By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
First and foremost, Marshall is flying to Boca Raton, Fla., today for a football game. But for the nearly 40 Thundering Herd players who are from the Sunshine State, the trip presents a rare chance to see family.
“I can’t take those kids down to Florida and not allow them to see their families,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. “They’ll get a chance to see a lot of them. They haven’t been able to see mom and dad in a long time, and we have a few guys that mom and dad have never seen them play a game.”
Holliday, whose team will play Florida Atlantic at 5 p.m. Saturday, conceded the homecomings will “be an issue,” but the Florida natives on the team will have a two-hour window from 7 to 9 p.m., tonight to visit with loved ones.
“I’ll be there with them, as well,” he said. “After that, it is all business and football.
“It will be a first time for some of them, and this will be a great opportunity for the players to get to see their families the right way, but our kids understand that this is a business trip. We’re going down there to try to find a way to win the game.”
The business at hand for Marshall (3-3, 1-0 Conference USA) is winning a league championship. To that end, the players seem to be on board with Holliday’s business trip philosophy.
That includes quarterback Rakeem Cato, who was a freshman the last time the Herd played a regular season game in Florida. That was two years ago, when Marshall lost at Central Florida in a downpour. The game might be remembered more for Cato arguing with an assistant coach on the sideline telephone and making an obscene gesture toward fans.
Things are different now, Holliday said.
"Fortunately we have some mature players. These kids have all been here and they are starting to mature. Rakeem Cato is one that has matured a bunch,” he said. “We have some leadership on the team from our Florida guys and from guys from other places.
“We have to make sure it is handled properly. There’s a lot invested in this team. It’s a conference game and it’s (conference) game No. 2. They understand that importance of it and if you don’t go down there and make it a business trip then you get beat. They understand that and I’m sure they’ll do a good job, too. They’ll take care of business.”
— E-mail: gfauber