Football, Sports, WVU Sports

Who do you root for when your son plays your alma mater?

On Saturday evening, there is only one college football game Shawn Lutz will be focused on. 

Lutz, the head coach at Division-II Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, will be fully locked in when his team hosts conference foe West Chester in a game that will kick off at 6 p.m. Saturday night.

However, in moments of downtime between the action between The Rock and Golden Rams, Lutz might find himself wondering how another college football game that kicked off at the same time is going. A game in which his alma mater, West Virginia, is hosting the team his oldest son plays on, Duquesne.

“That’s a tough one right there,” Shawn said over the phone Tuesday morning. “You’re really in a win-win situation on that one.” 

Shawn was a tight end for the Mountaineers from 1991-95. Logan Lutz, his oldest son, is a tight end for Duqeusne and will get to play in the same stadium as his father when the Dukes come to Morgantown on Saturday.

“It’s just awesome that he has the opportunity to go down to Morgantown and play and experience what that is all about,” the older Lutz said. “I was just telling him he will see some stuff he has not seen. The passion in the whole state and how they get behind the program and what it’s all about.

“It’s awesome to think that he didn’t play at WVU, but he’s going to get to experience what that is all about.”

Logan and the Dukes are no strangers to playing in larger stadiums. Over the past two seasons, Duquesne has played road games against TCU, Florida State, Hawaii and Ohio and they will travel to Coastal Carolina one week after taking on the Mountaineers.

“We know big stadiums like that, so it’ll be a cool experience to do that again,” Logan said Tuesday. “It’s definitely a pretty cool experience getting to play with that many fans. Being on the field, you’re in your own kind of world, but hearing that loudness of the stadium is a very cool experience.”

Duquesne’ tight end Logan Lutz (85) will get to play in the same stadium that his father did when the Dukes take on WVU this Saturday. (Duquesne Athletics)

The Dukes beat Ohio 28-26 in their contest in 2021, the program’s first and only victory over an FBS opponent.

“The mood is just to play our game and focus on ourselves,” Logan said. “I feel like if we play our game, we can keep with any team no matter the level we play against.”

Duquesne won its opener 49-7 over Division-II Edinboro last week. Edinboro is in the same conference as Slippery Rock, the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC).

“They looked good against Edinboro, but that’s a whole different monster playing at that next level,” Shawn said. “You never know what happens sometimes. Look at Clemson-Duke (Monday), not that it’s the same level but things like that can happen.”

Shawn, originally from Massillon, Ohio, said he ended up at WVU after his recruitment to Ohio State fizzled out.

“I wanted to go to Ohio State and they were on me,” he said. “Then they got someone better, I think it was (eventual first-round pick) Rickey Dudley, which was a good move, he played eight years in the NFL.”

Then-WVU head coach Don Nehlen was from Canton, Ohio, and found Shawn through a connection with former NFL assistant coach Ron Blackledge, father of former Penn State quarterback Todd Blackledge.

“I knew Ron Blackledge a little bit and Coach Nehlen was best friends with the guy,” Shawn said. “So when he knew Ohio State wasn’t going to work out for me, he called Coach Nehlen for me and I ended up going to WVU because of him.”

Shawn Lutz saw little action with the Mountaineers, finishing with just two career catches, but he said playing for Nehlen and experiencing the fanbase in Morgantown made it an incredible experience.

“I wouldn’t change it for anything,” he said. “Coach Nehlen is a guy that I learned how to be a total professional every single day. I just don’t think that guy ever had a bad day. He was the most organized, detailed guy I’ve ever been around.

“The best memories from there are just of how nice the people are…No words can describe the relationships I built with coaches, players and just the way they treated you and how passionate those people were.”

Shawn planned to start his coaching career as a graduate assistant for the Mountaineers following his playing days but ended up at Slippery Rock through a connection with former WVU defensive lineman Joe Kopinsky, who was The Rock’s defensive coordinator at the time. Shawn has been at SRU ever since, eventually working his way to head coach in 2016. He has a 59-17 record at SRU with three division championships, one conference championship and four NCAA playoff appearances.

Although he’s been away from WVU for more than 20 years, Shawn said he will never forget what playing for the Mountaineers was like.

“I was kind of in awe,” he said, “when you go out and about, I don’t care if it’s High Street or the Mountainlair or wherever, the energy and the passion from people that love the Mountaineers…You walked to the store, said you’re a football player and they think you’re like a celebrity. I played a little bit, I wasn’t a great player, but they didn’t care. It was just that you’re a part of it was something and that was really what inspired me to continue to coach.”

Logan matriculated to Duquense from Grove City High School in Grove City, Pa., a short distance from SRU, in 2020. He said his father never pressured him to play for him at Slippery Rock.

“That was definitely a conversation, but he wanted me to go play at the highest level possible,” Logan said. “He always pushed for that and he helped me along the journey. I knew I always had a place at Slippery Rock if I needed it.”

Shawn’s middle son, Gavin, will graduate from Grove City this year and is also getting college looks as a two-time Pennsylvania all-state defensive back. Like with Logan, Shawn is staying out of Gavin’s recruitment.

“I don’t get involved in that. I want them to find their mark,” Shawn said. “I would like one of them to come to Slippery Rock, but whatever’s best for them is completely fine for me.”

Now with different college teams, the father and son do not have very many opportunities to attend each other’s games. 

“I won’t be able to get to much of any of them,” Shawn said. “We don’t have a bye week in Division-II. Even his Senior Day is the same time we play later in the year. It’s horrible, but he’s happy.”

“It’s hard,” Logan added. “Growing up, I’d always play my games on Friday nights and then go watch him on Saturdays…It is hard, but we work through it and always call after the game to see how it went.”

Even though his father won’t be there in person on Saturday, Logan will feel a connection to Shawn, playing the same position on the same field he once did.

“It’s a pretty cool thing being able to go down there and see what he experienced and play on the same field that he did,” Logan said. “I played wide receiver in high school and then at Duquesne my freshman year, I got moved to tight end. I thought it was really cool to play my dad’s position and follow in his footsteps.”

Although he never experienced playing in Morgantown as an opposing player, Shawn still had some advice for what the experience is going to be like for Logan on Saturday.

“I’m like ‘listen man, you’re going to get taunted as soon as you get into Morgantown, they’re going to be rocking the bus, you’re going to get every fan yelling and screaming at you,’” Shawn said. “That’s what college football is all about. The fans want it so bad…I just wanted to tell him how bad these fans want it. They want it just as bad as the players, which is just amazing.”

West Virginia is 23-0 all-time against FCS opponents. While Shawn said he would be happy with a win by either team on Saturday, Logan is hoping for at least a little bit of support from his Mountaineer father.

“I understand it’s his alma mater, but he could still root for us a little bit,” Logan said with a laugh.

The Mountaineers and Dukes will kick off at 6 p.m. inside Milan Puskar Stadium. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.