge of winning the Super Bowl potentially on Sunday,” Dunton said.

With the Bengals playing in the Super Bowl, Dunton, a longtime Cleveland Browns fan, finds himself switching teams this year in hopes the Bengals will bring home a championship win for his best friend. 

To contribute to Neiswander’s legacy, people can donate to the scholarship at


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