HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Running back Travon Van admits there was a little caution when he went full contact in practice this week. After offseason surgeries to repair the labrum in his hip and a sports hernia, he didn't want the wrong cut or an unnecessary hit to undo the progress he's made in rehabilitation.
But when that first hit came, so did a sigh of relief.
"It definitely feels good," he said. "The strings are off a little bit, just out there running around, knowing I will get hit and it's going to be live. You feel pretty good after your first contact."
Van, a 5-foot-10, 193-pound redshirt sophomore, made the Conference USA all-freshman team last season, rushing for 551 yards (second-best on the team) and three touchdowns on 143 carries. And with last year's leading rusher Tron Martinez's knees still being evaluated, Van could be called on to shoulder most of the rushing load.
As he took things easy in the first two weeks of practice, he watched freshman running backs Steward Butler and Kevin Grooms impress coaches with their speed and agility. It comforted him to know the two could succeed if he couldn't play, but it also spurred him to return and keep them from vaulting him on the depth chart.
"Definitely there was some motivation," he said. "I was telling coaches I was ready to come back and they were saying, 'Take your time.' But I was telling them, 'No, I'm ready.' "
* * *
EXPECT THE Big Green-only ticket sales for marquee away games, like the Thundering Herd's season opener at West Virginia University, to continue in the future, said Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick. The university took 3,200 tickets for the Sept. 1 game and made them available only to donors to the Big Green Scholarship Foundation.
Tickets for Marshall's Sept. 29 game at Purdue also will be sold only to Big Green members. Big Green memberships begin at $50.
"In the past, we just sold them to anybody," Hamrick said. "We sold them to Big Green, but people could come off the street and buy them and we didn't know if we were selling to Marshall fans or WVU fans. We didn't ask.
"So our goal was to take our premium road games, like everyone else in the country does," he said, "and if you're not a donor, you can't buy those tickets."