Marshall football: McKelvey identity is often mistaken
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- D.J. Hunter rattled off the names of safeties after a Marshall spring football practice.
His brain stopped on the guy wearing No. 31.
"Oh, and we've got Omar back there," he said, before pausing.
"Not Omar, I mean Evan."
Evan McKelvey is used to this, but he claims it is no longer a mental miscue by teammates and coaches.
"I'd say they call me Omar 100 percent of the time now," McKelvey said. "They aren't screwing it up ... they do it on purpose."
McKelvey, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound safety from Moncks Corner, S.C., is Omar Brown's younger brother. They play the same position, but when two-time team captain Brown graduated from the program after the 2011 season, McKelvey traded in his No. 30 for No. 31.
McKelvey and Brown look and talk and act similar out of pads. The number change didn't help matters on the field.
"I have to do a double-take sometimes," Herd safeties coach Todd Hartley said.
But, McKelvey's number change comes with a burden.
In addition to his captain status, Brown was an all-conference selection and a favorite of players and coaches. He led the Herd with 113 tackles last season, while also intercepting four passes and forcing four fumbles.
McKelvey had three tackles.
"I tease him all the time because he's wearing 31 and right now he doesn't look like his damn brother," third-year Herd Coach Doc Holliday said with a laugh.
McKelvey, however, is making strides. He has logged significant time this spring at both safety positions - free and strong - which makes him valuable as a rotational player should injury or another factor necessitate him play one spot more than the other.
"I had been playing nothing but free safety," said McKelvey, who played mostly special teams as a true freshman last season. "They moved me to strong safety so now they can switch me out. I can go in at strong or free and get someone out of there to catch their breath."
Or, he could be a starter. Competition at safety has been wide-open this spring with the graduation of Brown and the shift of Devin Arrington to linebacker.
Hunter, McKelvey and Zach Dunston have practiced with the first team this spring. Academic non-qualifier Shawn Samuels could wiggle into the mix when he becomes eligible this summer.
McKelvey's advantage is having two years of spring drills under his belt. He enrolled at Marshall in January 2011. McKelvey has been around as long as his position coach, Hartley, who has watched the safety blossom into something closer to the player who used to wear No. 31.
"Fundamentally Evan has gotten a lot more physical," Hartley said. "He's more aggressive to the football, he's quicker to the football and his instincts are faster.
"He's still young, but his effort is phenomenal. His burst to the football is what I've been impressed with, but he's got big shoes to fill."
McKelvey said he teases Brown that he's filling those shoes admirably so far. He had to do the same at Berkeley High School in South Carolina, where he followed Omar and then middle brother Kory Brown (who signed with Kentucky in February).
All three are safeties.
"I've dealt with this before," McKelvey said. "The same thing happened in high school but I told Omar that once he was gone, I took over real quick."
And, until he fills his brother's roomy cleats, McKelvey's teammates have a nickname for him if he doesn't like being called Omar.
According to McKelvey: "Some people just call me 30 1/2."
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MARSHALL WILL hold an intrasquad scrimmage today at 3 p.m.
The practice was originally scheduled for Saturday morning but Holliday moved the scrimmage to dodge forecasted inclement weather this weekend.
The scrimmage is open to the public.
Today's practice is No. 12 of 15 practices of the spring. Marshall's final week of spring drills will include practices Tuesday and Thursday followed by the Green-White spring game on Friday, April 28.
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THE ANNUAL Big Green Banquet is scheduled for Friday, April 28 at Marshall's on-campus Student Recreation Center.
Current National Football League players Ahmad Bradshaw, Daniel Baldridge, Chris Crocker, Byron Leftwich, Doug Legursky and Chris Massey are all scheduled to attend the event.
The 34th annual Big Green Banquet, touted as "An Evening with the Pros," will be hosted by Chad Pennington.
Individual tickets are $80 and can be purchased through the Big Green office by calling 304-696-4661. The banquet starts at 7 p.m.
The event is the night before Marshall's Green-White spring football game, which is scheduled for Saturday, April 28 at 2 p.m.
Contact Chuck McGill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.