CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A football recruit often gets the chance to watch his prospective college's history unfold on his television set when he flips on a sports network like ESPN. Few of them get the same experience when they switch the channel to a movie network.
Marshall football recruits are among that few.
"We Are Marshall is on TV," tweeted Matthew Santer, a Parkersburg native who spent last season at Fork Union Military Academy and will play football at Marshall as a preferred walk-on, "crazy to think all the times I've seen this movie and now I'm playing for all this history. It gets me excited!"
For the uninitiated, "We Are Marshall," is the 2006 movie starring Matthew McConaughey as Jack Lengyel, the coach of the 1971 "Young Thundering Herd," which carried on after the November 1970 plane crash that killed 75 players, coaches, staff and boosters. It's a story of triumph over seemingly insurmountable odds. And it's among the things that make Marshall instantly recognizable to people living hundreds of miles away from Huntington.
In business, the right brand can lead to big things. And in the business of college football recruiting, anything that can make a program stand out can offer an edge. J.C. Shurburtt, national recruiting director for 247Sports, said Marshall has a brand that's allowed it to make waves on National Signing Day.
"Because of the 'We Are Marshall' movie and because of Randy Moss, quite frankly, people know Marshall football," Shurburtt said.
Moss - the tackler-hurdling Heisman finalist that became one of the greatest receivers in NFL history - stands under the brightest spotlight among former Thundering Herd players. That spotlight is shining a little brighter now that he's playing the wild-card analyst role on Fox Sports 1. He's among a group of marquee former players that includes quarterbacks Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich.
And when "We Are Marshall" hits heavy rotation on cable, folks get a taste of Marshall's rich history. Any advantage in the recruiting process is a good one, and Marshall's visibility, especially for a program of its size, is a very good one.
Heavy-hitters like Florida State, Alabama and Ohio State have no problem gaining a recruit's attention. They can point to BCS championships, Sugar Bowls, Orange Bowls and Rose Bowls. Plus, the strength of their respective conferences is a boost. Kids want to play in the SEC and Big Ten.
In leagues like Conference USA and the American Athletic Conference, the profiles aren't as high. The viability of the conference itself isn't an advantage. Sometimes, it can even be an albatross. A conference title there doesn't guarantee a marquee bowl.