Dec. 15, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall’s 2013 football banquet turned out to be about more than an award-winning evening.
The big news wasn’t just that redshirt senior defensive tackle James Rouse was voted Team MVP by his teammates. It was what the All-Conference USA first team selection revealed during the Sunday on-campus banquet staged by the Big Green at the Don Morris Room in the Memorial Student Center.
Rouse, who starred for the Military Bowl-bound Thundering Herd (9-4) after nearly two years of inactivity following multiple surgeries, announced he intends to return to the team for a sixth year in 2014.
As the Herd honored its first team to win a Conference USA division title and play in a league title game, it was a big night for Rouse, a Harrisonburg, Va., native, in the awards voted on by coach Doc Holliday, his staff and players.
The 6-foot-5, 268-pound Rouse also was named the Herd’s Defensive MVP, and was picked as one of five captains for the season, after the coaches selected captains on a game-by-game basis during the season.
Joining Rouse as season captain selections were two seniors – cornerback Monterius Lovett and tight end Gator Hoskins – and a pair of juniors, quarterback Rakeem Cato and center Chris Jasperse.
Holliday said the five season captains will serve as the game captains for the Dec. 27 Military Bowl against Maryland (7-5) at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis, Md.
Cato was selected as Offensive MVP, and redshirt senior linebacker Derek Mitchell
received the Special Teams MVP honor.
Holliday said Herd players chose the MVP awards and the captains. The coaching staff selected the other honorees of the evening.
“James Rouse is very deserving,” Holliday said. “He was voted MVP by his teammates and voted a captain by them, too, so that shows the kind of respect he has, the kind of leader he is. And he’s an all-conference first team player just back after being out two years.
“The fact he’s returning next season -- the kind of player and person he is -- is just great for us, a big plus to have a player and leader like him back. He’s a great kid.”
The Senior Scholar Award went to offensive tackle Jordan Jeffries, an engineering major whose final season was cut short in early October when a hip injury that required surgery ended his football career. He played in only three games this season.
There were four specialty awards presented:
The Tom Stark Award, presented for academic and athletic leadership, went to Lovett, the redshirt senior cornerback who graduated for a second time Sunday, with a second undergraduate degree (business management, then marketing).
The Chad Pennington Award, recognizing a player who takes care of business on and off the field, went to redshirt sophomore Clint Van Horn, a former walk-on who played his way into the starting lineup at offensive right tackle in Week 7.
The Jim Conard Award, recognizing the 1950s Marshall lineman, goes to the top lineman. Jasperse, who enters the bowl with a team-leading 37 career starts, accepted that award.
The Gridiron Gladiator Award honors a player who is relentless in his performance, “never takes a day off,” as Holliday like to say, and displays a strong on-field example to teammates. That honor went to redshirt senior defensive end Alex Bazzie, who plays the pass-rushing “Fox” spot for the Herd.
Also honored were a pair of Scout Team players for their daily practice work in mimicking the upcoming opponent’s players and sets.
Those awards went to redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Anderson on offense, and redshirt junior lineman Malcolm Strong on defense.
“All of these guys are very deserving,” Holliday said. “Our entire team has done a tremendous job this season. We’ve had great leadership by a lot of guys, and this team has learned how to win.
“Now, we’ve got one more to go. We need to go out and play a great bowl game against Maryland.”
The Herd leaves Dec. 23 for pre-bowl workouts and festivities in Washington, D.C., before making the short trip to Annapolis on game day.
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It was a big Sunday for Holliday’s team prior to the banquet, too – at midyear graduation.
In addition to Lovett getting his aforementioned second degree, the Herd had 10 other players graduate.
The list also included banquet-award winners Jasperse, Mitchell and Strong.
Others getting their degrees were place-kicker Justin Haig; offensive linemen Gage Niemeyer, Trevor Mendelson and Grady Kerr; defensive end Jeremiah Taylor; cornerback Derrick Thomas; and wide receiver/punt returner Devon Smith.
The latter two are Penn State transfers who moved to Marshall’s program last season.
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Other Marshall graduates Sunday among student-athletes were Adam Frohnapfel in men’s cross country; Emily Akalski in swimming and diving; Zach Hunter and Cody Partyka in men’s soccer; and Nathan Gomez, Wayland Moore and Gray Stafford in baseball.