MCGILL: @HerdFB DE Couch a Model of Perseverance|
Sept. 7, 2017
By Chuck McGill
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marquis Couch held three different jersey numbers this preseason. He’s played two positions at Marshall. He was even named captain, once, for the team's season opening win against Miami last Saturday.
All before he ever started a game or inspired the coaching staff to remove the red stripe from the middle of his helmet, which identifies players who have yet to make a significant contribution in game.
But Couch, 20, didn’t flinch. He didn’t flee the Thundering Herd’s football program. He didn’t seek refuge at another institution. He fought and clawed his way to the top of the depth chart at defensive end, and he was rewarded for it with defensive captaincy and an eight-tackle, one-sack game against the RedHawks.
“A lot of kids today get a little bit of adversity and run,” said Doc Holliday, Marshall’s eighth-year head coach. “They go hide and run away from it instead of looking it right in the eye and challenging it. He kept working and when he got the opportunity, he took advantage of it. That’s what good players do.”
Couch, a 6-foot-1, 232-pound defensive end from Miami (Fla.) Central High School, sat out the 2015 season and made one tackle as a redshirt freshman last season. That is a path that might discourage some student-athletes, but Couch fought harder for his coaches’ attention.
“It took longer for him to get to this point and that’s probably the biggest excitement for us as coaches,” said Cornell Brown, who coaches the defensive ends. “It’s so easy for a guy to go the other way and be discouraged because you don’t get the chance to play. The kid had been here for years and hadn’t stepped on the field, and then Saturday was his first chance and he was a significant factor. That says a lot about a person, that if you stick with the program it does benefit you in the long run. That’s a big excitement for everybody.”
Couch has also impressed his teammates. Fellow defensive end Blake Keller, a senior, called Couch “a good leader” and praised his versatility. Couch played defensive end at Miami Central, the school that also produced Herd greats Rakeem Cato and Tommy Shuler, so moving from linebacker to end wasn’t as jarring as it could have been.
“The noticeable difference is you’re in contact with somebody on every play,” Couch said.
Couch recorded one of Marshall’s two sacks against Miami, and will look for more in this Saturday game’s at North Carolina State (0-1). Kickoff is at 6 p.m., in Raleigh, North Carolina. Couch will receive a chance against a Power 5 school – one from the Atlantic Coast Conference – after spending two seasons investing in the opportunity.
“All I did was put my head down and go to work,” Couch said. “Coaches see what they see and you control what you can control. What I can control is my attitude and work ethic. I let everything else handle itself.”
Overall, 15 of Marshall’s players had their red stripe removed after the season opener. It seems unlikely, though, that there had ever been a player who earned the title of captain before having the stripe removed. That gesture from the Marshall coaching staff is an acknowledgment of what Couch did outside of a game; how he impressed with his attitude, his work ethic, his academics and his leadership.
The hope is other young players follow his lead.
“He is truly an example of what you tell kids, because most people come in and get the instant gratification or it doesn’t work and you go the other way,” Brown said. “He’s a kid who has persevered. He stuck with the program and believed what was being told to him, and then he went out there with the opportunity and ran with it.”