Leftwich gives pep talk to Herd players
WASHINGTON - When Byron Leftwich paid a visit to one of Marshall's Military Bowl practices in nearby Alexandria, Va., Thundering Herd players unanimously perked up.
Essray Taliaferro may have been more excited than the rest of the bunch. Like Leftwich, the senior running back hails from Washington, D.C., a mere five-minute transit ride from the Herd's team hotel downtown.
It seems that Leftwich truly left his mark in the District, where he played at H.D. Woodson High.
"He's a legend," said Taliaferro, the Herd's senior running back. "Not too many people from the D.C. area went to Marshall, and he was the pioneer for that, opened the door for them. He's definitely a big deal in this area."
Believe it or not, Leftwich's days at Marshall have gotten small in the rear-view mirror, having finished 11 years ago. Defensive tackle James Rouse said he has only seen Leftwich's Marshall work on a highlight reel.
Some of those highlights will never die.
"The one I remember the most was when he got carried down the field and they came back and won that game," said long snapper Matt Cincotta. "He was incredible, a very talented player."
OK, Leftwich actually didn't pull out that game at Akron, but he led his team to the Mid-American Conference championship and victory in the bowl game against Louisville despite his fractured shin. But the excerpts from the Akron game have endured the longest.
Leftwich will serve as one Marshall's honorary captains in the Military Bowl, 2:30 Friday at nearby Annapolis, Md. He is first in school history in completion percentage (.651) and is second in pass attempts (1,442), completions (939), passing yards (11,903), touchdown passes (89) and total offense (12,084).
The other honorary captains will be Jack Lengyel, the former Marshall coach and athletic director at the U.S. Naval Academy, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Herschel "Woody" Williams and Sen. Joe Manchin.
Leftwich's best advice to the team?
"The biggest thing he talked about is just living in this moment," Rouse said. "He said his best memories were playing college football at Marshall; he'll remember that for his whole life. He said this is something you'll never again get in life - at the next level, you'll never get what you got at Marshall. It was so good to hear that."
Players from both Marshall and Maryland got to witness Tom DeLuca's comedic hypnotism show Tuesday night. Witnesses say a few Thundering Herd players went under DeLuca's spell - receiver Jazz King and defensive back Corie Wilson among them.
"He made Jazz and Corrie dance around and act like different people, stuff like that," Rouse said
Wednesday night's itinerary had Herd players touring the Washington Mall and surrounding monuments. Today, the teams will appear at a luncheon.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.