Charles Huff energizing Herd football into the future


Austin O'Connor | Marshall University

Charles Huff was named Marshall University’s head coach in January 2021.

Competition in everything. Elite work ethic. Positive attitude. Discipline.

These core values established by head coach Charles Huff are intended to develop the participants of the Marshall football program into champions.  

“We’re not working for championships,” Huff said. “We’re not working for a certain game. We’re working to be a champion.” 

Introduced by athletic director Mike Hamrick and university president Jerome A. Gilbert in a press conference a week ago, Huff became the 31st head coach in Marshall football history.  

“Our goal is to produce a football program that we can all be proud of,” Huff said. “A program that matches the history and the tradition of this great university from top to bottom.” 

Growing up in the Washington DC area, a five-year-old Charles Huff dreamed of leading a college football program one day. As Huff grew into adulthood, he was inspired by a folk hero from the DC area named Byron Leftwich.  

After 15 years of enhancing his coaching pedigree, Huff’s 32-year-old dream of leading a college football program was realized at the same program where Leftwich cemented his legacy.

 “A lot of hard work went into it,” Huff said while fighting back his emotions. “A lot of people took a chance on me, and I’m going to make sure those people don’t regret it.” 

It was Tennessee State who took the first chance on Huff, and over the next decade and a half there were a lot of other programs who gave him an opportunity. Most recently, it was the University of Alabama.  

As the associate head coach and running back coach, Huff helped lead an offense that breezed by every opponent it played, averaging nearly 50 points per game.

Huff said that he will implement a lot of the same offensive schemes at Marshall, combining the RPO game and the pro-style drop back pass to stretch the field at all three levels.   

“I think it puts defenses in a bind,” Huff said. “It creates headaches for defensive coordinators, and it produces a fun brand of football for the players and the fans.” 

But scheming an offense is not the only thing he learned in his time under coaches such as Nick Saban and James Franklin; he learned how to run a program.  

“I think what I’ve learned is the ability to sustain success,” Huff said, “and the ability to sustain success is through consistency in approach, consistency in message (and) consistency in work ethic.” 

Because Marshall football has had recent success, Huff said that his job is not to rebuild but rather to hit the ground running with the immediate application of the things he has learned about sustainability.  

“You’re taking over a really good program, the expectations are high,” Huff said, “but I can promise you that my expectations are higher.” 

Those expectations placed on Marshall football from both inside and outside of the program are the direct result of the university’s tragic, inspiring history and tradition. 

From the plane crash and Young Thundering Herd to the NCAA Division 1-AA national championships in the 90s, the legacy of Marshall football is undeniably deep and storied, not only in the hallows of Huntington but across a nation full of college football fans. 

It is a story that “every college football fan, player, supporter knows about, understands, and has a spot in their heart for,” Huff said. “For me to be able to be a part of the rebirth and continue that rebirth, I can’t tell you how appreciative I am of that opportunity.” 

That history and tradition, Huff said, attracted him to Marshall, but the alignment of all things – the job structure, his career path, the passion of the fan base, the meshing of his personality – is what made it “an easy choice.”   

“This community is screaming for energy, enthusiasm and getting this program back to the days that we all know,” Huff said. 

A large component in achieving that goal is with the players, both current and future. 

Huff said that through his own experiences as a player he can relate to the circumstances of every player.  

“I’ve been a walk-on. I’ve earned a scholarship. I was a backup. I was a starter. I played only special teams. I’ve moved positions … I’ve been through coaching changes,” Huff said. “I’ve been every player in that locker room.” 

Huff said he hopes that will allow him to connect with the current players in the locker room and build a relationship that allows him to impact their lives.  

First and foremost, Huff said it his and the program’s mission to help players become better as people. “We want high character individuals in our program,” he said. 

Then, he wants his players to succeed as students before they achieve success as athletes.  

“We want to use all the resources here at the university to give all our players the best chance to be successful on and off the field,” Huff said.  

Success in developing and instilling that culture within his program and players goes back to the aforementioned core values, and the core value that separates the great programs and most successful people from the rest, Huff said, is discipline. 

“You got to make the conscience effort every day to make the right choices and decisions to chase the goals that you have set for you,” Huff said.  

With a purposeful, permeable process established, the look of the team on the field will begin to fall into place, but what will the product on the field look like? 

“We’re going to be the fastest, physical, most aggressive football program in the country,” Huff said. “We want other teams saying at the end of the game, ‘I hate playing that team. I hate playing them … They play with a focus and intensity for 60 minutes that I can’t match.’” 

But to get that point, it will not be easy, Huff said; but with unity, it is attainable. 

“Everybody’s going to have to be all-in,” he said. “It’s not just me and my staff and the players … we need everybody pulling the rope in the same direction.” 

Grant Goodrich can be contacted at [email protected].