Over the course of the last two weeks, 20 senior members of the West Virginia football team were forced to face the fact that their collegiate career was coming to a close.
Happily for them, their careers ended in one of the best ways possible: with a Cactus Bowl victory. Many of those seniors took to social media to bid a final farewell to one of the most loyal fanbases in college football, Mountaineer Nation.
“Can’t believe 5 years have gone by so fast,” posted Cactus Bowl Defensive MVP Shaq Petteway. “Thankful for it all good and bad I’ve become the person I am due to everything I have went through here at WVU! I say thank you to Mountaineer nation for a great time and to my brothers, I wouldn’t change anything that happened to us during our time here! Once a Mountaineer, always a Mountaineer!”
Petteway finished his senior season with 64 total tackles and 3.5 sacks.
“Can’t thank WVU and the state of West Virginia enough for the opportunity they gave me and the amount of support they showed me throughout my career there,” posted linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski. It was an honor to represent such a a great state and I will always call it home. Now on to the next chapter.”
Kwiatkoski finished his senior season leading the Mountaineers in the tackle column with 86 total tackles. He also collected three interceptions. Kwiatkoski will participate in the Reese’s Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama on January 30.
“To my fellow seniors I love y’all and as our journey’s take different paths the bond we have, the blood that runs through all Mountaineers will forever keep us connected,” posted cornerback Terrell Chestnut. “Mountaineer Nation thank you for all of the love and supports throughout the years I love you all! Once a Mountaineer always a Mountaineer!”
Chestnut battled multiple injuries throughout the season, but didn’t let that stop him from having a highly productive senior year. Chestnut finished up the season with 35 tackles, three interceptions and two forced fumbles.
“4 years flies by fast,” posted wide receiver Jordan Thompson. “Mountaineer Nation, y’all have watched me grow and matured these past 4 years. Through it all, y’all have stuck by me and supported me through times of struggles and triumphs… It was a blessing to wear blue and gold and have the “Flying WV” on my uniform. Y’all are truly the best fans in college football and it was an honor to play in front of y’all on Saturday’s.”
Thompson caught 32 total passes for 509 yards during his senior season. He averaged 15.1 yards per catch, with a season-long of 51 yards.
“I’ve been honored to put on the flying WV these past five years,” posted linebacker Jared Barber. “There is no other place in the country like West Virginia. I couldn’t have imagined playing for another university or state.”
Barber finished his senior season as one of the most storied players on the West Virginia football team. After an injury kept him on the sideline for his fourth season, Barber decided to return to WVU for a fifth and final opportunity to play alongside his teammates. He finished the season with 64 tackles, 2.5 sacks and a fumble recovery that led to his first-career touchdown.
Wide receiver K.J. Myers posted the above photo. During his senior season, Myers is credited with bringing the Low Life brand to the field, encouraging his teammates to play and live life with “lack of worries”. Though not quite as active on the field, Myers’ positive presence was certainly felt throughout his time at West Virginia.
Last but certainly not least, senior Karl Joseph posted, “Thank you for the best 4 years of my life, forever grateful for this great state and fans. Once a Mountaineer always a Mountaineer.” Joseph missed all but four games of his senior season with a knee injury sustained in a non-contact practice drill. Joseph’s presence was still felt as he had five interceptions through four games, including three in a single game.
It’s evident that WVU, it’s players, and it’s fans are one-of-a-kind.
Once a Mountaineer, always a Mountaineer. Farewell, seniors.
Cover image credit: Ben Queen, USA TODAY Sports