The Dominion Post  
 

2 University players walk on to WVU football team

Created on:   Wed, Feb 7, 2018   9:43 PM

Last modified:   Wed, Feb 7, 2018   9:43 PM

The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN — Eyes gazed over to the sideline during University High football practice last fall because someone was in attendance who isn’t usually there.

WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson watched the Hawks go through their normal routine, and his presence was felt by the UHS players.

Most figured he was there to watch junior Amir Richardson, who already has a WVU scholarship offer to play safety.

But two Hawks had the surprise of their lifetimes when UHS athletic director Jeff Bailey filled them in as to why Gibson was there.

“My first though was, ‘Wow, is this really happening?’ ” Josh Ritchie said.

“We all looked over and saw coach Gibson there and wondered who he was looking at because we knew he couldn’t have been looking at us,” Dalton McDaniels said.

Turns out, Gibson was there to see Ritchie and McDaniels, and both were eventually extended preferred walk-on spots to join the Mountaineers’ defensive line. They signed letters of intent Feb. 7, during National Signing Day.

The duo helped lead UHS to an 11-1 mark and undefeated regular season in 2017. McDaniels had 74 total tackles and seven sacks, as well as two forced fumbles as a senior. Ritchie had two sacks and two forced fumbles and blocked four kicks.

Now, they will have a chance to play for the hometown school.

“It means everything,” McDaniels said. “You grow up watching and you dream of playing here. You play football through your whole life, and WVU is always where you want to play, and to have an opportunity to play here is just amazing.”

Ritchie said if you’re born a Mountaineer, then it’s in your blood. He thought so far in advance that by his redshirt senior year, he’ll have a shot to take on Pitt in the renewal of the Backyard Brawl, in 2022.

WVU football runs deep in Ritchie’s family, with two uncles previously wearing the Old Gold and Blue. The most recent was Todd Ritchie, who played cornerback for the Mountaineers, in 1976, before injuries forced him to give up football.

The other was Andrew “Pete” Wood, a fullback from 1969-’71. A Bluefield native, Wood was a star at Bluefield High, and many believe he would have won the Kennedy Award as the state’s best player if Harrison Kennedy were not sick and could have presented the award.

The award has been given every year since 1947 except two, including Wood’s senior year.

Wood had 1,695 yards and 16 touchdowns in his three-year career. He passed away in 2014, at 63.

While Ritchie had offers to play at other schools, such as Fairmont State, West Virginia Wesleyan and Glenville State, the allure of staying home was too much.

“This is all a dream come true,” he said.

Ritchie and McDaniels hope to follow in the steps of Jon Lewis, a 2013 UHS graduate who walked on at WVU and eventually earned a scholarship, as well as significant playing time.

WVU SIGNINGS

The Mountaineers added two offensive linemen to their 2018 recruiting class Wednesday — brothers Michael Brown and Joe Brown.

Both are junior-college products from Eastern Arizona Community College and helped pave the way for the No. 1 rush offense. Each earned all-ACCAC first team offensive honors.

Michael (6-foot-3 and 340 pounds) and Joe (6-4 and 340) will have three years to play two.

WVU signed a majority of its class during the early signing period, in December. With the signings of the Brown brothers, there are 22 signed with seven already enrolled.