Ask any Marshall football fan to name one of the best receivers ever to play for the Herd and senior Tommy Shuler’s name is sure to make the list.
|Tommy Shuler works in practice.|
“He (Shuler) has that ‘it’ factor that you talk about all the time with a guy,” Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. “He finds a way to make plays.”
After back-to-back 100 catch seasons, the Miami Central native has a chance to do something no one has ever done in Division I football, go back-to-back-to-back.
“If he has a great year, he could finish up as the first receiver in the history of college football to have three back-to-back-to-back 100-catch seasons,” Holliday said. “He’s matured, he’s come along and he’s a tremendous, tremendous player.
In fact, Shuler is the only receiver of the 128 FBS teams that is eligible to achieve such a feat.
Shuler hauled in 110 catches in 2012 as the crafty sophomore slot receiver took advantage of the additional coverage that Herd outside receivers Aaron Dobson and Antavious Wilson drew. After all, both were NFL caliber receivers and Dobson now plays for the New England Patriots.
In 2013 defenses focused solely on Shuler as Dobson and Wilson moved on to the next chapters in their lives. While Shuler did not produce any 19 catch, 200-yard games like his 2012 performance at Purdue, he finished with 106 grabs and 10 touchdowns while fighting through double coverage nearly every contest.
|Shuler own's back-to-back 100 catch seasons.|
Shuler said he never dreamed of having such success while at Marshall.
“Never,” Shuler said humbly. “After my freshman year I was like wow. Then my sophomore year I caught 110 (passes) and then caught another 100 last year. Every day I replay catches in my head and I just think how did I catch so many balls? I just pray and thank God every step of the way.”
As Shuler enters his senior season, he reflected on his time spent in Huntington while choking back the emotions from the memories.
“It’s kind of crazy,” Shuler said. “I was in the team room and Coach Furrey was like, you got 4 months. I told him, don’t say that again please. You are about to make me cry. I just hope this season lasts as long as it can last because I’m not ready to leave yet.”
Marshall finds itself in the national spotlight this season after turning in a 10-4 record and a win in the Military Bowl last year. It also has its first Heisman Trophy candidate since Byron Leftwich in 2002—Rakeem Cato—who happens to be Shuler’s best friend.
“Cato is a great quarterback and person,” said Shuler.” He’s my best friend and we are just trying to do what we can do and help Marshall football win.”
Shuler and Cato have been a duo long before they arrived in Huntington after playing youth football together before become a dynamic combo at Miami Central High School.
However, the Miami Central connection was nearly broken when Cato committed to Florida International University and a chance to spend a season with future Indianapolis Colt’s receiver T.Y. Hilton.
But Shuler said it was not hard to persuade his best friend and teammate to follow him to the Herd.
“It wasn’t that hard,” Shuler chuckled. “I just begged him every day he was at my house and kept begging and begging every time he came around.”
As the tandem enters their final year for the Herd, they both understand that history awaits. While they ultimately are in control of the season’s outcome, Shuler said last season provided a good foundation for the attention the team is receiving.
“It helped us a lot,” said Shuler. “When we beat Maryland everything just started rolling. We know what we can do but we had to stop at a point. Now we get to pick it back up and make more history. I feel like the teams ready and we are ready to go attack the season.”
Should this team have the historical season the experts are predicting, not only could the Herd finish undefeated but could also be playing in a major bowl game New Year’s Day as the recipient of the ‘Group of 5’ Golden Ticket.
Shuler and Cato could rewrite some individual records too.
Still, the Herd wide out remains humble while trying to get better each day.
“When we wake up we know we have people back home that want to see us do great and success so we have to work,” Shuler said. “We don’t come out every day thinking we are the best duo but just another day that we are trying to get better and learn something different about each other that will help us at the next level and out here this year.”
But no matter his stats or anything he accomplishes in his final season with the Herd, Shuler said there will always be one memory that stands above all others.
“Tulsa,” Shuler said without hesitation. “The sideline when we won that game. It wasn’t just because of that touchdown. It was the ceremony of the plane crash and we came back. We was winning, losing, then we took the lead. Everything played into a great success and moment. That was one of the greatest moments and I’ll never forget that. That was my favorite moment and my favorite touchdown at Marshall.”
But amongst all the hype Shuler said he strives to remained focused on enjoying the game he loves.
“I just pray that I have a successful season, we go undefeated and just win games and have fun.”