Cato, Shuler enjoy Herd win
MIAMI — One of the greatest quarterback-wide receiver duos in Marshall University football history was a pair of Miami-based products in record-setters Rakeem Cato and Tommy Shuler.
On Saturday, that duo once again graced the Marshall sideline around head coach Doc Holliday, taking in the Herd’s 28-25 win over FIU at Riccardo Silva Stadium. Even though it has now been several seasons since the duo helped lead Marshall to the 2014 Conference USA Championship, the fire for the Thundering Herd still burns inside them.
“There’s nothing like the Herd, man,” Cato said. “It’s always fun, just to come back and just watching these guys. Coach Holliday is still coaching these guys up. There’s a couple familiar faces around, and we get to come back and enjoy ourselves. It’s always fun.”
Cato and Shuler played for the Thundering Herd from 2011 to 2014. Cato owns school career records for passing yards (14,079) and touchdown passes (131). Shuler caught a school-record 322 passes for 3,563 yards and 25 touchdowns.
The fire from those guys was evident throughout the first half as Cato paced the sideline decked out in a Marshall hat, hoodie and team-issue basketball shorts from the Boca Raton Bowl. As he walked around, Cato positioned in view of formations, uttering defensive alignments to himself as he looked over the field.
It was enough to prompt a comment from an interested observer — Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick.
“He’s wanting to get a few snaps in, huh,” Hamrick quipped.
The impact of Cato and Shuler was felt when younger players who have heard of them got the chance to meet them.
“It was my first time meeting him — a Marshall great,” Marshall running back Brenden Knox said. “It was a pleasure to meet him. I plan on chopping it up after the (interview).”
Throughout their football lives, Cato and Shuler have been inseparable, growing up in Miami and playing high school ball together before joining Marshall’s program where they had record-setting careers.
Cato and Shuler continue to have an impact on the game while working together.
Both players coach a youth 7-on-7 team and also assist on the high school level, serving as mentors to young players who -- like themselves several years ago -- are looking to take the right path with their lives.
“It’s a huge thing for us because it’s easy to go left out here in these streets in Miami,” Cato said. “We’re just trying to stay positive and keep giving back with our knowledge and give back on the youth and high school level so that those guys can go to college and be something.”
Shuler said part of the passion they have for Marshall is because not only did Marshall help them achieve success, but it also gave them the platform to be role models for young players within their city.
“The kids down here look up to us because they know what we did on the college level, so we’re their role models and their nearest role models to the (NFL stars) Antonio Browns and T.Y. Hiltons,” Shuler said. “When we come around, it shows them the big picture. They see that and take it all in and soak it up.”
Shuler said he joked with Holliday after the game about trying to steal some of the Florida weather and take it back to Huntington.
Holliday is also likely trying to steal some recruits from Miami and get them back to Huntington — a task Cato and Shuler are still pivotal in with their presence within the area.
One player committed to Marshall from the area is Miami Central High School quarterback Maurice Underwood that Cato and Shuler have been working with.
Cato and Shuler talk to Miami-area players on a real level about seizing their opportunities at Marshall, if offered.
“It’s awesome because we can tell them what we’ve been through at Marshall,” Shuler said. “You have to live out of town, but it makes you mature as a man. When you talk to them and they take it in, they show that maturity and they just love it.”
The biggest recruiting ploy Holliday could have asked for came to fruition Saturday.
Not only did the Herd get the win, but they did it in front of a large contingent of Marshall fans that rivaled the numbers of FIU fans in the stands.
“Marshall is always going to beat FIU out with the fans,” Shuler said with a smile.
Maybe more importantly, however, was the presence of the former players in attendance.
Not only were Cato and Shuler there, but many other former players including defensive back Keith Baxter, wide receiver Craig Wilkins, defensive tackle Ricardo Williams and others.
“How about Cato and all those guys from Florida on the sidelines, huh,” Holliday said. “It was great to see Shuler and Cato and Baxter and Wilkins and Rico and all those guys come back.”
For years, all those players helped the Herd to wins on the field.
Now, they still carry on the Marshall name within their city, which makes them some of Holliday’s lead recruiters in one of his biggest recruiting pipelines.