Cato, Shuler on opposing sides
HUNTINGTON -- As Marshall University quarterback Rakeem Cato and wide receiver Tommy Shuler get set for their final spring football game, they know it is sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime event.
It doesn't have much to do with former Marshall quarterbacks Chad Pennington or Byron Leftwich being there as opposing coaches for the Green and White Game, and it doesn't really have much to do with it being the players' final spring practice with the Thundering Herd.
Instead, Saturday's 2 p.m. spring game in Joan C. Edwards Stadium will be the first time in the lives of Cato and Shuler that they will be on opposite teams.
"As far as football, we've never had to go against each other," Cato said. "Never, unless it's around the house playing video games and competing in that nature. Never in the game of football, though."
When asked about the matchup, both appeared taken aback because of the the odd nature of the thought.
Here are two players, born and raised together in Miami that have always been side-by-side -- whether on the football field or away from it.
They competed for the same position as youngsters -- both wanting to play quarterback in their flag football days -- but never have they lined up on opposite sides of the field.
On Saturday, a 15-year-run of practices, games and success will come to an end as Cato and Team Pennington lines up to take on Shuler and Team Leftwich.
Part of the connection of the best friends is that they feed off of each other's energy.
Whether that means playmaking ability or becoming a one-two punch while talking smack to get in the other team's head, they are normally working together no matter what the situation presents.
Shuler said it will be interesting to see what happens.
"We're going to get in each other's heads and make it fun for the fans," Shuler said. "This is our last spring, so we're going to talk trash to each other and throw our jokes out there."
While the situation sets up for an interesting scenario to the Thundering Herd spring game, it also hits both players with a small dose of reality.
"It's crazy," Shuler said. "Me and Cato were talking last night about it being our last spring game. Next year, God willing, we are going to be in somebody's (pro) camp. We don't even know if we'll be on the same team.
The Herd duo will be separated for one spring Saturday, which will be as much a treat for them as the fans.
At the end of the day, though, they will forever be on the same team -- no matter where football might take them.
"It's been a lot of fun while it's lasted," Shuler said.
"We just hope the best for each other this year as we go on and do what we've got to do."