HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Yes, Marshall's newest defensive linemen have met Vinny Curry, the program's current gold standard of the position.
Gary Thompson and Arnold Blackmon have fond memories of summertime visits from Curry, who is battling for a starting job in his second year with the Philadelphia Eagles.
"I got to meet him. It was definitely a shock, because I didn't expect to see him myself," Blackmon said Thursday. "The way the guys talked to him, he seemed like a regular guy. I love that about him; he came out and worked with us, showed us a few pointers."
Thompson picked up a few, as well.
"Vinny came down a couple of times. I'm friends with his little cousin, so when he comes down, we hang out with him," Thompson said. "Vinny's a big guy. He actually came down here one time during the summer, worked out with us. They had me race him and I kind of, I beat him."
Whoa, back that one up. Curry isn't exactly slow, you know. Did Thompson really outrun the former No. 99?
Maybe or maybe not, but this much is clear: MU coaches didn't recruit Thompson because he's a plodder. The 6-foot-1, 227-pound native of La Mesa, Calif., attracted recruiters with his cat-quick jump off the snap.
As the start of his first preseason camp, he was a little too quick. Happens to all the good ones, as defensive ends coach Sean Cronin tells it.
"When they get here, they go through stages of development," Cronin said. "At first, [with] their natural ability, they show flashes, you see them do some things that are pretty exciting. But you're trying to teach them technique and how to work with the defense.
"As they start to learn that stuff, they start to regress a little bit, because they're thinking about their technique, they're trying to do things a different way than they're used to. So it looks like they're getting worse but really, they get worse before they get better.
"He's out of that now. He's starting to put technique and talent together, and he's really gotten better the last week."
Thompson came to Marshall last August as a nonqualifier, and he has a lesson for younger athletes about that: Pay attention to your classes early. He said a lackadaisical freshman year set him back so far, he couldn't overcome it and meet NCAA freshman eligibility standards.