In an era where championship wrestling belts seem to be better than championship trophies themselves, one college just stepped up its game in a major way, thanks to help by some very dedicated supporters.
Earlier this month, the Marshall Thundering Herd football team received four awesomely custom and authentic wrestling championship belts from a group of boosters from Charleston, S.C. And while it took the group a little while to finance the $7,000 project, the end result is probably making a lot of programs pretty envious.
According to the story by the Charleston Gazette, Charleston resident Geoff Perry heard wrestling superstar Stone Cold Steve Austin mention belt maker Rico Mann by name during a radio interview, so decided to get in contact with him about designing belts for the Herd.
While he’s worked to provide custom belts to the WWE, the UFC, and even the NFL, Mann said “this is absolutely the first full set we’ve done for a college,” with a belt for the offense, defense, and special teams, and a fourth belt going to weight room performance. According to Mann, the Michigan Wolverines’ strength and conditioning program is the only known program with a title belt in its possession.
The belts weigh 8-pounds apiece, and were designed to look like WWE Intercontinental Championship belts, complete with Marshall’s logo, a buffalo, and five gold stars on either side of the buffalo.
“The large center plate is flanked by two additional plates on each side. One plate features the traditional white Marshall football helmet, while the other has a helmet with the “75” logo on it. The final plates on each end feature objectives, like “toughness” for defense, “protect the ball” for offense and “flip the field” for special teams.”
The wrestling culture has really taken the football ranks by storm in the past decade. And while it would be awesome to see offensive linemen lift linebackers and drop them into a full-fledged suplex, or see a safety pay homage to Shawn Michaels and give a receiver some “Sweet Chin Music,” getting to hang a WWE-inspired title belt in your locker or wear one around the weight room as a reward for doing your job seems like a solid close second for football players.
Perry likened the concept to when former Marshall defensive end and current Philadelphia Eagle Vinny Curry dressed up as the infamous Ric Flair for Halloween. Perhaps remembering that moment was really what put the wheels in motion to start the process, but creating the belts came with its own challenges.
While each belt was set to take just two weeks to make by hand, Mann told the Charleston Gazette that Marshall’s orders were set back because the WWE changed its logo, so his company had to dedicate its time to fulfilling those orders first.
With college programs offering world class training facilities and schools having to rapidly procure funding to compete with blue-blood programs like Alabama, USC, Ohio State, and others, perhaps something as simple as WWE-inspired belts could give Marshall a recruiting edge, as style points and flair are definitely motivating factors for high school kids.
As Marshall received its newly minted belts during the last weekend of official visits before National Signing Day earlier this month, I imagine recruits had some fun posing for pictures at the facilities. And, in the fast paced world of social media (where optics are everything), there’s no doubt the belts probably earned some major swag points, too.
The most recent title belt to be given to a program was just after Super Bowl 50 when Triple H sent the Denver Broncos a congratulatory tweet to tell the team it had some new hardware coming to Dove Valley.
With players competing on a daily basis—not just for starting roles, but to encourage development and growth—I imagine Marshall coaches will likely be using the belts as a motivational incentive to draw the best out of its team. Just how the program plans on structuring that is yet to be seen, but I wouldn’t doubt if other schools’ boosters begin to ride the waves of the WWE revolution, too.
Scheduled to kick-off their 2016 campaign on Sept. 10 against the Morgan State Bears, I certainly hope some ridiculous WWE moves are on full display for The Herd this upcoming season.