Tammy McCormick has a secret.
OK, scratch that – because she’s been telling anyone who will listen.
Instead, let’s call it a here-to-fore little-known nugget in Marshall University football lore.
You know MU’s Thunder Clap? The one that takes place every time Marshall scores? The one in which fans put their hands over their heads and clap in unison once for every point scored?
You can thank Tammy and her brother Kelly (Bobby) Calloway, now of Knoxville, Tenn.
And the kicker? The genesis of the Thunder Clap came from a decision to mock VMI back on Sept. 19, 1992, at the Alumni Memorial Field in Lexington, Va.
OK, so let’s take it from the top.
Marshall’s football team, then playing in the Southern Conference of Division I-AA, was playing VMI (the Thundering Herd would win 34-16 that day) before an announced crowd of 9,800 in Lexington, Va.
“Well, my brother went to Marshall like me and he’s a big fan,” McCormick said. “That year my husband and I drove to Washington and Lee University, where my brother was going to law school, and went to the VMI game, because it was being played right across the street from the law school.
“When VMI made their first touchdown, we saw all these cadets run down to the field and do push-ups. We were like, ‘Hey, whenever the Herd makes the next touchdown we should all go down and do push-ups – or at least act like we’re going to do push-ups and then stand up and say, ‘Psych!’ and do jumping jacks instead to kind of mock them.”
So, McCormick, her brother and her brother’s roommate went to the sidelines.
“My husband was like, ‘No, I’m not going down because we’ll get thrown out.’ I said, ‘So what if we get thrown out?’”
They didn’t get thrown out.
“The next time we went down my husband and his roommate went down with us and there were about five of us,” McCormick said. “It kept growing. By the time we finished there were probably 15 people going down there doing jumping jacks. It was really cool.
“Then the cheerleaders started doing the Thunder Clap with us. While we were doing jumping jacks, they were over to the right of us doing the Thunder Clap, which wasn’t the Thunder Clap at the time. Then the next game they did the Thunder Clap.
“So that’s where it originated.”
The cheerleaders took it back to Huntington minus the leg action of a jumping jack. A tradition was born.
McCormick said an article was written years ago about the Thunder Clap, but it failed to mention the sister-brother act or that of their friends.
“It happened because we were doing jumping jacks – seven jumping jacks to start with to mock VMI – and then [the cheerleaders] were supporting us,” she said.
You can sense the pride in McCormick’s voice.
“The tradition stuck,” she said. “Not the jumping jacks part but the over-the-head, clapping part. Then the cheerleaders added the part where guy cheerleaders do like bench presses with girl cheerleaders. That gets crazy when it hits, like 50 points.”
McCormick, by the way, is a preschool teacher of special needs kids in northern Kentucky. Her husband, Bret, is a former Marshall women’s basketball coach now with ASGR Basketball.
And when they go to the MU football games…
“I can tell my kids, ‘Yep, Mommy and Uncle Kelly did the first Thunder Clap.”
+ + +
Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.