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 HeismanPundit.com.

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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Comments

  • 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 fan.....no 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.

  • TB

    Funny!

  • Mister Man

    Good luck young man.

  • Justin

    I am a Mountaineer fan, first and foremost. However, I am rooting for Cato. I think if Marshall has a great season and he can win the Heisman, it will be huge for the state of West Virginia.

    • Jason

      Classy. As a herd fan. I appreciate it.

      • Greg

        I think you'll find many if not most West Virginians and Mountaineer fans wish well upon Marshall. If only it were the other way around...

  • jay zoom

    good luck to this gentlemen at least Marshall has a starting Quarterback with potential the only potential WVU Quarterbacks have is what other position can I play because it sure isn't Quarterback. THANKS OLLIE

    • hailey

      Shut up Beyonce'... Best of luck to Cato, he is a class act and a certianly a top QB

    • Steve

      This article is about Marshall. Why are you bringing WVU into it?

      This guy is 0-2 against West Virginia anyways. Probably not a good thing to bring that up.

  • richard

    when he first came t Marshall, i didn't expect him to become what he has. i thought being an after thought recruit, he would do just okay. but Holliday has a good eye for talent. he knew what he was getting when he gave Cato a scholarship. good luck Marshall in the upcoming season. I'm a WVU fan all the way....but it doesn't mean i can't root for Marshall. they represent West Virginia too!!

    • Wv trucker

      Best team in state. Guess Martinsburg isn't too far behind.

    • Jason

      When Cato first arrived I could tell he had the raw talent, the question was, if he could develop the patience and charisma of a d1 QB. He has. And then some. Good luck Cato and the herd. One game at a time, leave no doubt. The rest will work itself out.

    • WV Proud

      Very nice to hear some love coming from WVU fans. I too am a Mountaineer fan. However my daughter attends Marshall. She is a cheerleader for the Herd, so I have learned to wear Kelly Green at my house. Mountaineer fan forever, but learning to love the Herd.

      • in da stickes

        A house divided. Could a resumption of the Coal Bowl be far behind? Looks like the ticket office could use a sell out in Touchdown City.

      • Jason

        Amen.