The Marshall football team got a surprise visitor Wednesday morning when Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., stopped by Joan C. Edwards Stadium to pay the Herd a visit.
McCain watched practice and also helped by calling three plays for the Herd offense. All three plays ended with a touchdown.
Marshall football head coach Mark Snyder was impressed by McCain's play-calling ability.
"I'll tell you what. If (McCain) does as good as he did calling plays (on his campaign), he's going to be OK," Snyder said.
The players gathered at midfield to hear McCain speak following morning workouts. McCain said he was proud to be at Marshall and called the school unique for having survived the 1970 plane crash tragedy.
McCain shared his experience as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War with the team. McCain said for the first few years of his captivity, prisoners were in solitary confinement and that the prisoners encouraged one another by tapping the walls of their cells.
"When we didn't act as a team, they broke us down," McCain said. "We didn't always win."
While at practice, McCain took time to meet with players and shake their hands, even personally asking for "Blondie," referring to Mackey Award candidate and All-Conference USA tight end Cody Slate.
Myriah Hisam, junior broadcast journalism major from Friendly, W.Va., and part of the football team's video unit, was on hand to see McCain.
"It's just pretty cool knowing that we could have just met the (future) president of the United States and that he cares enough to come to Marshall," Hisam said.
Craig Ratanamorn, junior marketing major from Wichita, Kan., and placekicker on the Marshall football team, got to spend about five minutes in a personal conversation with McCain. Ratanamorn said McCain asked him how things were going and wished him good luck.
"(McCain) is a good guy," Ratanamorn said. "On TV, he looks a lot bigger."
Ratanamorn said he plans to vote for McCain in November's election and his visit reinforced that.
"Meeting him in person does make a difference," Ratanamorn said.
Former Herd assistant coach Red Dawson was also on hand to meet McCain. Dawson called McCain a hero as he introduced himself to the Republican senator.
"I remember, it's a great movie," McCain said referring to the film "We AreMarshall" in which Dawson is portrayed by actor Matthew Fox.
"It's just a symbol to America, and I'm proud to be here," McCain said of the film.