West By God takes care of its own

December 14, 2018

Welcome to “Second Guess” Thursday. It’s worth the two-day wait.

• West Virginians support West Virginians.

That always has been my take on Mountain State natives. It’s my viewpoint both personally and professionally.

After all, aren’t there enough outsiders making jokes and snide remarks at West Virginians’ expense? Compared to us, the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield got plenty of respect.

It’s why I always take up for West Virginia-based athletes. It doesn’t matter where they hail from, if they are representing our state then they are de facto West Virginians.

And that’s good enough for me and my Heisman ballot.

When WVU quarterback Major Harris was a bona fide candidate for the Heisman Trophy, I gave him a first-place vote on my ballot. When Marshall University wide receiver Randy Moss was a legitimate contender, he was my first-place choice.

And so it has gone.

Marshall quarterback Chad Pennington got my first-place vote. So did fellow Thundering Herd quarterback Byron Leftwich. And when Mountaineer quarterback Will Grier proved he was an authentic Heisman Trophy candidate in 2018?

The WVU star got my first-place vote.

None of them won, of course, but I never second-guessed the support I gave them. I am second-guessing, however, a sportswriter who works in West Virginia yet recently detailed why Grier wasn’t included on his Heisman Trophy ballot.

Forget a first-place vote; Grier didn’t even make this scribe’s list. As confounding and bewildering as this obviously is, it still falls into the “to each his own” school of thought. It was his ballot to vote as he saw fit. But it’s 180 degrees opposite of my philosophy. Namely, if West Virginians don’t take up for West Virginians, who is going to do it?

I have filled out more Heisman Trophy ballots than anyone in the state and usually there isn’t a West Virginian on it. But when there’s a legitimate contender from the Mountain State? He will get my first-place vote every single time.

• Remember the concept of loyalty? Ever since the College Football Playoff was created, that once-esteemed value seems to be slip-sliding away like a Paul Simon song.

In fact, this football season it even is happening in West Virginia. Mountaineer standouts Grier and left offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste have decided to skip WVU’s Camping World Bowl game against Syracuse so they can concentrate on preparing for the 2019 NFL Draft.

They aren’t alone. At last count, at least 13 FBS standouts have declined to participate in bowl games with their teammates. Along with Grier and Cajuste, the list includes N.C. State wideout Kelvin Harmon and linebacker Germaine Pratt, Minnesota offensive tackle Donnell Greene, Arizona State wideout K’Neal Harvey, South Carolina wideout Deebo Samuel, Houston defensive lineman Ed Oliver, LSU cornerback Greedy Williams, Michigan defensive lineman Rashan Garry, Iowa tight end Noah Fant, Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill and offensive guard Larry Williams.

If this is the new way of the collegiate football world, it certainly doesn’t feel like progress.

Yet, WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen completely exonerated Grier for his decision, saying, “Will and I spoke at length about the bowl game and I am fully supportive of his decision to begin preparing for the NFL Draft.”

What about teammates? What about loyalty? What about gratitude? They all appear to be casualties of the “Me Generation.”

Sometimes, the old ways were the best ways.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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