One of the biggest question marks surrounding Marshall football as it enters 2016 quickly turned into a giant exclamation point Tuesday afternoon when offensive lineman Clint Van Horn learned he was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA.
The 6-foot-5, 310-pound tackle played in only three games this season due to injuries. After playing 69 snaps in the Herd's season opener win over Purdue, Van Horn suffered an injury the next week at Ohio, one that he was never able to recover from. The burley lineman began the season on the Lombardi (best down lineman and linebackers within five yards of the line of scrimmage) and Outland Trophy (nation's best interior lineman) Watch Lists before the injury ended his season.
"Getting Clint back this year is such a tremendous boost for the entire program," said Marshall coach Doc Holliday. "He is one of our leaders and truly embodies what it means to be a Marshall student-athlete."
Van Horn was a bit more excited than that of his skipper.
"I'm so happy that I got my sixth year," Van Horn said. "I can't wait to be with the team and to play for this university. When I found out, I was at a loss for words. I was bawling. I was pretty excited to say the least."
Van Horn learned of the announced just before noon Tuesday when Marshall assistant compliance director Bill Timpano delivered the news.
"I was a mess," Van Horn said. "I was in tears, man. I'm going nuts. (Ryan) Yurachek jumped on me and (Michael) Birdsong gave me a hug. The other guys came up; Blake Keller jumped on me and gave me a hug, too. It was a real emotional moment. I was so shook up, I really couldn't say anything at all."
Marshall offensive line coach Alex Mirabal welcomes back one of his leaders, who excels on and off the field for the Herd.
"It'll be awesome to get him back and I'm looking forward to coaching him again," Mirabal said. "You get that leadership that knows about putting in that grind and that work ethic, but there's that part of it that he's a physical bully. You get that on the field and we missed that last year. There's the leadership and that physicalness, and you get both the tangible on the field and intangible off the field."
Van Horn earned Conference USA Preseason honors in 2015 after securing his first ever All-Conference USA First Team selection for his 2014 performance. Van Horn led the Herd with 92 knockdowns in 14 games.
"I'm on cloud nine," Mirabal said. "Does it help our offensive line? Yes, but I'm more excited for him as a person. In this world and life, sometimes we don't see enough good things happen to good people, and that's a good person having a good thing happen. Marshall football, Marshall fans and the community gets to benefit from that, so that makes it such a good feel today."
While overjoyed with excitement of the news, Van Horn said the hard work of a few made this possible.
"I just want to thank the athletic training staff â Tim Pike and his guys, Mike Hamrick, Jeff O'Malley and his assistants, all the doctors that stood by me with surgery and rehab," Van Horn said. "All those people worked their butts off to put all the information and facts in there so nothing was missing."
Marshall opens its spring camp March 29 and begins the 2016 regular season Sept. 10 against Morgan State at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington.