HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato coupled his all-Conference USA first team selection Tuesday with being named C-USA's most valuable player Wednesday.
The conference's coaches picked Cato, a sophomore from Miami, to become the conference's first underclassman MVP. Teammate Kevin Grooms joined Cato on the awards list, as the running back was named C-USA's freshman of the year.
Southern Methodist University running back Zach Line was named offensive player of the year, while University of Central Florida defensive back Kemal Ishmael was named defensive player of the year and UCF kick returner Quincy McDuffie was named special teams player of the year. East Carolina running back Vintavious Cooper was named newcomer of the year.
Cato led the Football Bowl Subdivision in completions per game (33.83), passing yards per game (350.08), was third in touchdown passes (37) and fifth in both total offense (352.67 yards per game) and completion percentage (69.5). All those numbers led the conference.
Cato credits his older brother, Antwain, with helping him become a better passer. Antwain was a baseball guy and started Cato's development along baseball lines. That development quickly moved to football.
"He played pitcher and catcher and he taught me his fundamentals on how to throw the ball," Cato said. "We practiced constantly, every night, we'd go out in the back of the house. I'd get on one knee and throw the ball. I'd sit on my butt and throw the ball."
With Cato under center, Marshall led the FBS with 365.08 passing yards per game. In the Thundering Herd's single-season record books, he finished first in completions (406), second in attempts (584), third in yards (4,201) and tied for third in touchdowns (37).
Grooms led all C-USA freshmen with 737 yards rushing, the fourth-highest total for a freshman in Marshall history. His 6.1 yards per carry was the second-best average in the conference. He scored eight rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown.
Cato is the first Marshall offensive player to win a top conference award since quarterback Byron Leftwich was named the Mid-American Conference's 2002 offensive player of the year. Grooms is the Herd's first conference freshman of the year since Randy Moss won the Southern Conference's award in 1996.
-- Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.r...@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.