Football, Sports, WVU Sports

Notebook: Local ties abound on WVU football team

MORGANTOWN — From hometown players and coaches to life-long fans and former idols, the WVU football team has plenty of local ties to Morgantown this season.

The clearest tie this group of Mountaineers has to their hometown is new tight ends coach Blaine Stewart. Son of former WVU head coach Bill Stewart, Blaine is a Morgantown native and Morgantown High School alum who has returned to the Mountaineers following several seasons of coaching in the NFL.

Stewart said he is looking forward to the team’s home opener against Duquesne on Sept. 9.

“I actually did think about that during our scrimmage on Saturday,” Stewart said. “We were playing, I think it was ‘Thunderstruck’ and I just kind of looked around and thought, ‘Man, this is going to be pretty cool when this place is full.’ I told (WVU chief of staff) Coleman Barnes on the sideline that it’s starting to feel very real. I’m excited about that.”

Stewart, who spent a lot of time roaming the WVU sideline as a child, has only been to one WVU home game in the last decade due to his own college playing career and later coaching responsibilities.

“I came to the JMU game in 2019 because I went to James Madison,” he said. “I hadn’t been to a game before that since 2010, so it’s been a long time since I’ve been in Mountaineer Field when it’s rocking. All the home games are going to be special in their own way, but Sept. 9 is going to be fun.”

Fellow Mohigan

Along with Stewart, another MHS alum is moving into a larger role at WVU this season, offensive lineman Nick Malone.

Malone, a 2019 MHS graduate, has moved into the offensive line rotation, according to head coach Neal Brown.

“I think seven (linemen) is where it’s at right now,” Brown said. “The six who played last year and Nick Malone, who has really moved up.”

Malone is entering his fifth season with the Mountaineers and has seen his role gradually increase every year.

“He’s gotten stronger,” Brown said. “If you watched him in high school, he was a guy that was kind of thin. When I say thin, 270 pounds. He was thinner in high school, really athletic and played basketball. It’s been a three-plus-year process getting him to 305 (pounds).”

Malone became a special teams starter last season and moves into the top reserve role on the offensive line for 2023.

“He’s gained weight and he’s gotten stronger, that’s what’s given him an opportunity,” Brown said. “He’s got patience. He’s been self-aware early in his career on what he needs to do to get better and now he’s seeing some of the fruits of that.”

Cross-Town Rival

In addition to the Morgantown High products, University High alum Noah Braham is also making a name for himself as a freshman tight end.

“Noah was a true wide receiver at University High but he has an unbelievable feel for all things tight end-related,” Stewart said. “I’ve tried to pull some emotion out of him, he’s such a stoic kid, he just comes to work and says ‘yes sir.’ I’m trying to really develop him as a guy to model after Treylan (Davis), they have such similar skill sets.”

Life-Long Fan

It’s almost ironic that Stewart chose Davis to compare Braham to. Davis, a redshirt sophomore tight end, is not from Morgantown but grew up as a fan of the Mountaineers.

“I’ve always kind of grown up rooting for West Virginia,” the Jackson, Ohio native said. “There were the (Ohio State) Buckeyes and then my dad was with the (Ohio) Bobcats so I had those Ohio teams, but West Virginia is a team that’s hard not to root for. I love what their fan base stands on and the traditions here.”

Davis played in all 12 games as a backup tight end last season, specializing in blocking and making five receptions.

Davis’ father, Eric Davis, played for the Bobcats but allowed his son to make his own choice of colleges when the time came. A member of the 2020 recruiting class, Davis was not even able to visit WVU before he committed to the Mountaineers.

“I never got the chance to visit here because of the COVID recruiting stuff,” he explained. “I chose to come here just to due how the coaching staff and fan base made me feel like I was welcome from the first second I was on the phone with them.”

Another tie to the Mountain State, Davis said his grandfather retired in West Virginia after working in coal mines outside of Parkersburg.

Football Idol

While Davis grew up a fan of WVU, safety Anthony Wilson was a fan of just one Mountaineer in particular, former WVU defensive back Karl Joseph.

“There’s a guy that played here, Karl Joseph, my favorite safety of all time — I just try to emulate my game after him,” Wilson said. “He’s my favorite, I’ve even got him as my lock screen on my phone.”
Wilson said he was drawn to Joseph because of his style of play and also his stature. Wilson stands at just 5-9 while Joseph is not much bigger at 5-11.

“We’re almost the same size and I grew up watching how he played the game physically and wanting to knock people around and make plays on the ball,” Wilson said. “That’s something that I was drawn to and wanted to emulate in my game.”

While new rules in the game prohibit players from laying hits like Joseph did in his heyday, Wilson said he still strives to play with that same physicality.

Wilson transferred to WVU this offseason following three productive years at Georgia Southern. He entered the transfer portal looking to play on a bigger stage and couldn’t pass up the chance to follow in his idol’s footsteps by becoming a Mountaineer.

“The first thing I thought of (when WVU showed interest) was, ‘Man, I get to sit in the same meeting room Karl Joseph sat in,’” Wilson said. “I was just blessed with the opportunity so it was something I couldn’t pass up.”

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