By the end of the 2011 season, Marshall's backfield had solidified with the one-two punch of Tron Martinez and Travon Van. Today, with the Thundering Herd-less bowl season about to begin, both are gone from the program.
Martinez has been medically disqualified from playing football, MU athletic director Mike Hamrick said Monday. The school will continue to honor his scholarship, should the Hampton, Va., native wish to stay in Huntington.
Over the weekend Van announced his plans to transfer to Montana to continue his college career as a running back. The 5-foot-10, 193-pound sophomore will be eligible immediately for the Grizzlies, a perennial Football Championship Subdivision contender.
Martinez had an unspecified knee injury, which required at least one surgery. He missed spring practice and did little more than walk around in the fall - a bad sign, considering how injured players are kept busy doing some sort of conditioning drills during practice.
Van had similar offseason injury issues but was ready for the start of preseason drills. He wasn't necessarily ready for the season that followed, including his detour to Big Sky Conference.
"My goal in life was to play offense in college," Van told the Missoulian newspaper of Missoula, Mont. "[Marshall] had a change of heart and I decided to transfer."
That 'change of heart' was the MU coaching staff's ever-so-brief shift of Van from running back to cornerback. The Thundering Herd was suddenly thin at corner, and gave a Van a series at the position in the 54-51 double-overtime win Sept. 22 at Rice. By all accounts - Van's included - that series was adventurous.
"It was more of a, 'Let me sneak in a play and see if they see me over here before they try to attack me,'" he said on Sept. 25. "I guess they called an audible, and here comes a bubble [screen] my way. I think I played about seven plays, and most of the balls were coming my way, too."
Van showed enthusiasm to learn the new position that day, but he may have come to the decision to transfer by then. He told the Missoulian he asked for his release after the Rice game.
When the Herd gathered Sept. 29 at Purdue, Van was not on the trip. A month later he tweeted, "To be honest I got my release 2 weeks ago. My mom is real sick so Marshall is helping me get closer to her."