HUNTINGTON, W.Va.—The 2014 campaign season has already begun and I’m not talking about the race between Shelly Moore Capito and Natalie Tennant or even Nick Rahall’s dubious political future.

The “Cato for Heisman” campaign officially launched this week via Athletics Director Mike Hamrick’s twitter account as Marshall tries to push its record setting quarterback into the national spotlight.

While Herd fans have been spoiled by Cato’s outstanding performance the last three seasons, he only started to garner the attention of others around the country after he lead Marshall to a 31-20 win over Maryland in the Military Bowl. There’s no ignoring Cato’s stats. He completed 39 touchdown passes and threw for 3,916 yards in 2013, a year after he threw for 4,201 yards and 37 touchdowns. If Cato can duplicate those numbers this year he should at least be in the Heisman conversation.

But it takes more than just stats to be a factor in the race for the Heisman Trophy.

“There’s a reason why corporations and politicians spend millions of dollars on campaigns, because they work. No one wants to admit they are influenced because of a campaign but it is true,” insists Chris Huston of

Huston is now one of the most accurate Heisman forecasters in the country but got his start as an assistant sports information director at the University of Southern California where he conceived and directed successful Heisman campaigns for Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart.

“You have a lot of different products in the market place. Imagine you’re going into the grocery store, and you have a lot of different newspapers that want you to buy them. How do you differentiate yourself? How do you do something different? That’s the challenge for sports information directors and media relations personnel in sports,” explains Huston during an appearance on The Stampede.

It takes more than just a savvy campaign to get a player invited to New York. Once the sports information or media relations department puts the player in front of the national media they player has to hold up his end of the bargain.

“It works bringing more attention to players and once players follow through with performance, that is something that works in tandem with the campaign,” says Huston.

Most expect Cato to hold up his end of the deal. That’s why pundits such as Phil Steele are predicting a Marshall to run the table this season and even be invited to the Chick-fil-A Bowl. It’s also why Cato is even in preseason Heisman discussion. He has been the key element in Marshall’s success over the last three years. If Cato is once again largely the reason for Marshall’s success as a team this year, he will be a legitimate Heisman candidate.

“If he has a huge year, everything falls into place and some of these guys don’t live up to the billing, then he’s got a chance to make a name for himself if he can do for Marshall what Jordan Lynch did for Northern Illinois,” believes Huston.

Lynch, the quarterback at Northern Illinois, was invited to New York last year but Cato has an edge that Lynch did not. Marshall has a history with the Heisman. Randy Moss was a Heisman Finalist in 1998. Chad Pennington was a finalist in 1999 and Byron Leftwich was in the Heisman conversation for much of his senior season.

“These are the giants’ shoulders that Rakeem will be standing on. When you’re at a school like Marshall, it helps to have guys to lay the ground work for you. He’ll be able to hearken back to those previous Thundering Herd connections,” pointed out Huston.

It will be tough for Cato but it is not impossible. He’ll need to be nearly flawless this season and so will Marshall for him to considered for national awards.

But like any long shot candidate, if he delivers on his promises and gets a little publicity along the way, he could find himself on the national stage.

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  • Weirgreen

    Byron would have been in NY if he didn't get hurt. Cato can make it in the final five but other athletes need to falter some how. Who mentioned WVU in this article? Why are you people here? Can't you mind your own business? This is a Marshall story.

  • steve

    Stop the madness now-it's not going to happen. He will put up eye popping numbers agaisnt a deleted schedule. He is a decent QB for where he is and the conference he plays in. Facts are facts

  • Jabo

    10/29/1911 WVU 17 MU 15
    10/03/1914 WVU 20 MU 0
    11/06/1915 WVU 92 MU 6
    10/20/1923 WVU 81 MU 0
    08/30/1997 WVU 42 MU 31
    09/02/2006 WVU 42 MU 10
    09/08/2007 WVU 48 MU 23
    09/27/2008 WVU 27 MU 3
    10/17/2009 WVU 24 MU 7
    09/10/2010 WVU 24 MU 21
    09/04/2011 WVU 34 MU 13
    09/10/2012 WVU 69 MU 34

    • MUguy

      I'm confused Jabo? What does WVU's record against MU have to do with a Marshall beat writer talking about Marshall. I must be missing something. Everyone knows that WVU is undefeated against MU. What does that have to do with Cato's heisman campaign?

      • Jabo

        Idiot Herd fans bringing up the moral victory by us losing to MD and you guys beating them last year. Head to head is a victory not a moral one.

        • JB

          WVU sucks and so do their fans. Quit obsessing with the fact that a much bigger school with a lot more money and scholarships beat Marshall. A couple of those wins were pure luck anyway. Marshall has had the better team for 3 out of last 4 years. Why do u think we don't play anymore? I would love to see what would happen this year.

        • MUguy

          I would agree with you on that. Moral victories are not real victories. As an avid Marshall sports fan I don't get some fans obsession with trying to compare and or take jabs at WVU. No offense to you guys but since we do not play you in football this year, I only have a passing interest in how you do because your a fellow school in state. Beyond that it has no effect at all on MU's season and vice versa. Finally, MU fans just need to enjoy our bowl victory against Maryland and leave it at that. Trying to rub it in other fans faces make us look like jerks. Honestly, we have not had much success in recent years so I do not think Herd fans should be in a place to trash talk.

          • Jabo

            One Herd fan with class.

  • TruthTeller

    The sad truth is Marshall does not play the type of schedule that would merit a Heisman trophy this year. If Marshall would play seven or eight
    top 12 teams and did not lose one game he might have a slim chance to even be considered for the Heisman trophy.

    • JB

      U are an idiot and have no clue what the hell u are talking about. No school plays 7 or 8 top 12 teams..

  • spike slayer

    Money well wasted

  • jpesbe

    best of luck to Cato. Always good to see someone from one of the WV schools get some props. Only problem is the big schools will push their guys to the top. I hope he gets to NY for presentation.

  • Joe

    Just wish MU had VT Purdue or even UL on the schedule this year.......certainly wouldn't hurt to see Cato beat some BCS teams

  • WVU fan in Boston

    Good luck Cato, the Maryland game last year proved that you have the material to win the Heisman. There is allot on your shoulders this season, go undefeated by playing smart and aggressive and you have a very good chance at the Heisman.

  • FNP

    Listen the guy is a good QB but putting up big numbers against the competition he has this year just wont help him. If he was playing teams like VT, Ohio State, Penn State, ect and throwing for 350 and running for 100 then a case can be made. Just aint gonna happen.

  • Mountaineer Fanatic

    It would be great if it happens. Picking a player from Marshall over one from a bigger school would be a miracle. Best of luck though.

  • Charleston

    Kudos to Cato and the Herd! (Stated from a WVU alum as well)!!!

  • WVreporter

    Good luck with that.

  • rick

    i am a WVU doubt!! (wish we could win at least 8 games this year) but i wish cato and marshall lots of luck this season. i hope you win them all and represent the state well. good luck Mr. Cato with your quest to win the trophy.

  • Jim

    As a graduate of Marshall, I hope that this year lives up to all of our dreams for both the team and Cato. It would be great for the university, player and state. It is really nice to read the support coming from WVU fans, thank you. As a native of this great state, I love them both, and wish both to have success this coming football season.