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Marshall football: Herd players do their part to provide a Merry Christmas

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The children and parents from the D.C. General Emergency Family Shelter walked into the ballroom at the Renaissance Hotel on Wednesday morning, greeted by toys ranging from board games to baby dolls to action figures to stuffed animals.

They also were greeted by members of the Marshall University football team, there to help those families have a happy Christmas.

Before the Thundering Herd headed to meetings and practice for their Friday Military Bowl game versus Maryland in Annapolis, Md. (2:30 p.m., ESPN), several players hung out with families from the shelter as part of the Homeless Children's Playtime Project, passing out toys and playing games as the children raced around beaming.  

"Where we're from (in Miami), we have a lot of people like this, from the projects, who don't really have any toys," receiver Tommy Shuler said. "I'm fortunate to have a family and other people aren't fortunate to have a family. It's just a great feeling to go out there with the kids and put a smile on their face."

While some kids played pop-a-shot with Shuler or played a game similar to Whack-a-Mole with defensive back Corey Tindal, quarterback Rakeem Cato helped a toddler put together a toy carrier truck and grinned as the youngster placed the cars on the trailer.

The children munched on snacks and hung around the air hockey and foosball tables and the video game consoles. Then they paired up with players to survey the dozens of toys on display and pick out Nerf guns, baby dolls and strollers and remote control trucks, among other goodies, as their parents looked on.

"This is really nice," Shelter Service Administrator Jessica Thomas said. "They really enjoy any type of games and it's really nice to see the kids actually get out and shoot basketball, play pool. You know, actual kid stuff. We're definitely thankful for everything that the community does."

The football team has been collecting and distributing toys back home, too. It held a toy drive on Dec. 14 in front of the Barboursville Wal-Mart, to help collect toys for tri-state area charity Cricket's Kids.

Some of the toys from that drive made the trip to D.C. for the children Wednesday morning. Defensive tackle James Rouse was at that Dec. 14 event and was touched by how many members of the community were willing to help the team make so many children happy.

"It was amazing to how much people were giving and how much money we received from the raffle to support all these families," he said. "It was just amazing to see people do that."

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MARSHALL'S HELMETS for Friday's game will have a patriotic flair to them. The white helmets still will have the green "75" on one side, honoring the 75 players, coaches, staff and boosters who died in the 1970 plane crash. The block "M" will remain on the other side, but instead of green, the United States flag will color the inside.

The normal green and black stripes down the middle of the helmet will be replaced with red, white and blue stripes with white stars. And the word "Herd" on the front of the helmet will be replaced with "Army," "Navy," "Air Force," "Marines" or "Coast Guard."

"It feels good just to be able to support the military in any type of way," Rouse said. "To be able to have that on our helmet means a lot, because they do so much for us and do so much for this country and they need all the recognition they can get."

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THE TERPS have had little luck in the injury department this season. Maryland lost its top two receivers, Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, after both broke their right legs against Wake Forest. Edsall said in October that Long's injury would need six months to rehabilitate and Diggs' would need four. Diggs leads Maryland in receiving yards per game, averaging 83.9 in seven, with three touchdowns. Long is second on the team, averaging 69.9 yards in seven games with one touchdown.

In their place, LeVern Jacobs, a former Marshall commitment, and Amba Etta-Tawo have stepped up. Jacobs has averaged 73.8 receiving yards per game since Diggs and Long went down, while Etta-Tawo has averaged 72.4 receiving yards.

It hasn't been much easier for the Terps' secondary, which lost senior starting corner Dexter McDougle to a shoulder injury versus Connecticut. Another starting corner, junior Jeremiah Johnson, missed 10 games with a fractured toe and returned for Maryland's regular-season finale against North Carolina State, though he didn't record a tackle. Senior Isaac Goins and freshman William Likely are listed as Maryland's starting corners.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at or 304-348-1712. His blog is at Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.



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