The story of how Hershey McLaurin ended up as a safety at WVU is just as unique as his name.
In his first media session as a Mountaineer, he knew a question about his unique moniker would come up at some point. When it did, he told the story including a detail he had never shared publicly before.
“When I was younger, my auntie called me a name that I didn’t like. The name is cornbread. This is actually the first time I’ve ever told somebody that the name is cornbread,” McLaurin said. “She named me cornbread for so long, then I was like that isn’t my name anymore. My name is Hershey. So I named myself Hershey when I was younger and that’s how it came about.”
When you see the name Hershey, the candy bar immediately comes to mind. While the sweet treat is what is most often associated with that name, when McLaurin picked it for himself, that surprisingly wasn’t his thinking at all.
“Actually, I don’t like chocolate. I don’t even eat chocolate,” he said. “The name Hershey doesn’t come from me eating chocolate. I’m just Hershey.”
McLaurin, whose real name is Marques, said the name Hershey stuck on the football field after he earned a spot in the stat sheet during his 8th-grade season.
“I threw a touchdown and I don’t think the head coach knew my real name was Marques,” he said. “He thought my real name was Hershey. On Max Preps he put ‘Hershey McLaurin threw a touchdown’ so that’s how Hershey carried over.”
He tries to keep the fact his real name is Marques under wraps. He wants to be known as Hershey. However, his Aunt who gave him his original nickname still sticks with her version.
“She still calls me cornbread. I don’t think it will ever die down for her. I’m going to forever be cornbread to her,” McLaurin said.
Just as he decided to change his name, he made choice to change the position he played on the gridiron, too. McLaurin grew up playing quarterback. Outside of playing one game at cornerback when he was a freshman in high school, he exclusively lined up under center.
“As far as actually playing defense, this is my third year ever. I played quarterback all my life,” he said.
As a four-year starting QB at Collins High in Mississippi, McLaurin threw for over 6,000 yards and 73 touchdowns. He was talented at the position and always envisioned himself playing it at the collegiate level.
So, why did he make the switch to safety, a position he really had no experience playing?
“At one point, I just got tired of getting hit. I wanted to hit people,” McLaurin said. “I wanted to switch over and see what it was like and explore my options. I wanted to see how it felt to play defense.”
Now, he’s getting the experience of doing so at the Division I level.
McLaurin played the last two seasons at Jones County Junior College. In 2020, he finished with 21 tackles, a TFL, two interceptions, a fumble recovery and four pass breakups in a shortened five-game season.
Last year, he finished with 36 tackles and his five picks were tied for No. 4 nationally.
He enrolled at WVU in January. Since then, he’s worked hard to make sure he is known for more than just being called Hershey. He knows the best way to ensure people use your nickname exclusively is to back it up on the field.
He’s doing just that so far in his first season as a Mountaineer. He’s made two starts and is the third-leading tackler with 35 stops.