BOGACZYK: `Mad-Dog' Has Big Hoops Fans in Herd Tackles
The Word on the Herd-Oct. 24, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Let's say you're a girls' basketball player, age 9 or 10, in the fourth or fifth grade, and all of a sudden four very large, age twentysomething young men - say, averaging 6 feet 5 and 270 pounds - walk into the gym for your game.
What do you think?
If you're Madi Price and her teammates on the Southside Elementary School team, you think it's the Marshall two-deep roster at defensive tackle .... and you'd be correct.
In Coach Doc Holliday's Herd program, it's about more than blocking, tackling, taking classes and sitting in position meetings. Marshall's program builds team leaders through team and positional bonding.
Assistant coaches often have their position players over for dinner or cookouts or to watch football on the tube - "to just chill," as Herd defensive tackle Jarquez Samuel said.
That's how Samuel, James Rouse, Steve Dillon and Ricardo "Rico" Williams ended up at the Southside girls' game against visiting Our Lady of Fatima on Oct. 17.
Those players and their wives, girlfriends and children - it's the same with the defensive ends - are regular visitors to the homes of tackles coach J.C. Price and ends coach Sean Cronin.
"We can end up with as many as 20 people at the house," Price said. "It can get crowded."
On these visits - often on Thursday nights during the season, when most of the pregame preparation is done -- the Herd players interact with the coaches' kids, which is how the tackle foursome found itself at a little girls' hoops game.
"Coach Price has us over every now and then," said Rouse, the Herd's defensive leader. "We play pool there, chill out, relax. His daughters are always there, having fun, and we talk with them and play with them.
"We decided we all should go over there to (Madi's) game and surprise her, since she comes to watch us play and supports us. So, we made a sign for her, cheering on, and she was really happy about it."
Madi - short for Madison - is 10. Her parents were star athletes at Virginia Tech. J.C. was an All-America third team nose guard, and wife Jenny (the Southside Elementary coach) is one of the Hokies' all-time statistical leaders in basketball and a Tech Hall of Famer.
It wasn't quite a surprise for the Herd players to appear at the game, however. The Marshall tackles coach had told the daughter he nicknamed "Mad-Dog" that the D-line foursome was coming to the game the night before tipoff.
"Dad told me, but I still wasn't sure they would come," Madi Price said. "When they walked in and sat down in the stands, I was surprised they'd show up and watch. And they cheered for us. We were all excited on the team."
Samuel had prepared a special sign for the game, which Rouse waved through part of the contest -- #10 IS THE BEST. GO MAD-DOG.
"It was so much fun to go out there," Samuel said. "We walked in there and people were just looking at us ... I'd made the sign for us about Mad-Dog - Coach Price always calls her that. It was just a fun night.
"One time, Mad-Dog was on defense, I think we distracted her. She looked over and was grinning at us."
Rouse said the Prices' younger daughter, Riley - she's 7 and a second grader - fit right in with the big tackles, too.
"Riley was up there, and she was being more of a heckler to the other team than all of us were," Rouse said, grinning. "She was going on and on, how we were beating another team. We had to keep her calm.
"I think it's big, it's always good, when we interact with kids. Whether we want it like that or not, kids always look up to us, and it's up to us to set good example for them. Stuff like this is really nice, and they're great kids. Anytime you can meet kids like that, it's a plus."
Asked if she's surprised major college football players would pay attention to and interact with kids her age, Madi Price said, "Sometimes it does, because they have a lot to do and they're basically doing something all the time. But when they come over, they always want to know how we're doing and what we're doing."
J.C. Price said he didn't goad the players into attending his daughter's basketball game.
"It's something that's just taken on a life of its own," the Herd defensive tackles coach said. "They come over so much - and we're glad to have them - that they identify as family. It's kind of like the girls identify those guys as big brothers.
"I didn't ask them to go at all. They said they wanted to do it. When they see Madi, they ask her how basketball's going. They know it's important to her, just as football is important to them."
Southside won the game.
"It's been fun to get to know them," Madi Price said of the Herd players.
And the next time, there really may be a surprise.
"We're going to go to another game if we can work it out," Samuel said. "When you help kids feel good like that, it makes you feel good, too. Go ... Mad-Dog!"