Family boasts of unique MU legacy
HUNTINGTON -- The Riedel family had plenty to be thankful for during the Christmas season.
And they'll even admit the holiday was filled with a bit more green than red.
That's because it was kelly green, and it is all part of a special gift bestowed on the family.
It's the gift of a unique Marshall University legacy few families can boast of.
When Taylor Riedel, the youngest daughter, signed to play college volleyball in November, she became the fourth out of the four members of her family to play collegiately for the Thundering Herd.
Taylor Riedel is joining a Marshall volleyball program where her mother, Cheryl, was once a standout player while her father Scott and brother Ryan both signed to play football for the Herd.
"Neither Scott, nor I ever dreamed that they would be going to school at Marshall," said Cheryl, speaking of Ryan and Taylor. "Both are straight-A students and could go anywhere academically, and both had athletic offers elsewhere. We thought they'd want to go away from home. It wasn't until they made the decision to go to Marshall that we realized the tradition that had been built with the community and Marshall."
As the family was preparing for its Christmas plans on Tuesday afternoon, Taylor revealed a story that shows how meaningful Marshall and their special legacy has become.
It's made even more special now that she signed last month.
"About six or seven years ago for Christmas, my aunt Heather gave me my mom's old jersey and she left me a note saying 'Maybe one day, you'll wear the same jersey,'" Taylor Riedel said. "This Christmas, it's special because I know I've signed and next Christmas, I'll have finished up my first season at Marshall."
As with all gifts, they are not meant to be taken for granted, and such was proven this year with Ryan Riedel, the former Cabell Midland High School standout linebacker.
Ryan endured a preseason back injury which potentially threatened his playing career with the Herd.
It wasn't until midseason that he was able to practice with the team in hopes of getting back to the form that prompted Marshall to convince him to stay home and play NCAA Division I football.
As Scott recalled, part of Marshall's recruiting pitch was for Ryan to be a part of something that he, his family and his friends could all share in.
The night before Ryan signed, the family went to visit the memorial at the site of the Marshall plane crash.
Scott wanted Ryan to get a first-hand grasp of why Marshall's football program is so intertwined with the community -- a lesson Ryan didn't forget.
While dealing with his injury this year, Ryan got another lesson in the community's impact with Marshall football this year.
Looking back on 2012, he realizes it is a feeling he wouldn't have gotten anywhere else.
"I've had all these people call me up to tell me to make it through this," Ryan Riedel said. "Having that pat on the back and knowing that people in the community are behind me, it feels great. It really helps a lot."
In a bit of a twist of irony, adversity such as that which Ryan is facing is exactly how the legacy got started in the first place.
The biggest proof that adversity can turn to a positive can be seen in the beginning of Scott and Cheryl's relationship. Scott was a local athlete from Ceredo-Kenova High School while Cheryl had come to Marshall from New Martinsville, W.Va.
In 1985, their paths crossed because of injuries incurred while representing the Herd in athletics.
"We first met in a training room at Marshall," Cheryl said. "I had injured my leg running track and Scott had blown his knee out. We were in there doing therapy together and starting talking."
"She was bawling her eyes out and I was trying to cheer her up," Scott said.
"We started dating each other, fell in love and I guess the rest is history," Cheryl said.
"We got married between our sophomore and junior years," Scott said. "We've been married 26 years, getting ready to be 27."
Since their time at Marshall, their love for the Herd has grown, and some of their best memories have come while tracking the Herd.
Scott and Cheryl traveled to games cheering on the Herd -- even when there were few others to do so.
Scott recalled a game in Lake Charles, La., when Marshall was an underdog heading to McNeese State in the 1995 Division I-AA semifinals.
The couple was part of a travel contingent of around 150 Marshall fans. They all left happy with a 25-13 victory to celebrate, as well as a berth in the 1995 I-AA Championship, hosted at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
That same type of love for the Herd has continued through the years since Ryan, 19, and Taylor, 17, were born.
The family continued to travel to games together, including the 2011 Beef 'O' Brady St. Petersburg Bowl when the Herd defeated Florida International.
Through those travels, the love for the Herd has been instilled in the younger Riedels and greatly influenced their decisions to stay home for college athletics.
"We're thrilled about it," Scott said. "As you know, the kids have worked really hard to get the scholarships and to have them in town, it's just very special for all of us."
Ryan, whose Facebook photo is a collage of him in his Marshall jersey, put his first year as a Marshall football player into perspective.
"Just standing on the sidelines and wearing your jersey, there are people that are yelling for you," Ryan said. "You walk through the crowd slapping high-fives and you know the people there. It's a feeling you can't replace."
Taylor echoed her brother's sentiment, saying it's a unique chance for them to put their hometown school on a national level and showcase this area.
"It takes on a lot more meaning being that we're from here," Taylor said. "Knowing the talent is here to be able to compete for a Conference USA championship is special. Five or six years ago, the volleyball talent wasn't there in this state and now, you'll have at least a pair of local girls playing. If we keep working, we'll have that chance to play for a C-USA championship."
After a Christmas when several different gifts exchanged hands, it is perhaps this one family gift that means the most to them all.
It is one they can share, one that provides memories and one that brings happiness to all involved.
It's a gift that certainly makes for a happy Herd at home.