MCGILL: Herd football stars will make impact in NFL

Updated 1 year ago Special to HNN Provided by Herd Zone
MCGILL: Herd football stars will make impact in NFL

By Chuck McGill

HerdZone.com

It is unlikely Malik Gant will comply with the request to turn off his phone when he sits down in a movie theatre tonight. After all, what if a National Football League team has something important to tell him?

Friday is the second day of the three-day NFL Draft, which started Thursday night in Nashville, Tennessee. The first round is complete, and Friday will bring rounds two and three. Most projections have Gant and Tyre Brady– Marshall's most likely draft picks this weekend – being selected on the draft's third day. Gant will probably make it through the movie without an interruption.

"I'll be watching the draft Saturday with my family," said Gant, who is from Washington, D.C. "The other days I will be treating as regular days. I'm going to see the new 'Avengers' movie on Friday."

Mock drafts – and there's no shortage of them these days – have Gant and Brady destined for various places. It is anyone's guess where Gant, a hard-hitting defensive back who was named the Thundering Herd's Team MVP after the 2018 season, or Brady, a dynamic receiver who was the team's Offensive Player of the Year, will land.

What is certain, however, is that whichever team takes the Herd greats – they're getting the goods.

"If I'm a general manager, I would get Malik Gant right away," said rising junior Nazeeh Johnson, who played alongside Gant for much of the last two seasons. "He's a competitive guy; he's tough. He doesn't make excuses. You know he's on the field because of the way he makes plays."

And boy does Gant make plays – with authority.

Gant and Brady were both invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, and Gant measured 6 feet tall and 209 pounds there. He puts every bit of that weight into his hits.

Gant finished with 94 tackles – second on the team – and eight tackles for a loss. He ranked in the top 10 nationally in tackles for a loss by a defensive back, a clear indication of how he attacks.

"He's so physical," said Mike Treier, who coaches Marshall's safeties. "He really likes football, and not everybody loves football day-in and day-out. Some guys like gameday and practice they do it because they have to. Malik enjoyed practice and getting better. Practice is important to him. He saw the correlation between practice and a game.

"Coming in as a walk-on, the process was important to him. As a coach or a GM, that's something you can't measure. Not that his measurables aren't good – they are good. But he has a lot of stuff you can't measure."

Gant's teammates and coaches saw it every single day, which is why the decision to forgo his final year of eligibility and turn pro didn't draw criticism.

"I never doubted him," Johnson said. "He's a once-in-a-lifetime player. He doesn't take stutter steps when he tackles. A lot of defensive backs will take a few steps and collect themselves before making a tackle, but Malik just goes. He's like a linebacker playing DB."

Brady measured 6-3 and 211 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine, and also had the opportunity to impress future NFL employers at the Senior Bowl. At the Senior Bowl, Brady was clocked running 19.2 miles per hour, which was one of the sixth fastest speeds on the South team and the second-best number from a wide receiver behind South Carolina's Deebo Samuel.

"Tyre Brady is special," Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. "He has the physical gifts to be a great receiver at the next level, and he was one of the most productive receivers in Conference USA the last two seasons. He will make an NFL team better."

Brady, like Gant, was a first team Conference USA all-conference selection after the 2018 season. The native of Homestead, Florida, led the Herd in receptions and receiving yards in each of the last two seasons, and totaled 17 touchdowns in his two seasons with the program. He will forever be remembered for his breakout game at North Carolina State in 2017, an 11-catch, 248-yard performance. The receiving yards were the most by a player, home or visitor, in the history of Carter-Finley Stadium, and the yardage was the fourth most in MU history, the most by a Herd player on the road and the most by a Marshall player against an FBS program.

Brady finished with seven career 100-yard games, and the last five times Brady eclipsed 100 yards all came in Marshall wins.

"Tyre is a born leader," said Obi Obialo, a senior who finished second behind Brady in receptions and receiving yards in 2018. "He can do anything; he can any route; he can play in the slot; he can play outside. He's big, physical, strong. He doesn't say much, but he does everything. He's what you want as a receiver."

Chuck McGill is the Assistant Athletic Director for Fan/Donor Engagement and Communications at Marshall University and a seven-time winner of the National Sports Media Association West Virginia Sportswriter of the Year award. In addition to HerdZone.com's Word on the Herd, McGill is the editor of Thundering Herd Illustrated, Marshall's official athletics publication. Follow him on Twitter (@chuckmcgill) and Instagram (wordontheherd).

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