HUNTINGTON — Marshall University wide receiver Broc Thompson lost his grandmother earlier this week and wasn’t able to attend her funeral Saturday because of the Green-White football scrimmage.
All week, Thompson had it in his heart that he was going to do something special to honor her. It didn’t take Thompson long to deliver on his promise. Thompson hauled in a 70-yard pass from Alex Thomson, catching the deep ball and eluding a tackle attempt to find the Joan C. Edwards Stadium end zone.
“I told myself before that I would dedicate today to her, so it felt good,” Thompson said. “It was the first big play of the day. It was a dream come true — my first spring game, great crowd and I’ve got a great support system with my receiver group.”
In addition to Thompson’s 70-yard burst behind the defense, running back Sheldon Evans got to showcase his abilities as a featured back for much of the scrimmage, which included situational and live play scripted by the Thundering Herd coaching staff.
Evans finished with 13 carries for 108 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown on a nice cutback through the middle of the defense.
Marshall’s coaching staff did not play running back Brenden Knox, and Tyler King received limited carries, which left most of the work to Evans and Joseph Early. However, Early went down in the scrimmage and Evans took the bulk of the load from there.
“We just go at it every day, working hard and hitting it in the meeting room, weight room and on the field,” Evans said. “This is what we do it for — to come out here and perform at a high level like this.”
Thomson was the leading passer in the scrimmage, going 10 for 19 for 134 yards and the touchdown. Starter Isaiah Green was 4 for 6 for 60 yards in limited action. Luke Zban had a 25-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Darko to account for another score.
On the defensive side, former Spring Valley High School product Owen Porter stood out, ending the day with seven tackles from his Fox position while fellow defensive lineman Sam Burton also had a productive day with four tackles, including two sacks and a forced fumble. Steven Gilmore had an interception late in the day.
While the on-field scrimmage of current players to end spring was the focal point, Marshall head coach Doc Holliday pointed out the return of many former players as a key part of the weekend.
NFL players Lee Smith (Oakland) and Albert McClellan (New England) spoke to the team.
“I’ve been some really good places, but I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere where the actual NFL guys give back as much as they do here at Marshall,” Holliday said. “How great is that to have two guys who are going on 10-plus years in the league? The reason they’ve done that is because they are consistent with the way they live their life and they do things the right way, make great decisions and work extremely hard at what they do. It’s so great for our young kids to hear that.”
In addition to those two players, many former players came back for the inaugural Marshall Alumni Flag Football game that took place prior to the start of the Green-White scrimmage.
Blake Keller, who took home MVP honors from the alumni game with three touchdown receptions, said it was a good time seeing all his former teammates while getting to take the field one more time.
“Maybe Doc should have made me a receiver when I was here,” Keller said with a laugh. “I think I had three receiving touchdowns today. That’s pretty good. I probably have a year of eligibility left. If Doc wants me back, he should call me.”
Former players on the sidelines during the scrimmage included tight ends Cody Slate and Kaleb Harris, defensive end Arnold Blackmon, linebacker Evan McKelvey, punter Cody Ochoa, offensive lineman Tyler Combs and others.
The scrimmage brought a close to Marshall’s 2019 spring drills that went for 15 practice sessions, as allowed by the NCAA.
“I like where we are right now with spring practice, but we’re going to win in September, based on what happens from this point until we open up in August,” Holliday said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do this summer to get better as a team and continue to develop these kids, but it was good to see some of the young kids out here today get a chance to make some plays.”