Over the past 45 years, I’ve carried an infrequently used Lifetime Pass to Home Football Contests. This pass was awarded to me by Marshall University’s late Athletic Director, Mr. Joseph H. McMullen. This was Mr. McMullen way of saying thanks to the young Marshall Football players who accepted coach Jack Lengyel’s challenge to take on the emotionally staggering task of reestablishing football at a school that had suffered the tragic loss of its football team. The football team’s plane crashed into a hillside as the pilot attempted to land the aircraft in Tri-State Airport in Huntington, West Virginia.
After which, Coach Lengyel’s goal was not so much to win championships but simply to play competitively and position the program for future success. Subsequently, Marshall Football weathered the lean years, our program ascended to elite status in Division I – AA, winning national championships in 1992 and 1996 along with eight conference titles. In 1997, the Thundering Herd returned to Division I –A, college football’s highest classification. A member of the Mid-American Conference, we made eight bowl appearances from 1997 to 2009, winning six of the games. During the 1990’s, Marshall won 114 games and lost 25. My Thundering Herd proudly holds the distinction of being the winningest football program throughout the 90’s over perennial powerhouse, Florida State. Ironically, the state where Marshall’s star quarterback, Raheem Cato hails from.
Over the past four years, Marshall has ridden the strong and accurate arm of Cato. Cato has etched his name in the NCAA and all of Marshall quarterback statistics surpassing the exploits of Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich. Cato is one of 2 Marshall Football players whom I would forfeit my free lifetime pass and gladly pay to see him play. The late great Jonathan Goddard is the other player that I would pay to see perform on the football field.
Like myself, Raheem encountered several life-altering experiences. I admire him because he persevered and cashed in on his football talents. In spite of the tragic death of his mother and being homeless in Miami, FL, he went on to establish himself as one of the greatest statistical quarterbacks in NCAA history.
I was disappointed when the NFL Draft came and went without his number being called by any of the 32 teams. On May 7, 2015, the news broke informing Raheem and the Herd Nation that the Cleveland Browns invited him to their minicamp.
I pray Raheem has a long and productive career in the NFL. Against All Odds – Failure is not an option for one of Marshall’s greatest sons.