Wednesday, July 17, 2019

WVU’s big brother program strives to help incoming freshman

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.—Since coming to West Virginia, head coach Neal Brown has been about team bonding, family and implementing the Mountaineers’ Big Brother program further adds to that.

The program started this year and allows incoming freshman to be paired up with an upperclassman that knows the ropes. It helps make the newcomers’ lives easier.

For sophomore Josh Chandler he has been matched with freshman Tykee Smith and he is hoping to prepare Smith from his first season in Morgantown.

“We’re in the same position room, so I’ve been able to help him out and just guide him through different things,” Chandler said. “Maybe some things I didn’t get initially coming in, try to give them little cheat codes so they can be better prepared.”

With the Big Brother Program underway, it could be a way to keep players from leaving the program and help prepare them for what lies ahead.

“Man I wish we had that when I was here,” senior Reese Donahue said. “When I first came in they kind of threw us into the fire, especially with the early enrollees, there were nine of us. A lot of the guys now aren’t even on the team; the vast majority actually aren’t on the team. If you look at it maybe that had something to play into it but coach Brown has implemented this big brother program and what it does is all those young guys get paired up with an older guy, junior or senior, somebody who has been here. They force us and I say force not meaning it’s horrible to do but they make us spend time together. Whether it’s playing video games or going downstairs in the team room and play ping pong, take them out to lunch on a Thursday midday between practices, things like that and it has helped those guys develop because they aren’t afraid to express themselves.

“And they are not afraid to make mistakes on the field. Because we are all human. We’re not perfect. We’re all going to make mistakes, it’s football. I think it’s really let these guys develop at their maximum capacity. And it’s also let them trust us. They know who the leaders are in the group. They know who to trust, who to look up to. It sets an example for them to follow in our shoes. I feel honored that coach Brown selected me as one of those guys to help with the big brother program because the way I look at it is I feel as if he’s doing that because in his eyes I’m a great leader and example for some of these young guys. I would like them to look at me as a role model and eventually step up into my shoes and surpass everything that I’ve ever done. That’s ultimately what it’s all about, development and letting those guys flourish and spread their wings.”

Donahue’s little brother is Jalen Thornton, son of former Mountaineer John Thornton.

“He’s doing really good,” Donahue said. “I’m really proud of him.”

Thanks to the program Donahue believes Thornton and the other freshman have a great chance to succeed at WVU.

“This just gives them the best platform they can to succeed now so they might be contributors whether it’s five snaps, 20 snaps, 30 snaps a game this fall and by the time they’re juniors and seniors, they can take those freshmen and bring them in,” he said. “You have this culture shift now so coach Brown is not only molding those individual guys that come in but he’s developing the program to more fit what he wants it by developing this program.”

The Mountaineers open the season against James Madison on Saturday, August 31 at 2 p.m.

Cover Photo Credit: Shanna Rose, BGS

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