Wednesday afternoon the West Virginia football team took a trip that will remain long on their mind after the days on the gridiron are done. The Mountaineers took a short drive from campus to visit the Leer Mining Complex in Grafton.
Coach Neal Brown came into Morgantown with a determination to bring hard work, integrity, family and toughness to each of his player’s mentality of the game of football. Representing the State of West Virginia as a football player is an honor that many boys dream of growing up, and having the opportunity to do so is truly an honor. Now that they are representing the Old Gold and Blue, giving back to this great state is just another added bonus.
Giving back to the community and integrating themselves into the fan base is one of the best gifts this team can give to their fans. Community outreach has long been a part of the student athlete’s life, varying the ways they give back to the fans who love them. We’ve seen players at local schools, interacting at Fan Day, and at the Children’s Hospital.
Wednesday’s trip to Grafton showed just how much respect and belief Neal Brown has in the state, the university and his program. Brown has bought in and was able to use this trip to show his team where to find added motivation for that hard work, toughness and integrity he’s been expecting out of them. Brown came from the hills of Appalachia, so he is well familiar with the concept of work. Now he just needs to confirm that his team knows it too.
That’s where the mines come in.
The life of the coal miner is one that is grueling and dangerous, and often many of the passionate fans of West Virginia sports have either spent time working in the mines, or has family that has been in the mines. It’s naturally engrained in the lifeblood of West Virginians. It’s an important part of West Virginian culture that the football team needs to see, they need to know the lifeblood of the fans, players and people before them.
West Virginia football has long been synonymous with the blue collar, working man’s lifestyle; life in the coal mines. The football team has often had an uphill battle to climb, working against the naysayers and never getting the easy road (just look at the football schedules of years past). While their battles on the football field are in no comparison to the daily struggle and difficulties of working in the coal mines, taking a trip to see where so many of West Virginia’s working class comes from is just one way to show the respect this team has for their fans, and the state.