Marshall has campaign in works: Cato for Heisman
Rakeem Cato isn't Marshall's first Heisman Trophy candidate.
Far from it.
Actually, the Herd's star quarterback is Marshall's fourth legitimate Heisman hopeful, following in the legendary footsteps of Randy Moss, Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich.
But Cato has one significant advantage.
For the first time in school history, Marshall is going to launch an authentic Heisman Trophy campaign.
"We don't have the dollars to spend like the big schools," said Jason Corriher, MU's sports information director. "But we're still going to have a campaign."
That's a first.
When Moss finished fourth in 1997, it was because of his stunning statistics and a video of him hurdling a would-be tackler against Army that went viral.
Then, when Pennington finished fifth in 1999, it was because of national publicity. Besides a photo in a full-page spread about Marshall in Sports Illustrated magazine, there was the nationally televised Mid-American Conference championship game. That's when Pennington rallied MU from a 23-0 deficit to a 34-30 victory with only four seconds remaining. The Heisman voting deadline was a few days later.
Finally, when Leftwich finished sixth in 2002, it was because of an incredible video showing a pair of offensive linemen carrying him down the field so he could continue playing on a broken leg.
Marshall did distribute a "Byron Bobble-Head" to Heisman voters, however.
But did that constitute a campaign?
That won't be the case this season with Cato.
"We're going to be pumping out highlights, pumping out sound bytes, pumping out stories from our sportswriters," said Corriher. "We're going to take advantage of social media."
That's the advantage Marshall has now, thanks to Facebook and Twitter.
"We're going to have little snippets about Cato on Facebook or Twitter just about every day," said Corriher. "Our fans will be able to help us distribute those, too."
The best part?
Plans for a "Rakeem Cato for Heisman" website are also in the works. And there's discussion about having Cato available to the media on a weekly conference call.
But don't expect Marshall's campaign to feature props like so many other schools send to voters.
Recently, I've received a Chase Daniel viewfinder from Missouri, a can of Collin Klein Band-Aids from Kansas State, six Robert Griffin trading cards from Baylor and a Jordan Lynch lunchbox from Northern Illinois.
Did that influence my Heisman ballot in their favor?
It's about performance, not props.
And that's what makes Cato a legit candidate. The USA Today newspaper recently listed the top 10 Heisman hopefuls, ranking Cato at No. 7.
More important, it correctly billed Cato as "the strongest Heisman contender from outside the major-conference picture."
That's what led Northern Illinois' Lynch to a third-place finish in the 2013 Heisman race. Another banner year for Cato could have a similar effect because it's impossible not to be impressed by such statistics as 91 career touchdown passes and 10,176 career passing yards.
Will Cato win the Heisman?
But does he have a chance to finish in the top six like Moss, Pennington and Leftwich?
That's why Cato deserves a campaign.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.