HUNTINGTON — On Sunday afternoon, hundreds of Marshall fans got to feel exactly what the players go through on the turf of Joan C. Edwards Stadium during August practice.
This particular day was a scorcher in Huntington, but that did not deter fans from bringing their families down to the stadium to interact with the players whom they will be cheering on in less than four weeks when the Thundering Herd opens the season against VMI at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 31.
Fan events are nothing new for Proctorville’s Kristofer Vance, who also attended Kentucky’s Fan Day festivities on Saturday with his family.
Part of the allure of those events for Vance is getting to see his sons’ interaction with players and how it elevates their level of experience when they attend athletic events. Vance had one of his two sons — Bryce — with him on Sunday afternoon.
“These events are good for families to come out and get to know the players,” Vance said. “It just makes it better for the boys when they get to match a face with the numbers they see on Saturdays.”
Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said the bond between the Herd’s fan base and the team is a unique one.
“I’ve always said that Marshall is a special place because there’s not a football team in America that means more to their fanbase than what Marshall does because of what we’ve been through,” Holliday said. “People support this program everywhere they go.”
From a players’ standpoint, it is the one time a year where they get to focus solely on the fans and not be locked in on a game during the interactions that they have, which is special — especially for the older players.
Senior Chris Jackson was taking part in his final Fan Day experience and got to speak with many fans whom he met four years ago. Those initial encounters at Fan Day have since built bonds that also bring the player closer to the community that they represent, which he said is a key to a team’s success.
“It means a lot to see everyone come out and show their support for us,” Jackson said. “It’s always hot out here on Fan Day, but they come out and stand out here in the heat and wait just to talk to us or get our signature. That feels good to have that support and we play for them.”
While Jackson is one of the mainstays that fans do recognize out on the field, Marshall’s influx of young and new talent meant that many were building relationships for the first time as they spoke on Sunday.
“There are a lot of guys here they haven’t seen before, so they get to meet them for the first time and it’s exciting for our guys as well as the fans,” Holliday said.
One of the players that fans wanted to get to know the most was Tavin Richardson, a graduate transfer wide receiver from the University of Kentucky.
Richardson is a 6-foot-3, 213-pound wide receiver that will help the team as an experienced target after having played for three years for the Wildcats.
While Richardson is new to Huntington, he understands the expectations surrounding him and the 2019 team, which has helped him lock in for the start of preseason camp.
“Everybody is buying in and doing great and practicing hard,” Richardson said. “The goal is to bring home a conference championship. That’s what our focus is on. From day one in the summer, everyone was lifting hard and doing tempo runs and things like that to make us ready for practice. Everyone out here wants to reach that goal.”