Big Green culminates 2018-19 season with 41st annual dinner, HERDSPY’s awards

Marshall’s annual Big Green Dinner and HERDSPY’s awards celebration took place Friday evening with 10 people and plays honored as award winners. Former Marshall Football player and current Oakland Raiders tight end Lee Smith was the guest speaker at the event. 

“That ‘M’ is special and that green will hang in my house till the day I die and I will always be thankful for this place but the most special thing about this place is the people,” Smith said. 

Smith’s father played at the University of Tennessee and he knew from the start that he wanted to be there. However, his time did not last long there and soon after found his home among the Herd. 

The late Phil Ratliff, Marshall’s former tight ends coach, was one coach that had a lasting impact on Smith’s life. 

“He walked me to class and cussed me every single day,” he joked. “It was one of those deals where I was at a crossroads. No matter how much love he tried to pour into me. I was too dumb to realize how many people truly cared about me and wanted to see me succeed.” 

Ratliff, from 19 on told Smith “You have the ability to do something special and you have the personally and chrismal to not only affect yourself but a lot of other people.” 

He also credited his wife, Alisha, “Twelve years later, four babies, nine years in the NFL and a life we could have never dreamed of, she saved me.” 

“This university, along with Coach Ratliff and my wife, was a place that I could hit reset,” Smith said “I could just feel how different it is, I have been around a lot of ball of my life and this place is different. There is something here that no one else has.” 

Special recognition was given to Associate Director of Athletics for Administration and Business, David Steele. He was presented this award to honor him for everything that he does in and around Marshall Athletics.  

The Dot Hicks Legacy award was presented to Charlie Pace. This award is presented to someone who lives in a way that Dot Hicks does. This person continuously gives to Marshall and his passion for Marshall does not compare. Dot Hicks is a former Marshall teacher, coach, administrator and the pioneer for women’s athletics in the state of West Virginia. 

The Olympic Sports Play of the Year award was presented to senior women’s basketball player, Shayna Gore.  The Play of the Year was when Gore scored her 2,000-point becoming the 3rd player in school history to do so. 

The HERDSPY Perseverance Award was presented to senior swimmer Catherine Bendziewicz. She was presented this award because of her determination in competing throughout the season with a serious hip injury. That said injury still could not stop her from winning her third consecutive Conference USA Championship, breaking three school records and only missing the fourth by two-hundredths of a second. 

The Football Play of the Year was presented to redshirt sophomore Jaquan Yulee. He was presented this award for the hit stick vs NC. State. 

The Larry Aaron Award for Courage and Commit, in honor of the late football player, Larry Aaron who died in February of 2018, was awarded to senior women’s soccer player, Jenna Zuzolo. In her time at Marshall she worked her way up to be a full-time starter. Yet off the field she accomplished much more. Zuzolo developed a process to monitor her diabetic-sister’s sugar. This is a part of the driving force that led her into the medical profession. 

The Basketball Play of the Year award was accepted by men’s basketball graduate assistant, Milan Mijovic. The play of the year was when Byers passed to Burks jumped to save the ball from going out of bounds and passed the ball to Kinsey for the slam. 

The HERDSPY Award for Dedication to Excellence was presented to senior men’s basketball player Jon Elmore. Elmore was the only player in C-USA history to be named First-Team All-Conference in three consecutive seasons, and the only player in NCAA History to score more than 2,500 points and record over 750 assists. 

The Moment of the Year award was also presented to Jon Elmore. This award was presented for the moment that Elmore became the all-time leading scorer record at Marshall University. 

The Chad Pennington Leadership Award was presented to December graduate and previous football player Chase Hancock. While beginning his career as a walk-on, Hancock found his home among the Herd. Hancock had 320 total tackles during his time at Marshall. 

Other athletes that were honored at the event include women’s golf player Shelby Brauckmuller, men’s golf player Thomas Frazier, baseball player D’Andre Knight, football player Chris Jackson, women’s track and field Elena Marchand, volleyball player Lauren Mattmuller, men’s soccer player Paulo Pita, women’s cross country runner Stephanie Rogner, men’s cross country runner Nick Schmidt, tennis player Anna Smith and softball player Abigail Tolbert. 

Sydney Shelton can be contacted at [email protected]