HUNTINGTON - Marshall offensive line coach Greg Adkins has run the gamut of experiences with the Thundering Herd football program.
Adkins was an offensive lineman for the Herd in the late 1980s and returned as a coach in the early 1990s when Marshall's major success started before the roads of coaching took him elsewhere.
Now that he's back in Huntington, the Cross Lanes native emphasizes staying close to his roots, which meant that Wednesday morning was a special day for him.
On Wednesday, Marshall football players and staff took off on an early run to Spring Hill Cemetery in honor of the 75 persons who lost their lives in the 1970 Marshall plane crash.
Even after 30 years, the message of Marshall's tragic, yet important history is one that greatly moves Adkins.
"I think, No. 1, it's a great opportunity for us to educate the younger players and remind the older players about what this place was built on," Adkins said. "As a former player, there are some strong feelings for me as I watch kids learn about the past here."
With many first-year players having arrived on Sunday, it was the first full team event for the 2019 season - a kickoff for the team, so to speak.
Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said the run to Spring Hill Cemetery and subsequent message from WSAZ sports director Keith Morehouse, who lost his father, Gene, in the crash, is vital for all who are bought in to what being a Marshall football player represents.
"We always start with this," Holliday said. "They got here on Sunday and, two days later, it's the first thing we do as a team each year. A lot of these first-time guys on campus, we want to introduce them to what Marshall football is all about.
"They see the movie and that type of thing, but they actually run up there and see the Memorial and it hits home with them. Keith Morehouse does such a tremendous job explaining how important that football team is to our fan base and our community."
Adkins said Morehouse's message is special in several ways.
First, it tells of his personal connection to the tragedy with his father, but also how that brought him closer to the program and how the crash brought the community and program together, as well.
Then, Morehouse outlined Marshall's history - from its darkest days when he was a kid in the 1970s as they resurrected the program, up through the 1980s as things started to turn around, the 1990s when Marshall became the winningest team in college football and then through the 2000s and beyond once Marshall made the ascent to Division I-A (now FBS) and steadily became one of the better Group of Five programs.
"It's humbling, but it makes me very proud as a former player and as a former and current coach here," Adkins said.
Holliday and Adkins each said it is the first of many things the team does to not only reflect on the tragedy and history of Marshall, but also to enlighten players on the expectations that come with being such a vital and close-knit member of the Tri-State community.
"We spend time talking to them about our history so that, by the time they walk out of here, they appreciate what Marshall football is all about and what it means to be a part of it," Holliday said.