They are at literally every Marshall football practice, rain or shine, every day of the week. Other than the players and coaches, this bunch of Marshall fans -- some have nicknamed them the 'Sideliners'- spend their time watching, assessing, and generally analyzing every aspect of Marshall football. Every...single...day.
"Some are retired. I don't really know what they do," laughed Carroll Nicholas of Huntington.
"We watch the players, most of the time," said one of the group, Dick McLeod of Huntington. "We know when someone isn't here, or when someone is hurt. Spread the rumors around and let everybody know."
Every practice, rain or shine, this group is always on the sidelines at Marshall Stadium.
"The social aspect is great," said another member, Ken Cornell of Huntington. "We watch the new players that have just come in, and watch them develop."And according to Cornell, the group has been doing this ever since Marshall Stadium opened in 1991, as best he can remember.
And lest you think that those 6am practices keep these guys away, think again. As a group, they may not all make those early practices, but the group is represented at every practice, nonetheless. They have become such a staple at Marshall practices that even the coaching staff recognizes when somebody doesn't show up. "We get to talk to them periodically," said Cornell. "Coach (Kevin) Kelly said the other day that he couldn't hardly practice without some of us out here."
They are the hardest of the hard-core Marshall fans, this group. Just ask Marshall coach Bob Pruett, who is all too familiar with them.
"They're a pretty astute group," said Pruett at practice on Wednesday. Pruett ventures up and talks with them every chance he can get. "They know who's here and who's not. They know who's hurt and who isn't."
"They can evaluate talent pretty good, too."
"That number six (WR Nate Manns) from Beckley," offered up Nicholas. "He's going to be a super player. He's catching the ball better, and he's improving every day. I think they'll redshirt him this year. It would be to his advantage if they do."
But one should keep in mind that this isn't a bunch of armchair quarterbacks, constantly questioning play calling abilities and the like. No... Instead, think of this group of mostly retired Marshall fans as what they really are: Diehards, pure and simple.
Sitting with the group is possibly the finest way to attend a Marshall practice. The wealth of information being freely passed around (every day brings fresh printouts from the internet, covering topics from Conference USA to individual player stories, being circulated as practice goes on) plus the obvious social aspects of having a group of like-minded buddies to watch football practice with makes it so.
And don't think that just showing up will make you one of 'the gang', either. Admission to this group comes only after years of unwavering attendance and only after some serious effort. It can take years, according to member Carroll Nicholas. A group of two or three guys has been hanging out near Carroll and his buddies lately at practice. In order to become members of 'the group', Carroll says that the newcomers need only one thing.
"They need to get about 50 years older," Carroll laughed.
You can catch this group of rabid Marshall fans every day at football practice, come hell or high water. Just look up between the 40 yard lines, and you'll see them.
They're always there.
"They're like Timexes," said coach Pruett of the group. "They just keep on ticking."