Chip Shotsby Jim Buzzerd
Preseason college football magazines and on line web versions of the publications are now flooding the marketplace. It is no surprise to find West Virginia's 2007 football team mentioned prominently among the nation's elite football teams.
A big reason for West Virginia's prominence on these lists are the two players who are mentioned on nearly every list of Heisman Trophy candidates. Those players are juniors Pat White and Steve Slaton. White is a quarterback, Slaton a running back. Of course having two legitimate Heisman contenders in the same backfield will likely hinder each player's chance of winning the trophy, but this is not about the Heisman Trophy race or the prospects of the Mountaineer team this fall.
No, this is about the way some of the national media choose to portray West Virginia's football team via their articles and blogs. What I'm talking about is writers taking it upon themselves to mention NFL bad boys, and former WVU players, Pacman Jones and Chris Henry when discussing WVU football. The obvious explanation is they want to somehow denigrate West Virginia's football program.
Yes, Henry and Jones, because of their activities since leaving WVU, have become known for all things bad with professional athletes. They were not exactly angels at WVU either, but they stayed out of trouble, save for one incident with Jones during his first week on campus. Still, they are two years removed from the program and some writers want to associate them with the current state of affairs.
Coach Rich Rodriguez left a door open for some criticism by offering Pat Lazear a scholarship this year. Lazear was convicted of a felony as a result of a high school prank gone bad. Lazear was the wheel man of a car used to rob a smoothie store with a toy gun. I would suspect Rodriguez will keep close tabs on Lazear and all of his players for that matter to ensure his team's image from saboteur.
So, that brings us to White and Slaton. Each has received fair mention for being great football players and good character guys. The thing is, those guys are more relevant to this WVU football program than anything a couple of knuckleheads have done since leaving WVU two years ago.
Monday's edition of The Dominion Post in Morgantown ran a two page feature on Pat White. The newspaper even sent a photographer to White's hometown of Daphne, Alabama for pictures of White with his family, former teachers and coaches. Many of the folks of Daphne have become WVU fans. The common theme though is just how good of a person and how good of a student White was in high school.
Said one man, "Pat did not care if you were a freshman, sophomore, junior or one of his senior buddies, he wanted to be friends with everyone."
White did not want star status, nor did he receive any. His football coach related that he would designate groups to do extra cleanup of the locker room on a rotating basis. Pat felt, since he was the team's quarterback, that he should participate with all the groups. So Pat was on cleanup duty for the whole season. It was those kind of things which made Pat a leader then and now.
It is those kinds of things that Pat White does which should eventually prevail when sports bloggers are deciding how they want to portray the WVU football program.