By GARY FAUBER
for the Daily Telegraph
This time a year ago, Marshall fans were anticipating a stellar recruiting class that could help the Thundering Herd get back to respectability. Anything had to be an improvement from the 5-7 disappointment that was the 2012 season.
A year later, Marshall football is again on the lips of college football experts, some of whom have written and spoken of the Herd as a potential Top 25 team next season.
It took four years, but Marshall coach Doc Holliday seemingly has the football program right where he envisioned when he took the job.
Marshall won a division championship and a bowl game en route to a 10-4 season — its best finish since going 11-2 in 2002. It’s the exact kind of result Holliday expected when he was hired in December 2009.
On Sunday, the Hurricane native talked about the team’s return to success as a keynote speaker at the Big Atlantic Classic Tip-Off Banquet at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.
Holliday and quarterback Rakeem Cato spoke at the annual event, which serves to get the Big Atlantic Classic basketball tournament started.
Games will begin at 3 p.m. today and run through the final game scheduled for 9 p.m. Saturday. High school, middle school and elementary schools will participate.
Many of the players were in attendance Sunday and got to hear Holliday’s recipe for success. He said there are four aspects of his plan that he has often described as “infallible.”
“One, you can’t be selfish,” Holliday said. “Selfishness is part of the human element that you can’t let creep in. The human element is any (outside force) that can keep you from getting to where you are going.
“We also talk about accountability. There is no doubt in my mind that if you are accountable on the field or in the classroom, when no one can see you, I can count on you in that ‘fourth-and-1’ situation.
“The third thing is leadership. For the first time this year, we selected captains on a weekly basis and let them speak to the team every Friday night. At the end of the season, we had 19 players who were captains. It was because of that leadership that we were able to be so successful.”
“The fourth thing is trust,” he concluded. “If you have those four things, you have the opportunity to be a really good football team.”
Holliday enjoyed the opportunity not only to inspire the younger members of the audience but also to show his appreciation for Marshall fans.
“People are passionate about Marshall football,” Holliday said. “It was great for me as a football coach to be able to give them a championship team or get back to that point to where we’re winning 10 games a year, because that’s what this fan base deserves.”
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After Holliday and Cato spoke, fans got the opportunity to ask them questions.
• Eight-year-old Braylon Arvon had a Military Bowl Most Valuable Player wristband that was given to him by Cato after the game, and asked Cato if he could autograph it. Cato happily obliged.
• One fan asked Cato if he would be going to the NFL or returning to Marshall for his senior season. “I plan on coming back. I never had any plans on going to the NFL,” he said. “And I never had any plans on going to WVU,” he added, referring to rumors that he was planning to transfer. That comment prompted a round of applause.
• Holliday praised Beckley native and current Marshall tackle Clint Van Horn. “I’ll tell you, and Rakeem will tell you, he’s one of if not the best offensive lineman in Conference USA. I guarantee you there isn’t an offensive lineman in West Virginia better than Clint Van Horn.”
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