Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Hargrove hopes Marshall Mavs playing football Dec. 23

By Nathan Hague
Sept. 15, 2017 at 4 a.m.

Chris Hargrove

Despite their 0-2 start, the Marshall Mavericks hope to be playing football just two days before Christmas.

"Our ultimate goal is to play Dec. 23," Marshall running backs coach Chris Hargrove. "Is it still possible? Yes. Right now we can't look at what we've done with the wins and losses part of it. Where have we grown? Our team goal is to continue to grow and get to that Dec. 23 game. We have to take one opponent at a time. The first opponent is ourselves. We have to make sure we're doing what we're supposed to do and take care of our business in the classroom and on the football field."

That's truly spoken like a coach, which makes sense seeing as Hargrove is in his 20th year of coaching football, something he has wanted to do since he was a little boy.

"I used to walk around with a whistle and a hat on watching college football, I really did," Hargrove said. "So that was instilled in me from a young boy on. It was something I always wanted to do.

"In fact, true story: my freshman year on campus, my mom wanted me to go into physical therapy," Hargrove recalls. "So I signed up for physical therapy classes as my major while she was there. Then the next morning, I got up and switched it kinesiology. I thought, 'I am not going into PT. I am a football coach.'"

An injury meant the end of Hargrove's playing days but coaching opportunities allowed him to remain involved in the game.

"I played for coach Willie Fritz at Blinn," he said. "When I got injured, he asked me, 'Do you ever think about coaching.' He assigned us to coach the intramural teams and he chose me to do it and my intramural team went undefeated. He watched us play in the championship game. He called me in his office the next day and said, 'I would love to hire you on my staff at some point.' He just called me out of the blue so that was a good thing. God has really blessed me."

Hargrove said the most rewarding part of coaching is seeing his student athletes go on to be successful in football and in life.

"In 20 years, I've had players who are now fathers, who are in ministry, as well as I am and they're leading young men and women in the right direction," he said. "As I look back on Facebook and Instagram and see all those young men I've coached have success, it's been a great reward and the fact that they stay in contact and tell me thank you, it makes you feel even more humble.

"People don't understand, coaching and teaching is a ministry," he added. "It is a ministry. I had a person tell me when I first got into it, he said, 'Preachers and teachers are dear to God's heart' because you're always dealing with His children."

Coaching has taken Hargrove all over Texas and to Florida. He received a phone call this summer from Marshall head coach Claude Mathis.

"He told me, 'I need you to get here. Don't ask questions. Don't fight me. Don't tell me no. I need you to coach my running backs,'" Hargrove said. "Coach Mathis and I have known each other for 20 years. In fact, my first job interview was at Southwest Texas at the time and he was the running back. Coach Bob DeBesse brought me over for a job interview and I got a chance to watch him practice and hand him the ball a couple times as part of the interview. Then I ended up coaching his brother two years after that at Blinn Junior College. So he and I have been friends for that length of time."

Now as the Mavericks running backs coach, Hargrove is excited about those playing in Marshall's backfield.

"I tell you what, this is a great young group," he said. "We're trying to get them going in the right direction. I think there's some talent here. We've just got to keep trying to plug and plug and give them an understanding of what we're doing. I think they're going to be fine."

So far this year, the Mavericks have 314 rushing yards. Rodarius Smith leads the team with 145 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries.

"Rodarius has played different positions in the last four years, so now he's eager to be there," Hargrove said. "Marco, I my goodness, even though he's playing cornerback, he's going to get more time at running back as well. We're sharing kids, so he's going to be a big addition to the backfield. Tay (Artavius) Brooks is starting to come around. These last few days I've seen a big turnaround with him. He's a big prototype kid."

Hargrove is optimistic that his running backs can help lead the Mavs to big things, but first they have to take care of themselves. After themselves, the Mavericks' next opponents are the Shadow Creek Sharks, a team in its second year of existence that has yet to play a game this season.

"We've got to play our best game in order to come out successful," Hargrove said. "They haven't played a regular game yet."

The 0-2 start hasn't shattered the Mavs hopes of playing in a state championship game on Dec. 23.

"You'd think after two losses that there would be a lot of heads down but they come out here and work harder each day to get back up," Hargrove said. "They know what we have. They know the talent level that we have. It's just all about putting up pieces of the puzzle together."

Tonight's game against Shadow Creek is slated for a 7 p.m. start at Maverick Stadium.



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