Herd-USF is ‘The Beardall Bowl’
HUNTINGTON — Most parents get excited any time their kids are successful on the football field.
For one brief second Sunday, however, that excitement turned to horror for Florida native Cheryl Beardall.
When it was announced that Marshall University was playing the University of South Florida in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, that meant both of her sons will face off in the Dec. 20 matchup.
Matt Beardall is Marshall University’s All-Conference USA first team long snapper and Andy Beardall is a redshirt freshman long snapper for South Florida.
“For a mother, that was my worst fear,” Cheryl Beardall said. “Truthfully, my worst fear was if they played on the same day in different locations, but my second fear was that they played each other.”
Cheryl Beardall said she got a call from Marshall fan Lucianne Call, who lives 15 minutes away from the Beardalls, and that talk really helped her see the blessings within the matchup.
“As a mother, it’s not necessarily about winning or losing in a bowl game,” Cheryl Beardall said. “It’s about the memories that the boys are going to make. Those are going to last a lifetime and, in my opinion, we all win. It truly is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we are so incredibly proud of both boys.”
While it is the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, the name could be shortened to “The Beardall Bowl” for 2018.
For Matt and Andy, the matchup is one they’ve talked about for a long time.
“This has been our dream since we were 4 years old,” said Matt Beardall. “We were playing football together in the front yard and now we’re playing college football in a bowl game against each other. It’s just awesome.”
Matt and Andy becoming long snappers at the collegiate level did not happen by accident.
It was a boyhood dream that started when they were first starting in the game while watching their cousin James Smith win two national championships as a long snapper at the University of Florida.
Want to guess who two of the assistant coaches on those Florida national championship teams were? None other than Marshall head coach Doc Holliday and South Florida head coach Charlie Strong.
South Florida defensive line coach Sean Cronin, a former Marshall assistant, was also at Florida at the time, as was former Marshall graduate assistant Clint McMillan, who played for the Gators.
“Oh man, there are all sorts of ties,” Matt Beardall said. “My cousin James -- he just turned 30 this year -- played football at Florida for coach Holliday and coach Strong. Coach Cronin was there and Clint McMillan was there, also. We were six, eight (years old) maybe and he won two national championships. We thought, ‘This is kinda cool. Let’s try to do it.’”
Cheryl Beardall said the experience of seeing their cousin play and being around a prominent national program helped pave her sons’ ways toward football.
“Huge, huge, huge,” Cheryl Beardall said. “We got involved with going to a lot of the games and got around a lot of families and got the special privileges of going into the locker room and meeting some really neat people and they loved it.”
Matt and Andy Beardall continue a long lineage of long snappers in the family ranks, meaning they are carrying on the family name with each snap.
In a statistic as odd as the matchup of brother long snappers, there are actually five NCAA Division I long snappers in their family tree with cousins Brian Smith and Kevin Smith who snapped at Navy and Notre Dame respectively.
“It’s definitely a family tradition,” Matt Beardall said. “It’s five in the family. That’s pretty cool.”
Cheryl Beardall’s loyalty lies with the University of Florida while Jay Beardall, Matt and Andy’s father, lays claim to Florida State University.
“My husband is actually a Seminole and I’m the Gator, having gone to the University of Florida,” Cheryl Beardall said. “Andy was always an FSU fan and Matt was always my Gator fan.”
So, there has always been the “House Divided” theme with the Beardalls. But this might take it to a different level with the brothers.
“I think it just makes it even bigger,” Matt Beardall said. “We’re going to look at it 20 years down the road. I hope I come out on top, so I can always still be ahead of him.”
With Andy sitting out this season as a redshirt, there won’t be any on-field competition, but that doesn’t mean the rivalry won’t showcase itself when the teams are competing in team bonding events the bowl has set up on days leading up to the game.
“We’re definitely going to be talking back and forth,” Matt Beardall said with a smile. “We’re going to have a lot of fun with it.”
Ultimately, that is all that Cheryl Beardall said she can ask for.
The Beardall family will all be together for bowl season, celebrating the success of both teams while also getting to see each other for some family celebrations of their own.
Matt Beardall’s birthday is only days before the team arrives in Tampa for the bowl festivities and the game is right before Christmas.
In the world of college football, one team - either Marshall or South Florida - will emerge victorious and one will fall.
For the Beardall family, though? Just ask Momma Cheryl for her prediction.
“It’s a win all the way around, no matter how the game turns out,” she said.