HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — West Virginians have proved to be valuable to the Marshall football team in the past. Names such as Randy Moss and Chris Massey stick out as in-state players who helped Marshall succeed in the 1990s.

Dating back to the World War II-era, Frank “Gunner” Gatski played for Marshall from 1940 to 1942 before going on to an NFL Hall of Fame career with the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns. Gatski is heralded at Marshall, being that he’s the only Herd football player to have his jersey retired. His No. 72 adorns the front of the press box at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

The Herd’s 2013 Military Bowl champion team had nine West Virginians on the roster, as well as 34 Floridians. Even though guys like Rakeem Cato and Gator Hoskins are not from West Virginia, that doesn’t mean West Virginians didn’t play a vital role in the successes of the Herd in 2013.

With less than a month until National Signing Day, Marshall coach Doc Holliday and the rest of the Herd coaching staff have hit the recruiting trail to find the next West Virginia high school player to make the transition to Division I college football.

“We’re going to hit every school in the state of West Virginia,” Holliday said.

“Look around our football team right now, at that bowl game. Blake Brooks played extremely well in that game,” Holliday said. “He went in there and played a lot of guard and played well and is going to play a lot of guard for us next year from South Charleston.”

Brooks and Beckley native Clint Van Horn stuck out to Holliday as two players who came into Marshall as non-scholarship players.

“Those are two guys, to be honest with you, weren’t recruited in high school very much at all and ended up being walk-ons, but they are good football players,” Holliday said.

“Van Horn, at the end of this year, may have been one of the best offensive linemen in Conference USA. Derek Mitchell contributed greatly for us, was our special teams player of the year.”

Though West Virginia isn’t known for being a recruiting hotbed, Holliday has gotten plenty of good play out of under-the-radar in-state players. He said West Virginians have plenty of passion for football, but haven’t evolved into budding prospects.

“I think a lot of players in West Virginia have big ol’ hearts but they’re underdeveloped,” Holliday said. “Look at every one of those kids I mentioned, they didn’t come in as very good players. They came in here as guys who love football and have big ol’ hearts who are willing to work extremely hard to get where they are, and they’ve turned out to be really good.”

Holliday added that he wants to give the opportunity to play to every player in the state who has an interest in Marshall football.

One local high school coach who wants to see his graduating players go on to play in college, but has also been in the same situation as being overlooked by many of the big schools in Cabell Midland High School head coach Luke Salmons. Salmons played at Marshall on the offensive line from 1999 to 2003 after playing in high school at Ravenswood, W.Va.

Salmons said being able to stay in state to play college football was a dream come true.

“Whenever you play for a local university then it means a lot to you and means a lot to your family,” Salmons said. “It meant a little bit extra for me to play at Marshall. Everybody knows who Marshall is and they have great tradition.”

As a coach, Salmons is tasked with helping as many of his players who are seniors move on to the college gridiron if they want to play at that level. He said there are many good players from West Virginia that sometimes get overshadowed by players from other states.

“There are a lot of good kids in a lot of states, and West Virginia isn’t the Mecca of football, but we have good kids too,” Salmons said. “Marshall means a lot to them. I was one of those guys, Doc Holliday was one of those guys, [Marshall Offensive Coordinator] Coach Legg was one of those guys, when he went to West Virginia and played.”

While not many West Virginians get the opportunity to play Division I football as do players from other states, Salmons said the caliber of West Virginia high school football is improving.

“There is good football here,” Salmons said. “Over the past three years since I got here [Cabell Midland], I think football in West Virginia has gotten better. It still needs to get better. We’re not able to work with them as much, but I think it will get better as coaches continue to work with the kids who want to be as good as anybody else.”

Salmons knows fully what Brooks and Van Horn went through, not only on the practice field, but also in terms of being on scholarship.

“I walked on, then after my first year I earned a scholarship,” Salmons said. “When I started out, I was 230 lbs. I know that Clint Van Horn wasn’t a real big kid, but that walk-on year gave me time to develop and the same for him.”

Defensive back Matthew Santer of Parkersburg will join the Herd as part of the 2014 recruiting class and has already began classes for the spring semester, after spending a season at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia. Holliday’s pledge to visit every high school in West Virginia that he wants the current West Virginians already with the Herd to have more Mountain State natives alongside them on the field.

No one will know exactly how many West Virginians will choose Marshall until Feb. 5, but between now and then, Holliday and his staff will be working to add to the already growing number of locals on the Herd roster.

— Braxton Crisp

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  • EPanhandle

    Trevon Wesco WR Musselman
    Kendell Smith WR Washington
    Colin Gustines Ath Washington
    Malique Watkins Ath Martinsburg
    These guys just need a chance

  • DREHthundering

    i dont have any stats, just wondering - my perception is that herd has relatively few west virginians on the roster, or at least, active roster, over most of the years i remember, anyway.
    the key perception i see is there is something to wv high school athletes, a relatively high ratio of them become really good contributors and sometimes top notch. possibly because of the desire, walk on or not, in a limited state high school football program policy/laws, as compared to, (yes, apples to oranges, i know), the florida, and the good to see georgia pipeline growing, hard to compete with dense populations(more support,more$) and all year round climate. so, my conclusion is it might be wise to continue recruiting wv and the immediate tri-state with as much gusto as any other and theres little reason the herd cant compete with an other school in the state or out. the MU AD will have to pay Doc to stay if, and we know it should for at least one more year, the winning continues, but the solid 2 and 3 deep rosters because of solid recruiting and better coaching team seems to have made the foundation strong.


    I heard that Lavonte Hampton from Bishop Donahue is walking on at Marshall. Just what I heard.

  • steve

    Holiday surely has not visited Madonna high school in weirton Ross Comis?

  • Troll

    Reality is very few in WV can go on to play at a higher level. Marshall is the better fit in football for in state players as they play in a weak conference. But to appease everyone it would be fun to field WVU with nothing but in state talent then see where they are in the Big 12, think people are crying now that would be disastrous.

    • Jason

      "and then see where they are in the Big 12"....are you insisting they would be at the bottom of the Big 12...isn't that where they currently reside?

      • Troll

        No actually like it or not they finished seventh.

        • Jason

          OK. Bottom-ish. Kind of splitting hairs here.

  • 1Prouddog

    The four time AAA state champion Bulldogs should be first on the list. Todd Brown had a good career at Marshall and I can't believe MU let his son Cedric get away to Ohio U. Martinsburg should make another run at the title this year. Still plenty of talent in the EP!

  • WV Grad

    Doc's a true mountaineer. He has our state spirit like Stew did.

  • Joe

    The underdevelopment is the key issue here. If you are a competative Division I school will you take the kid that needs two years to develop or the one that is already at that level. Another factor in WV is overall competion is not at the level it is in Florida and Texas. That is due to WV being a rural and relatviely sparcley populated state. Until these factors change or are addressed, WV players will be disadvantaged in obtaining scholarships at the Division I level. The players mentioned at Marshall had to walk on develp for a couple of years before scholarships were offered. The Randy Mosses are phenoms and can't really be used for comparrison.

  • BleedsGreen33

    One of the biggest reasons why WV does not produce that many scholarship worthy players is because of the rules that govern out HS athletics programs. You go look at Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, and Califnornia and these kids have 7-on-7 camps and other progams that allow them to play football, be coached, and developed year round. West Virginia does not allow that.

    It is like Doc said a couple weeks ago. The problem is WV kids are a large unknown because it takes them longer to develop. Take Doug Legursky for example. He was a perferred walk-on and has been playing in the NFL for over 5 years. The day he arrived at Marshall he was too small to compete on this level and was not near the level as those that came in from other states. However with his drive and good ole WV work eithic he built himself into a player.

    Look at your average offensive and defensive lineman across WV and then compare them with those that reside in say FL. If you were a coach you are going to offer the kid from FL.

    Until the boards that make the rules and regulations allow our kids to be coached and developed year round we will continue to be passed up. The Moss, Lee, Dobson, and Switzer types are once every 5 years and few and far between.

    • J.Perry

      Did you even stop to think FLA has a population of just over 19 million?? Of that 17% are African American, or 3.25 million. West Virginia on the other hand stands at 1, 855, 413, of that 4% claim African American that works out to 74,216..... It’s not magic people, it’s just numbers. The twenty five largest states have the numbers. Not being racial, just being honest. How many great players are streaming out of North Dakota??There are certainly young men in West Virginia, who if given the opportunity, can certainly play, compete and be successful at ANY level of play.

      • Larry

        I agree with you. Plus, as we all just heard a few weeks ago, WV is steadily losing population.

  • donutfiend77

    Being a WVU fan, Doc has the recruiting process down to a science. He has recruited a great boy from southern WV. he is a monster, and wait to see what this young man does!!!

  • Fan

    The problem is our two D-1 schools feel like local kids should feel lucky to be allowed to "walk-on" to their teams. They would rather spend $ on out of staters. WVU could have Thomas (RB - Morg.) family employed by WVU, half a scholarship, both schools could have Phillips- (QB- Whg. Park) for half... He will receive Promise scholarship as well. (Paige - Whg. Park) WV Def. Player of the year. He will end up out of state, because they think he is 2" too small. Yet several other Big Time schools are after him.

    • GoEers

      Which big time schools are after those players you mention?

  • wvfreys

    If you remember accurately, Randy Moss only came to MU AFTER he was kicked off of FSU and ND and had nowhere else to go. Great athlete, but get it right.

    • Larry

      Very true, I'm sure Marshall was the absolute last place he really wanted to play.

      • J.Perry

        No, that was actually WVU.

        • Point man

          How are things up north?

          • T. Dorsett

            Things at Pitt are pretty dreadful right now. FB is what it is. Men's BB team is flourishing in a weak league. Thank goodness ACC basketball has become more pathetic than FB. Thanks for asking.

          • J.Perry

            Not too damn good

      • Aquarius

        You are without a doubt one of the most bitter posters I've ever read on these your life that sad that bringing down either wvu or mu is the high point of your day? bring nothing to the conversation......absolutely zero....there should be an "ignore" button for people of your ilk.

        • Larry

          I bring realism and intelligence to the conversation, two things the majority of you apparently don't have.

          • Larry

            Right back at you, r2d2.

        • Gemini

          Well said.

  • Wise Up

    The cost of attending any college or D1 school is so expensive that if you have a chance of going to college for free you should take it! Your future boss doesn't care where the scholarship comes from as long as you have your degree!

    • Wise Up

      Let me add...You go where the love is!

  • bluedevilredsteeler

    Mainly because West Virginia kids go outside the state to play football and basketball.

    • Mike

      No they don't, ever so often you have a great scholarship player that goes out of state like Switzer. Switzer was never going to go to Marshall or WVU. But most WV HS players end up at one of the 9 DII schools in the state.

      Even though there are a lot of players in WV that can play. Identifying those that can develop into a IA player is lil more difficult. For every Doug Legersky out there that made it, there are 15 that don't.

  • Mighty Mighty Devil

    Jalen Jones. Speed to burn when healthy. Go after him Doc!