Grind brings Herd together
HUNTINGTON — On 12 to 14 Saturdays a year, fans from all over the world watch as college football players take the field and showcase their skills as part of a cohesive unit in an effort to achieve victory.
For those fans, it can be a bit of a shallow process because, often times, the only thing seen is the end product, which comes together for four hours each week in competition.
For players, though, the beauty of games - in this case, college football Saturdays - lies in the extensive process that goes into each week with hundreds of hours poured into each contest.
When Marshall University senior linebacker Frankie Hernandez was asked about how many hours a day he’s thinking of football, there was no hesitation.
“Twenty-four hours,” Hernandez said with a smile. “Twenty-four hours. Sleep. Practice. I dream of my coaches in my ear - ‘Frank, you’ve got to do this.’ - You know what I mean?”
Hernandez’ comment might seem a bit far-fetched, but in all seriousness, the number of hours put in are uncanny when piecing it all together.
It starts at the top with coaches breaking down film of opponents nearly immediately following a game’s conclusion on Saturday. That breakdown leads to a game plan being constructed by Sunday afternoon -- often less than 16 hours after the previous game ended.
Once the game plan is in place, players head to their meeting rooms where position coaches teach them the knowledge gained within the film study and instill in them the schematics of what they want accomplished. It is never the same because no opponent is the same, so each week is brand new.
After the film is seen and discussed, the team heads out to the field for practice to refine its tools while putting all the individual pieces from position rooms into cohesive 11-man units on each side of the football in an attempt to simulate what will be seen from that opponent.
On top of all that, players also have weightlifting sessions and individual skills development to work on their craft while also maintaining their homework and class schedules, which makes them a complete student-athlete.
Marshall players are going through that process for Saturday when the Thundering Herd (6-3, 4-2 Conference USA) hosts UTSA (3-7, 2-4) at 2:30 p.m. in Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
It isn’t just four hours a week on Saturdays. This is the culmination of many, many hours invested each week since January as Marshall redshirt freshman quarterback Isaiah Green said Monday while talking about the importance of his seniors.
“Starting in January before we can even touch a football, you know,” Green said. “It’s working out together and every day you’ve got to fight together. We have “Tasks of Toughness” that just builds us and makes us closer and stronger as a brotherhood.
“Over time, you start to create relationships with each other that will last forever. When the person next to you means as much to you as your family member you want to make sure you do right by them and you’re going to fight as hard as you can not only for yourself, but for the other 10 people on the field with you.”
For many Herd seniors Saturday is the final time they will run out of the tunnel for a home game with their brothers who they’ve gone through the grind with on a daily basis for the last several years.
That grind and the struggles that lie therein are what bring players together as a family.
They’ve all been through that grind, and when it felt as though no one else was there for them, they leaned on each other to make it through.
That is why sports become so emotional for the players, as Marshall’s guys talked about Monday in player interviews.
Wins feel as though a player is on top of the world and losses hurt more than wins feel good, simply because of the investment and effort put in.
This weekend, Marshall players hope to share in the elation of a win one last time together at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
For the seniors leaving and the underclassmen wanting to send them out right, it’s all a similar mindset.
The 2018 version of the Marshall football program has one more time to grind together as a family in The Joan, and they plan to make the most of every second.
“It’s my last game in the Joan,” Marshall senior offensive lineman Jordan Dowrey said. “It seems like it can’t be. It’s kind of come up on me fast, but it’s definitely one in which we want to go out the right way.”