The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

July 16, 2014

Marshall’s Van Horn has come a long way

Beckley native is 1 of 7 Herd players on preseason C-USA team

BECKLEY — When Clint Van Horn reported to Marshall in 2011, it quickly became apparent that this college football gig was not going to be easy.

Things probably came naturally to him in high school, when he was a Class AAA all-stater at Woodrow Wilson. All of a sudden, as a walk-on at a Football Bowl Subdivision school, there were Clint Van Horns all around. Some of them were bigger, some were stronger.

Frustration was mounting.

“It’s hard when you are a true freshman, especially a true freshman offensive lineman,” Van Horn said. “You’ve got to develop and get stronger. You’re on the scout team right away and you’re not as fast or strong as the other guys. You get down on yourself and it’s hard to stay positive.”

Doubt crept in, and Van Horn admits he didn’t work as hard as he should have. But he was able to persevere. He lost weight, got in better shape and, by week 7 of last season, went from walk-on to all-conference.

The reputation Van Horn built for himself last season has morphed into momentum for 2014. On Monday, the Beckley native was named to the Lombard Award Watch List, and on Wednesday he joined six of his Thundering Herd teammates on Conference USA’s preseason team.

Joining Van Horn on offense were quarterback Rakeem Cato — also the preseason offensive player of the year — receiver Tommy Shuler and center Chris Jasperse.

Cato was also named to the Davey O’Brien Award Watch List, and Shuler on Tuesday was on the Biletnikoff Award Watch List.

Tackle James Rouse was named the defensive player of the year. Also honored for the Herd on the defensive side were lineman Ra’Shawde Myers and linebacker Evan McKelvey.

Van Horn’s selection was not a culmination — he still has two seasons to get even better — but rather validation of the remarkable strides he made one season ago.

“I had a good season last year. I didn’t start in every conference game, but the (league) coaches felt I did enough, and it means a lot,” the 6-foot-4, 294-pound redshirt junior said. “But it’s the preseason in a season that has not been played.”

Van Horn has established himself as a leader, taking it upon himself to help the younger players in any way he can. That’s because he was once in their shoes and knows how difficult the transformation can be.

He had the same kind of mentor — Garrett Scott, Van Horn’s host on his recruiting visit who was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in May before a previously unknown medical condition forced him to retire.

“He taught me a lot,” Van Horn said. “There were tough times but he didn’t let me get down on myself or make stupid mistakes or stupid decisions. He was a good leader. He wasn’t always a vocal guy outside of game time — something about a game changed him. But if he noticed something about a certain guy he would take us aside or talk about it quietly.”

Now it’s Van Horn’s turn to be the leader, and to be the example from which the younger players can learn.

“I don’t want them to make the same mistakes I made,” Van Horn said.

Even so, they can look at Van Horn as proof that perseverance pays.

— E-mail: gfauber@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @GaryFauber.

 

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