MORGANTOWN — At University High, junior running back Logan Raber has made a name for himself. Around the Hawks’ locker room, he’s known as the “Red Rocket.”
A contributor to the UHS varsity squad via special teams since his freshman season, Raber proved himself as a stout option in the backfield, leading the Hawks’ JV squad in rushing his first year at the school. It was partially his knack for taking as many hits as a defender could dish out that earned him his nickname.
“He’s a bruiser — a bull,” UHS coach John Kelley said. “The first hit is not going to knock him down. The same is true on defense when he’s at linebacker. He hits hard and solid. It hurts when he hits you.”
Kelley, who coached Raber’s father in the 1980s and brother in the 2000s, said tough-nosed football runs in the family.
Raber credits his kinfolk as major inspirations.
“It’s mainly from my dad and my brother,” he said of his playing style. “They’ve always instilled in me to go out there and work hard and never take a play off. They’ve always mentored me, and I just want to go out and follow in their footsteps.”
Perhaps the biggest thing that mentorship instilled in Raber is the desire not to go down on first contact. If a defender wants to bring Raber to earth, he had better be prepared for a ride equivalent to a rodeo.
“I always feel like no one player should bring me down. I should have to be gang tackled. I feel like it’s an excitement to always score for the team, and to see the points go up on the board and contribute to the team; that’s what drives it,” he said. “A lot of it comes from my line — they give me a good hole and I get through there.”
His talent establishes him as a statewide threat in red-zone and third-and-short situations; the 28 Class AAA foes that will join UHS on the gridiron this fall will need to know that if they’re going to halt the UHS attack, they’ll need to find a way to slow Logan Raber.
According to Kelley, that task is much easier said than done.
“He’ll be our go-to guy for those tough inside runs,” Kelley said. “He doesn’t care about stats, accolades or honors. He just wants to win, and he leaves nothing in the tank.”
Kelley said Raber’s tough mentality on the field spills over into the weight room and locker room. It’s the attitude that defines him at UHS, and earned the respect of the coaching staff and players alike at the school.
“He eats, sleeps and lives football. He’s a weight room warrior, he goes to camps and does all the intangibles to get better every day,” Kelley said. “He’s looked up to by all our players and staff. He gives supreme effort always. That’s my kind of player; he works the hardest when no one is watching or cheering.”
For Raber, it comes down to the debt he feels he owes UHS and its football program for the opportunities they created for him. He sees it as giving back to a program that already gave him and his family more than they could ever ask.
“I feel just like I have to go out and lead by example. If the younger guys see what I’m doing, they’ll join in and follow,” he said. “I feel like I owe this school everything, and it has meant so much for me to come into this program.”
Raber returns from an injury during his sophomore season, and is expected to play a crucial role in the Hawks’ starting backfield after the departure of Trevor Barnhart and Robert Sanders.
“I feel like this coaching staff has trust in me, and my expectation is to go out, do my best and have a good game every time I step on the field,” he said. “I’m a bit nervous — I’m always nervous, but I’m always excited to play the game that I love.”
The Hawks open up pre-season camp this week, and Raber described the locker room as an excited, eager atmosphere. UHS spent a majority of time at the top of Class AAA last fall, only to bow out of the playoffs in the quarterfinals, to Capital.
Now, the Hawks want to prove that last season’s run was more than a fluke, and that they can finish the job this time out.
“I feel like everyone is ready, everyone is antsy — we just want to get out and play football,” Raber said. “We feel like we should be doing really well — we have high expectations for ourselves and we don’t want to let ourselves down.”