BOGACZYK: Big Catch, Big Green, That's Yurachek
The Word on the Herd-Oct. 21, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Ryan Yurachek has wasted no time in making significant contributions in nationally ranked Marshall’s 7-0 football season … but there’s been more than you think.
Yurachek, the Herd’s freshman tight end, was on the receiving end of Rakeem Cato’s NCAA major college record-setting pass Saturday night in a victory at FIU. And his quick development has allowed Coach Doc Holliday’s team to move Devon Johnson and Deon-Tay McManus into productive roles at running back and outside receiver, respectively.
Still, there’s something more.
Prior to the Herd’s last home game, against Middle Tennessee, I was sitting in the Edwards Stadium radio booth paging through the Herd Kickoff game program, looking at the lists of Big Green Scholarship Foundation members.
There, the last name listed alphabetically among the Green Buffalo giving level ($150-299) was "Ryan Yurachek."
It’s not often a current student-athlete – no matter the school – is a contributor to the athletic fundraising arm. And to be frank, Yurachek isn’t yet a financial contributor. But he will be … or else, it seems.
"One thing I told Ryan is -- after being in athletic administration like I am -- you have a scholarship supporting you so I’m going to start you in the Big Green," said Yurachek’s father, Hunter Yurachek. "And then four years from now when you finish playing and graduate, you can start giving back as a thank you after getting an education as a student-athlete.
"I learned being in administration that you get a great deal. I had the opportunity to participate in athletics, on the (NCAA) Division III level, and it’s an experience not everyone gets. So you should appreciate it. And more than anything, there are life lessons involved."
The elder Yurachek is in his first year as the associate vice president for athletics at Houston, after spending four years as the athletic director at Coastal Carolina. He made previous administrative stops at Akron, Virginia, Vanderbilt, Western Carolina and Wake Forest, and played basketball as a four-year letterman at Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C. – the city that also happens to be Ryan’s birthplace.
"With my dad being in college athletics, he said the biggest thing is a lot of athletes come through school and then ride off into the sunset and never get involved supporting, in fundraising, something like the Big Green," the Herd tight end said Monday. "So, he put the membership under my name, but he actually was the one paying the money right now.
"He just said he wanted to start me off on the right foot and make sure I wasn’t one of those people who went through four years and left and never became involved."
Any perks to that Big Green membership?
"If there were or are," Ryan said, grinning, "I’m sure my dad would be getting those."
Yurachek is a business major at MU and said he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps in college athletics, or perhaps work in a pro sports front office, or maybe even coach.
That’s then. Now, he’ll be known at Marshall (7-0, 3-0) as the guy who caught that 1-yard pass with 5 seconds left in the first quarter last Saturday at FIU -- the connection with Cato that gave the Herd quarterback a TD pass for a 39th consecutive game, the FBS record.
"I knew he needed one more for the record, but I didn’t think about that when I caught it," said the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Yurachek, who also got his first touchdown reception of his career on the play. "I was wide open. I just wanted to make sure I caught it.
"To be completely honest, it didn’t set in until four or five minutes later I’m sitting on the sidelines and somebody said something about it to me and I said, ‘Damn, that was it.’
"It’s pretty crazy, seven games into my career and it happens to be the play. It’s just crazy. You don’t really realize the impact of it until after it happens. It’s pretty special for me, too. Like Doc said, and I’ll say it, it might be a record that will never be broken.
"You figure it takes a guy starting almost 3 1/2 or 4 years, and he has to throw a TD every game to make it happen. It’s pretty neat, really."
Yurachek made his presence felt for the Herd during preseason camp in August, after Johnson had been moved to the backfield.
He lost redshirt possibilities immediately, playing on kickoff and punt return teams and the field goal teams in Marshall’s opening win Aug. 30 at Miami (Ohio) – three days after his 18th birthday.
The Myrtle Beach, S.C., native got his first tight end reps in the Week 2 win over Rhode Island and what he called his "first serious reps, getting on the field with Cato and those (other starters) in there" against Ohio and Akron.
And once McManus was moved to wideout, it left Yurachek as No. 2 on the depth chart, sandwiched between Eric Frohnapfel and Joe Woodrum.
"I don’t know that I expected to play right away, and this much right away, with Devon still technically a tight end (until camp began)," Yurachek said. "We had Froh, Joe and Tay there, too. I don’t know if I expected it, but I knew I had an opportunity, and I had confidence I could show enough in camp to play.
"I didn’t think I’d be playing as much as I do. I thought I could, but didn’t know if I would. Everything just fell into place. ‘Rock’ (Johnson) first left the (tight end) room, and it opened up a door to win some time and Froh’s obviously a senior, so that presented an opportunity.
"I don’t know that it pushed me harder during camp, but it made playing seem more realistic in a way. And now it’s all you could expect, being on an unbeaten team, top 25, getting to play."
Yurachek, who came to Marshall from Carolina Forest High in Myrtle Beach, S.C., played 23 of the Herd’s 53 snaps in the victory at FIU.
"Froh takes two series, then I take one," said Yurachek, who has eight receptions for 74 yards, including a long of 18 yards in a win at Akron. "That’s how we’ve operated the past couple of games."
On Saturday night, the Herd punted on its first two series for the first time this season. Then, on the third series, Johnson ran 71 yards on first down, and three plays later, Cato came to Yurachek – for his only reception of the game.
"The play is ‘Birdman,’" Yurachek said. "It’s the same play Devon scored on his second receiving TD (a 27-yard catch-and-run) in the fourth quarter, the very same play."
It’s going to be a big weekend for Yurachek as the No. 22/23 Herd entertains Florida Atlantic (3-4, 2-1) on Saturday at Edwards Stadium. Houston has an open date. Yurachek’s contingent in "The Joan" will include his parents, two younger brothers, two sets of grandparents and his girlfriend, who attends Kentucky.
It might not be able to top the tight end’s thrilling experience of last weekend, however. And one thing is certain …
He’ll be the only Big Green member playing for the Herd.