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12 Mountaineer Football Players Graduate on Saturday Afternoon

Saturday afternoon saw another celebration of a class of Mountaineers graduating from West Virginia University and completing their degrees following this 2021 fall semester. That group included 12 West Virginia football players who have earned their diplomas and will step into the next chapters of their lives.

This semester’s football graduates include four defensive players, six offensive players and a pair of special team’s players in redshirt junior kicker Casey Legg and redshirt junior punter Evan Matthes. The group is one of the larger ones in recent history and includes redshirt junior receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton who will be returning for one more season in the old gold and blue.

The remaining five offensive gridironers include junior receiver Sean Ryan, redshirt junior tight end Mike O’Laughlin, senior running back Leddie Brown, redshirt junior receiver Sam James and redshirt junior offensive lineman James Gmiter.

“I’m proud of them and we probably don’t talk about it as much as we need to but I think with everything going on, really proud of these guys, several of them still have some eligibility left so that’s a positive too,” said West Virginia head coach Neal Brown. “A big number and proud of those guys.”

While Brown sure looks like a lock to be a draft pick in the spring time following another successful 1,000-yard plus rushing season, the other players futures are up in the air. The remaining four other players are also all redshirt juniors, so they do have the option to return to Morgantown for another season of football if they wish.

Ryan earned his degree in multidisciplinary studies and played in all 12 games this season while collecting 24 receptions for 392 yards and three touchdowns. The other receiver in James earned his degree in sport management while also appearing in every game and hauling in 465 yards to go along with a handful (5) of touchdown receptions.

O’Laughlin wraps up his academic career with a degree in entrepreneurship and innovation after coming off a redshirt junior season which got cut in half due to a lower body injury. Through the first six games of the season, O’Laughlin make 11 receptions for 65 yards and aided as a blocker in a run heavy offense. Gmiter earns his degree in criminology and started in all 12 games for the Mountaineers this season.

Redshirt senior safety Scottie Young received his diploma after majoring in multidisciplinary studies after earning the 2021 Iron Mountaineer Award. Young saw snaps in the secondary in 11 games this year while registering 33 total tackles. Redshirt junior cornerback Jackie Matthews graduates West Virginia also with a degree in multidisciplinary studies after playing in all 12 games in 2021 and hauling in 37 total tackles and a lone interception.

Senior defensive lineman Dante Stills is the second person in his family to earn his college diploma following his brother Darius’ graduation last year. Stills earns his degree in multidisciplinary studies and will hope to be drafted into the NFL along with his teammate, Brown, in April.

The final defensive player graduating college this semester is recent Maryland transfer, Vandarius Cowan. The defensive lineman earns his degree in integrated studies and will have one more year of eligibility remaining at Maryland.

These 12 Mountaineers have certainly achieved a lot for the state of West Virginia both on the field and in the classroom where they can now apply their knowledge further down the road into their professional careers.

Photo by Dale Sparks, All Pro Photography

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