MORGANTOWN — West Virginia receiver Preston Fox made a couple of highlight-reel catches against Oklahoma State on Saturday.
The first was a 19-yard grab on third down that set up WVU’s first touchdown. Fox’s jersey was tugged on while he made an inside move on a defender and he essentially ended up making the catch while flat on his back.
The second was a 34-yard back-shoulder reception that set up WVU’s last touchdown in which Fox, again, ended up on his back.
“Usually I put myself into positions to make hard catches,” Fox said with a chuckle on Monday. “I’ve always had really good hands, so I use that. I’m kind of quick, I’m not a fast guy at all, but a little separation is all I need and I can get the ball in my hands.”
Although he has fewer than 20 career receptions, Fox has become known for his highlight-reel grabs.
“He’s always made phenomenal catches,” offensive coordinator Chad Scott said. “That kid has always produced and he deserves to be on the football field.”
A former walk-on and Morgantown native, Fox has carved out a key role for WVU this year, being able to play any of the receiver positions while also returning punts and kickoffs.
After redshirting in 2020, Fox played special teams almost exclusively in 2021 and 2022.
“As a walk-on, you really have to put yourself into any position to get playing time,” Fox said. “Through punt returns, that helped me get on the field first. If you want to get on the field, you play special teams.”
Fox entered this season with only 49 career receiving yards. Through seven games in 2023, he already has 212 yards on just 12 receptions.
“It’s been a hard journey, but it’s always going to be hard as a walk-on,” Fox said. “Being a role player now is big-time. A lot of it was hard work and now they can just plug me in at any spot.”
Fox had limited college options after putting up nearly 1,700 all-purpose yards and earning first-team all-state honors as a senior at Morgantown High in 2019. Eventually, the opportunity to walk on at WVU came and Fox jumped on it.
“I was definitely bummed that I didn’t have any offers, but a lot of players don’t get any chances like that and are overlooked,” Fox said. “But I got my chance and I took it.
“It was never really a thought that I could (play at WVU) until my senior year and I got that offer to be a preferred walk-on. Growing up, I’ve always wanted to come here; this is my home.”
While Fox had to spend a lot of time in the weight room, he said it didn’t take long for him to realize that he could play at the Power 5 level.
“I had to definitely get strong and get bigger,” he said. “That was kind of hard for me, but throughout the whole time I was growing here, I made a lot of plays in practice and that showed that I can play at this level.”
While Fox lacks the physical gifts that would make him an obvious Division I talent, it’s his work ethic that makes up the difference.
“He shows the whole offense that you don’t necessarily have to be special. You can just be special in the little things,” Scott said. “Be magical in the little things and the great things we all want to happen, will happen. He does the littlest things right and puts himself in a position to make plays and when his number’s called, he makes plays.”
Following the 2022 Gold-Blue Spring Game, Fox was surprised with the scholarship that had been so elusive a few years prior.
“That was probably one of the best feelings in the world,” Fox said. “Seeing my family walk in, I just knew that was the moment. I almost had tears come out of my eyes; that was the best feeling ever.”
That same day, Fox’s longtime teammate and fellow MHS graduate Nick Malone won an award as WVU’s top walk-on. Malone was later put on scholarship and made his first career start along the offensive line two weeks ago.
“Me and Nick have definitely always had the same dreams,” Fox said, “and we both made it happen.”