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HUNTINGTON — For a while Saturday afternoon at Marshall University’s Joan C. Edwards Stadium, it was the 2001 football season again.

Members of the Thundering Herd’s team from 20 years ago chest bumped, hugged and most of all laughed during their reunion at MU’s football game with North Carolina Central. Old stories were swapped, but as much as the past was discussed, the future was as hot a topic.

Players from the 2001 squad, which went 11-2 and defeated East Carolina 64-61 in the GMAC Bowl, said they are enthused about what new Herd head coach Charles Huff is doing with the program.

“It’s amazing,” said defensive tackle Toriano Brown. “I love to see what Huff is doing, getting us back to where we were years ago. The excitement in the community is back. He knows what it takes.”

Wide receiver Wilbur Hargrove said to be recognized with his teammates and other former Marshall players on the field during the first half of Saturday’s game was special.

“They’re treating us like family,” Hargrove said. “Huff is inviting everyone to come back.”

Brown and Hargrove live in the Huntington area. Running back Trod Buggs came in from Land of Lakes, Florida. He said the atmosphere Saturday reminded him of when he played.

“Coach (Bobby) Pruett told us if we came to Marshall we’d leave with a diploma and four rings, and we did,” Buggs said. “That’s how it should be. Things are great here, just awesome. It reminds me of when we played 20 years ago and it’s wonderful. Marshall’s future is unbelievable.”

Offensive tackle Nate Griffin said Saturday’s game brought back many special memories.

“It’s awesome to have everybody together,” Griffin said. “I remember my first game here and hearing ‘We are …’ on one side of the stadium and then ‘Marshall’ on the other side. That shows the necessary for unity to accomplish what we can together. It’s not just the players. It’s everybody.”

Linebacker Max Yates expressed similar sentiments.

“When you heard the fans all around the stadium, they got you going and you’d better be ready to play,” Yates said.

Defensive lineman Orlando Washington, head volleyball coach at Man High School, said he felt more welcome Saturday than at any time since he was in college.

“I love it that they’re having us back,” Washington said. “They didn’t really acknowledge us for 20 years. Coach Huff has reenergized all of us. There’s new passion and new excitement. Everyone is proud of the tradition and passion. I’m pumped to be here.”

When the team was introduced with Pruett between the first and second quarter, the crowd gave it a loud, standing ovation.

HALL OF FAME INDUCTIONS: Marshall’s 2020 Athletic Hall of Fame class was recognized before Saturday’s game.

The class included, Karla May, basketball (1982-86); Albert McClellan, football (2005-09), Bill Noe, swimming (1982-86), Sam O’Dell, golf (1997-2000), Dave Ramella, baseball (1976-79), Jalicia Ross, volleyball (2004-08), Kellie Schmitt, tennis (2005-09), Steve Sciullo, football (1999-2002) and Trusty Tallman, football/baseball (1916-19, 1925-28).

ROUNDING UP: McClellan (Baltimore, New England (New York Jets) wasn’t the only former NFL player from the Herd on Marshall’s sideline Saturday. Ahmad Bradshaw (New York Giants, Indianapolis) and C.J Spillman (San Diego, San Francisco, Dallas) also attended.

North Carolina Central was penalized for delay of game on the opening kickoff. It was one of five penalties the Eagles had on special teams in the first quarter, which lasted 54 minutes. The pre-game ceremony featured fireworks during the National Anthem and a military flyover.

North Carolina Central running back Latrell “Mookie” Collier is a transfer from Marshall. Collier played at Bluefield High School and won the Kennedy Award as the premier player in West Virginia in 2017. Collier caught a touchdown pass late in the second quarter Saturday.

Tim Stephens is a sports writer with The Herald-Dispatch.

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