Litton declares for NFL, leaves legacy at Marshall


Richard Crank

Chase Litton rolls out to pass in Marshall’s 2017 contest at N.C. State. He threw for 350 yards and two touchdowns in a 37-20 loss to the Wolfpack.

Marshall’s 2017 starting quarterback, Chase Litton, has decided to forgo his final year of NCAA eligibility to step onto football’s largest stage: the National Football League.

Litton tweeted his public announcement early Sunday afternoon:

“First and foremost, I want to thank my teammates – my brothers,” Litton wrote. “I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish anything like this without you. I want to thank coach Doc Holliday and Marshall University for allowing me to be their quarterback for the past three seasons. My time in this prestigious program has readied me for this challenge.”

In the third week of the 2015 season, Litton made his Thundering Herd debut as a true freshman against Norfolk State, earning his first career start in place of an injured Michael Birdsong.

“At the end of the day, I was heading into each practice trying to protect my craft, trying to get better” Litton said, looking back on his freshman campaign. “Trying so that if I get thrown into the game, I can succeed.”

After his four-touchdown performance against Norfolk State, Litton permanently replaced Birdsong under-center. Then, at the end of the 2015-2016 academic year, Birdsong announced his transfer to Tennessee Tech after graduating from Marshall. Moving forward, Litton became ‘the guy’ for the Herd.

In his first season, Litton set multiple Marshall freshman passing records, as he threw for 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions while gaining 2,605 yards of total offense. The last two Marshall quarterbacks to throw less than eight interceptions in a season, with a minimum of 300 pass attempts, were Byron Leftwich and Chad Pennington (seven

each). Litton led the Herd to nine wins in his 11 starts, including a 16-10 victory over UConn in the 2015 St. Petersburg Bowl, Marshall’s fourth consecutive bowl victory under Head Coach Doc Holliday. Litton set the bar high—maybe too high.

Statistically, Litton’s sophomore season was not far from his freshman season. His career-high 24 touchdown passes and just nine interceptions, however, led to a three-win season. After disappearing in two of the most important home games in 2016—No. 3 Louisville and C-USA rival Western Kentucky—there were clear issues.

“It’s all from the neck up. That’s what separates the guys who are successful and unsuccessful, and I had to learn that the hard way,” Litton said before the start of the 2017 season. “I’ve had to take that on the chin and realize that the bond and chemistry of this team is the most important thing.”

Litton used the summer offseason to spark a change in himself. Upon his return to fall camp, Litton was stronger and more physical. The rising junior also worked with the legendary Manning family over the summer at the Manning Passing Academy, an annual summer camp for high-performing  youth and college football players.

“It was great to pick their brains, great to learn from the two greats of football,” Litton said about the experience. “The best family out there that’s ever played football, especially quarterback.”

In the eyes of Herd fans, the adjustments turned into a surprisingly successful season,

as the Herd finished the regular season at 7-5.

With an eighth win at the Gildan New Mexico Bowl in mid-December, Litton capped off his 2017 season with 3,115 passing yards—the most he threw for in a season.

When he first put on a Marshall uniform, Litton quickly realized how heavily the citizens of Huntington invest themselves in Thundering 

Herd Athletics.

“Before I decided to attend Marshall, I knew how special this program was to so many,”

Litton said. “My last three seasons here have shown me how important this team is to
this community.

Litton finished his Marshall career as one of the best statistical quarterbacks in program history. His 727 completions and 72 touchdowns rank fourth all-time, while his 8,332 total yards gained ranks fifth.

“We thank Chase for his contribution to Marshall football and wish him the best of luck moving forward,” said Holliday.

“This was an extremely tough decision,” Litton said. “Marshall has a ton of talent on both sides of the ball coming back for 2018, and there’s no doubt this coming season will be a special one. There will be high expectations for my brothers, and I will be their No. 1 fan.”

The 2018 NFL Draft will take place April 26-28 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. There are seven rounds and 256 selections.

Luke Creasy can be contacted at [email protected]