Doc Holliday was born and raised in Hurricane, West Virginia – not too far from Marshall University, where he has coached since 2010.
“There’s no question it’s home,” Holliday said of Marshall on Ferrall on the Bench. “I’m so happy to be back. I always dreamed of being a head football coach and wanted to go to a place where football was extremely important to its fan base. I’m just proud to be the head football coach here right now.”
Holliday played linebacker at West Virginia from 1976 to 1978 and coached there from 1979 to 1999. He then went to NC State for five years and got a chance to coach Philip Rivers, and he then went to Florida for three years and got a chance to coach Tim Tebow – and win a national championship.
“I’ve been very fortunate,” Holliday said. “I only had three jobs, to be honest.”
Holliday learned a great deal in the 20+ years he spent with the Mountaineers – most of them with legendary head coach Don Nehlen. Under Nehlen, Holliday learned that college football is a personnel-driven game and that nothing is more important than recruiting and player development.
But after coaching Rivers and Tebow and working with Urban Meyer, Holliday, 57, is happy to be home.
“I’ve been very fortunate in this business,” Holliday said. “I finally got the opportunity to be the head football coach at a great place like Marshall.”
He’s also gotten the opportunity to coach an absolute freak of nature in quarterback Rakeem Kato.
Listed as 6-1, 178, Cato – a Miami native – has thrown for 2,130 yards, 20 touchdowns and six interceptions this season. He’s also rushed for 255 yards and five scores, helping Marshall (8-0, 4-0) to an undefeated season.
“I’ve been fortunate to have been around a lot of great quarterbacks, including Tim Tebow,” Holliday said. “But to be honest, (Cato is) the most competitive kid I’ve ever coached. I’m not going to sit here and tell you he’s better than Philip Rivers and better than Tebow, but he throws it just as well. He’s very, very competitive, and he’s a great story. He overcame an awful lot of adversity and grew up extremely tough. He deserves everything he gets.”
Junior tailback Devon Johnson, meanwhile, has been a beast this season. He’s rushed 137 times for 1,203 yards – 8.8 yards per carry – and 15 touchdowns.
“Tremendous player,” Holliday said of the 6-1, 243-pounder. “Just a tough kid that likes to play the game. (He) runs extremely well, extremely physical. It’s amazing what he’s done.”
Amazingly, Marshall ranks third in the nation in scoring offense (45.9 points per game) and is eighth in scoring defense (16.5 points). And yet, the Thundering Herd did not appear in the initial College Football Playoff rankings.
Talk about disrespect.
“Well, we’re concerned about what we can control,” Holliday said. “Those rankings don’t mean a whole lot right now, to be honest with you. At the end of the year, we’ll look up and see where we are. As long as we keep having success, something really good will happen for this football team. There’s no doubt in my mind about that.”