MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–Playing football for your father is common as a child but not many athletes get the luxury to do so at the collegiate level but for Kelby Wickline he gets that opportunity.
Joe Wickline is the offensive line coach for West Virginia University and on Wednesday his son signed his LOI to join his pops in the old gold and blue.
It was a decision that dad tried to stay out of.
“Coach (Ron) Crook recruited him,” coach Wickline said. “I know that Dana (Holgorsen) was in on obviously recruiting him. I know Ryan and the recruiting office. Ultimately I would talk to him from time to time about his decision and what he’s doing and played it where is best for you.”
The elder Wickline acknowledges when he got involved that his son committed somewhere else.
“Well I did starting off but that’s why he left,” he joked. “I screwed that up.”
In the end Kelby made the choice that best suited him.
“The unique thing obviously is he’s an older guy,” coach Wickline said. “He didn’t just graduate yesterday, which doesn’t mean anything. But he’s got a mind of his own. He looked at things from a perspective of academics, location, will it benefit me? Is this a place I can see myself having fun? Is it the place that provides the right things for what I need?
“And Obviously he’s went around the world, a lot more than I wanted him to. He’s 21 years old. He went to many places and felt that in the end, not just dad but West Virginia is one of the top places in the country. It offers a great education and an opportunity for him to get better from a football player standpoint from what we offer. Obviously he likes the area and Morgantown and everything involved and why wouldn’t he?”
Nowadays Kelby and his father must figure out how to balance coach-athlete and father-son rapport.
“We’re fixing to figure that out,” coach Wickline said. “I’m doing better. We’ll work that out. It does make you understand the reality that every coach usually says well look at this perspective of it. He’s a son, (has) a mom and dad and that’s been going on for years though and I know when I was younger that was never brought into the equation. This is what you are paid to do. Shut up and do it. But it’s a different perspective and I think it shines a different light on him. But that’s the way coach Holgorsen wanted it. That’s what most guys do. They want to take care of the student athlete. That’s the way you are successful and get more student athletes.”
It’s unfamiliar territory for the coach. When he was in high school coach Wickline and his father were on opposing teams.
“I didn’t play for my dad,” coach Wickline said. “I played high school football and dad coached at a school across town. We played him. So I guess with Kelby I figured that would be the same deal. I figured he would play against or at some other school.”
But just because Kelby is a coaches’ son there will be no special treatment for the JUCO transfer. He will have to earn the role he plays with the Mountaineers.
“You hear all the horror stories about maybe you lean on a guy harder because he’s your son or you don’t lean on him as hard,” coach Wickline said. “He’ll be treated fairly, squarely. He knows that. He’s a grown up guy and you get what you earned. If you are a guy that can help the program at this particular point, you got three years to do it. But I think from a recruiting standpoint we saw enough in him from movement as a staff from his size, his range, his movement, things he can get done. He can help us be successful.”
The 6-foot-5, 280-pound offensive lineman spent last season at Jones County JC (Mississippi), where he helped the offense average 238.6 yards per contest.
He was the seventh ranked JUCO offensive tackle and earned NJCAA All-Region 23 First Team in 2016.
Kelby is versatile and can play any position on the line and could fill the void left by the departure of Adam Pankey.
“That is an advantage of his,” coach Wickline said. “When I look at him as a prospect and putting the coach hat on, one of the advantages is he’s a three dimensional guy. He’s multidimensional. In fact if you need this here, if you need this here or if he fits here you can move him over. He’s got that kind of body, that kind of movement. So we feel good about that.”