MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–Over the summer the West Virginia football team suffered several transfers, some coming from big named players like Marcus Simms, Derrek Pitts and Kenny Robinson.
While questions and concerns arise amongst fans, transfers are not uncommon in college athletics, especially after major changes.
Losing teammates isn’t easy for anyone but the Mountaineers realize it’s about more than football.
“It’s never a personal thing,” sophomore linebacker Josh Chandler said. “We have our own separate relationships outside of how they felt about different things. It’s never like ‘I am not friends with him anymore because he left.’ We communicate with the guys. They made decisions for their own life.”
Junior wide receiver T.J. Simmons understands the decisions his former teammates had to make all too well. Two years ago he was faced with choosing the path that best suited him and landed him in Morgantown.
“You got to make the best decision for yourself,” he said. “I was a guy who left a program to go to another program and I just wanted to make the best decision for me. My teammates, they were my brothers when they were here and they are my brothers when they leave. Whenever they decide they want to leave, I just want to support them so they can be the best they can be and go to a place that is going to be better for them.”
In the end, if someone’s heart isn’t with one school, moving on is the best option for everyone.
“There are no grudges and no hard feelings about it. We understand how it is, especially with the dramatic change,’ senior defensive lineman Reese Donahue stated. “If there hadn’t been such a drastic change, it might be a little different. It’s just kind of how college football is now. It’s kind of sad to see those guys go but at the same time, ultimately we still have 120 guys on the team. You can’t just say one or two people make the team. We have a whole lot to play for. Just as a couple guys leave, we’ll get a couple new guys in. Ultimately, you can’t make someone stay and play. If their hearts not in it, you are better off finding someone with less talent and letting them play 100 percent.”
Athletes often form strong bonds with their teammates. Many of which last a lifetime.
When one player chooses to move on, it doesn’t change the brotherhood.
“It’s kind of already separated like you have your football like and you have your locker room life,” Chandler said. “Everybody is cool outside of here. It’s cool, just because you leave you’re not a different person.”
With key losses from three starters, other players must step up and fill the void left.
“It does give you a sense that more of the responsibility falls on you, not only as a leader to lead the group but also to make plays and work harder and things like that,” Donahue said. “Ultimately it does bring more responsibility onto us but I think it’s a challenge, a good challenge, that I am ready to accept.”
WVU football doesn’t consist of one or two players. It is a team effort and misfortunes can often bring teams closer.
“You can’t just depend on somebody,” senior linebacker JoVanni Stewart said. “To me it just helps build a team also. Things like that adversity, turmoil, getting through things like that help build a team.”
Cover Photo credit: Shanna Rose BGS