MCGILL: Team Effort Makes Vinny Curry Project a Success
The Word on the Herd -- Feb. 20, 2017
Note: This story originally appeared in the February issue of Thundering Herd Illustrated, the official magazine of Marshall University athletics. The complete digital issue of Thundering Herd Illustrated can be viewed here.
By Chuck McGill
The Vinny Curry Project – a fundraising initiative aimed to generate funds to help renovate the football locker room inside Marshall University’s Shewey Building – launched in June.
In the second half of 2016, more than 125 former Thundering Herd football players from seven different decades pledged money in support of the project, which could raise as much as $400,000 for the football program.
“It’s a project that bridges so many different eras,” said Mark Gale, the assistant athletic director for football operations. “These are players who were an integral part of our program and they jumped on board with this project. They’re excited they will have nameplates on the lockers they’ll be able to show their son, daughter, whoever one day.”
The 28-year-old Curry is a defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles. He played for Marshall from 2007-11, and he earned the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year award after his senior season. He was drafted in the second round – No. 59 overall – in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Curry’s $200,000 donation to the Big Green Scholarship Foundation will fund an endowed scholarship in his mother’s name, as well as help facilitate locker room upgrades, many of which have been completed.
“When I got there the indoor (athletic facility) wasn’t built yet and now they’ve got that,” said Tyson Gale, a linebacker who played with Curry at Marshall and now works in strength and conditioning at Boise State. “You want to see your school be a success and part of that is upgrading facilities and making what you have to offer student-athletes better. I was there in those guys’ shoes, so if there’s anything I can do to help the project move forward, I’ll do. It was a great opportunity to me so I went ahead and jumped on it.”
Only former Marshall football players were invited to take part in the fundraising initiative. For $1,000, former football players could donate in exchange for a nameplate above a locker.
The response was immediate and overwhelming.
“It’s a great project and it’s so important for the young players who are coming in and visiting the field and facilities,” said Marty Palazeti, who played for Marshall from 1981-84. “When they see that locker room it helps with recruitment. All of the big schools are doing it. It’s very commendable that Vinny Curry is doing this.
“One of the main reasons I’m giving back is because Mike Hamrick asked me and some of my fellow teammates,” Palazeti added. “When Mike asks us to help, we do whatever we can because we’ve got nothing but respect and admiration for Mike and what he is doing for the program and how he has treated us. Prior to Mike’s arrival, none of us guys from the 80s were invited back or hosted and we never felt welcome, but because of Mike there are hundreds of us who have come back to the athletic department and are donating and contributing any way we can.”
The first phase of the Vinny Curry Project included all new plumbing and replacement urinals, toilets, shower heads, tile and sinks. The money was also used to add 12 flat-screen monitors, which hang from the ceiling of the locker room. The audio inside the locker room was revamped, too, so that there are now 28 housed Bose speakers. New flooring was also added, including a Kelly green and beige carpet in two-thirds of the space and synthetic wood flooring throughout the rest.
The concept of raising money to upgrade the locker room resonated with former players.
“I received so much support at Marshall and had such a great experience in Huntington because of the great fans, great coaching staff and great teammates,” said Ron Puggi, who played at Marshall from 1996-99. “I wanted to continue that tradition and support the team in a way to get the facilities in a manner that helps bring in recruits, so we’re competitive with other universities.
“Coach Gale reached out to me and let me know about the project, and I’d do anything for him,” Puggi added. “He’s done so much for me. The person I am today – I have a great family and a great support system – and what I was able to get from that coaching staff, Coach Gale and the community, I’d do anything. I want the young people who are coming out of high school to have the experience at Marshall that I had.”
Curry signed a five-year, $47 million contract with the Eagles last year, a deal that included $23 million in guaranteed money. Curry, a New Jersey native, had no doubts of how he’d spend a portion of those earnings.
“I have been fortunate to play at the next level, which has given me the ability to give back financially,” Curry said. “But I feel as though my time and my passion for the school are just as important, and Coach Holliday and Mr. Hamrick have made me feel part of the Marshall family.
“I am humbled and flattered by the turnout. We have guys who played prior to the plane crash in 1970 all the way through to as recently as a few years ago. I mean, that blew me away.”