When it comes to Marshall football, Michael Payton is kind of a big deal. For instance, it is 2014, and Payton is still in the top three in just about every major passing category in the Herd's record books. However, Michael himself will tell you that statistics are only so meaningful.
Fortunately for him, he has much more than that on his resume.
In his junior season, Payton threw for almost 3,400 yards and 26 touchdowns while leading his Marshall squad all the way to the FCS Championship game, where they would lose 25-17 to Jim Tressel's Youngstown State squad.
The following season, Payton went one further. This time he threw for over 3,600 yards and 31 touchdowns, while leading the Herd right back to the title game, where they would once again face Tressel's Penguins. Marshall raced out to a 28-0 lead, only to watch it slowly evaporate as the game wore on.
Fortunately, Payton was good at what he did. He took over possession and orchestrated one last drive, which resulted in this:
That, folks, is Willy Merrick, winning a national championship on his first ever collegiate attempt, thanks to the final-drive heroics of Michael Payton. With that, the Herd were all the way back from their near-extinction in 1970, and Payton was on his way to winning the Walter Payton Award.
Afterwards, the Herd would reach the title game again the following year and win it again in 1996. Payton would have a cup of coffee in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys before brief stints in both the CFL and AFL.