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Defensive Line has Mountain State Roots

Darius Stills (56)) and Dante Stills (55) participate in drills during WVU’s fall camp.
(Photo Credit: Shanna Rose, BGS)
Many stars have worn the Old Gold and Blue, but a very small fraction of those have actually hailed from the Mountain State itself. With a population of roughly 1.8 million, West Virginia pales in size compared to the surrounding states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland. In route to becoming the 14th winningest program in the county, Mountaineer head coaches have had to go on the road, leave the state and lure players away from their local schools. The thirteen teams ranking higher than WVU include the likes of Michigan, Ohio State, Texas and Alabama. Almost all of these programs recruit from their large population home states. Only the Nebraska Cornhuskers come close to West Virginia in terms of population density and program stats: both have averaged almost identical amount of wins over the last ten years,  right around eight per season.  
Over the past 127 seasons, Mountaineer fans have become accustomed to many of their brightest stars originating from places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland or Florida. Those are the household names that flash on the highlight board before the games or produce hair-raising goosebumps on your arms. West Virginians long for boys who are born and bred from the same small mountain towns, growing up with the dream of wearing the gold and blue jersey out on the field.
Reese Donahue shakes fans’ hands after the Gold-Blue Game. (Photo Credit: Shanna Rose, BGS)

Mountaineer fans love their team unconditionally, but when players come from their own backyard, you can certainly feel a difference.  In the 2008 Fiesta Bowl, Moorefield West Virginia’s own Reed Williams captured the defensive MVP award. Rewind to 2004, where John Pennington caused fans at Mountaineer field to leap from their seats with his miraculous 28-yard, fourth down touchdown; Pennington helped lead a huge upset against hated rival, Pitt, that day. Mountaineers swear cheering could be heard from I-79 North outside Charleston, Pennington’s hometown. Electrifying runs by Robert Walker, a Huntington native, and Quincy Wilson against Miami have delighted more than two generations of Mountaineer fans. Wilson is said to be as tough as the steel coming out of his hometown’s Weirton mill. Finally, any list of great West Virginia natives would be incomplete without the unforgettable Sam Huff. He is one of only three WVU players in history to have their number retired. Additionally, Huff has honors in both the College Football Hall of Fame as well as the NFL Hall of Fame for his time spent as a linebacker for both the Giants and Redskins.

The 2019 roster has one position that hits particularly close to home: the defensive line. In the projected two deep, three of the six players hail from West Virginia. Reese Donahue, out of Milton, played extensively in 2018, racking 24 tackles to go along with one sack and one tackle for loss. Dante Stills racked up 16 tackles, three tackles for loss, but more impressively, led the team with three sacks as a true freshman. Darius Stills, the older brother of Dante, contributed 12 tackles, a sack and two and half tackles for loss. The Stills brothers hail from Fairmont, WV, just down the road from Morgantown.    

These young defensive linemen can certainly give WVU fans a great deal of pride. In the case of Dante Stills, there could be the makings of another WVU Superstar. His production as a freshman is certainly something that still turns heads. Head coach Neal Brown has followed others’ recipe for success, making many great recruit signings outside of the state for the 2019 season. However, keep an eye out for these talented three: they should continue to put on a fantastic show as they represent their home state, flagship university and reach for their boyhood dreams.    

Cover Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS

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