What does it mean to be a Mountaineer? Over the years, I’ve been asked that question a thousand times. The answer is simple. It means everything to me. When you look at the great tradition of West Virginia University, and it’s athletic sports programs. The great pride, and passion you feel, and understand, comes from the great pride, and passion of the people from the great State of West Virginia! It starts with the people!
I could remember when I was coming out of high school back in 1985. I was a high school All-American, heavily recruited running back from St. Joseph’s High School. I remembered being recruited by West Virginia. The coaching staff did an amazing job recruiting me, but I already knew I was going to the University of Pittsburgh. I had already had Pitt in my heart, and mind when I was 7 years of age.I was such a big Tony Dorsett fan, that I didn’t really give any other college a real chance. Even though I took official visits, I still knew in my heart that I was going to Pitt. Once I got to Pitt during my Freshman year, unfortunately my older sister passed away, and that changed everything for me. Her death, and the way it was handled at the time by the Pitt staff, totally changed by perspective. So, I decided to transfer.
Here’s where I found out first hand about the great State of West Virginia. The people made so much of a direct impact with me right from the start. It was the older people that I ran into that really made a tremendous impression on me. Whenever a person goes through a major life changing experience, you become focused, and more aware of what is really important. Once my sister died, that’s what happened to me. I had a great passion for football, and wanting to be the “BEST” football player I could be, but more importantly, I needed to be around people that appreciated me, and understood me. On my visit to West Virginia, that’s exactly what took place. I found the core of the University, and it’s tremendous football program came from the heart beat of those proud people who live inthe great State of West Virginia!
The core qualities of character, morals, values, love, passion, heart, desire, discipline, never give upattitude, all came from those great people that reside in that great State! I saw the pride of the coaches, and the players, and everyone around that great University. It was an eye opening experience for me. I could remember calling my mother, and saying to her, mom, WVU is my second home! I’m coming to West Virginia University!!! The feeling in my heart was one of, this place, these people are so special. I have to be here! I have to attend this University. I wanted to be part of all of those before mentioned core qualities, because those are the same core qualities that my mother raised me with. I found what I needed.
West Virginia University, and the great people of the State of West Virginia was there for me and my family when I needed them the most! I will never forget them for that! I try to tell parents, and some of these young men that are being recruited now to be sure to pick a college that football is not the most important reason why you attend that college. It has to be bigger than the sport. The reason is simple. If something I wrong, you have to feel comfortable enough to want to stay, and earn your degree at that University or College. In most cases, young people get so excited about the hype of recruiting that they forget the most important aspect of making a choice. It comes down to being around people that don’t just view you as an athlete.
When I transferred to WVU from Pitt, it was a totally different experience for me. I felt right at home at WVU. I was able to mature at WVU. I was able to feel comfortable enough to become an adult at WVU. In other words, West Virginia provided that kind of protection for me and my mother. She knew exactly what I needed, and I found it in the great State of West Virginia!
So, what does it mean to be a Mountaineer and what does it mean to the State of West Virginia? Being a Mountaineer is being an individual that has those core qualities that I spoke of, and being an individual that walks in their own truth. It was an honor to represent the University, the football program, and the people of the great State of West Virginia because they represent us as student athletes each and every day! The people of the State are so proud of us, we have to give it back! It’s truly a two way street, and I am proud, and blessed to be a Mountaineer for life! #WVRB33