On the calendar of football, spring is a time of learning. It's a time when players re-acquaint themselves with technique, study new schemes and maybe familiarize themselves with a new assistant coach or two. West Virginia has decided to extend that theme into the classroom, as the Mountaineers have assigned their players history lessons on the heritage of West Virginia.
“For our young men, it’s a way of recognizing we’re representing something bigger than ourselves,” defensive coordinator Keith Patterson told the Times West Virginian. “Sometimes it becomes me, me, me, so we’ve tried to create an atmosphere of respect and that has players thinking ‘I’m honored to be here.’"
This is an idea that other programs should adopt if they don't already have a similar program. It's important for players to know what it means to wear their school colors and to learn about all they represent when they take the field every Saturday. It's especially valuable for a program like West Virginia that relies so heavily on out-of-state recruits. These are kids that came to West Virginia because of they liked an assistant coach or how the depth chart pojected, not because of any past Big East championships.
“I was definitely impressed,” said quarterback Paul Millard of Flower Mound, Texas. “My dad went to Penn State, so I knew about Joe Pa and the history there, but I never knew about West Virginia. I really learned a lot.
"Learning about the players like Pat White and Steve Slaton or way before that, like Ira Errett Rodgers, guys I knew nothing about, to be honest with you. It’s been great learning the history of the sport here."
West Virginia is a proud state, with a proud football program to represent the state. It's a program with six College Football Hall of Fame players, not to mention modern stars like Pat White and Steve Slaton. It's the home of College Football Hall of Fame coach Don Nehlen, and where the legendary Bobby Bowden coached before constructing a behemoth at Florida State.
The education has stretched far beyond football, though. Head coach Dana Holgorsen has stepped inside West Virginia's famous coal mines to teach his team about where their program comes from.
"It blows my mind what those coal miners go through on a daily basis and the grime that they do,” Millard said. “We sometimes think we have a hard time playing football here, but at the end of the day those guys are sacrificing their life every single day.”