Portrait of Progression

As players move through their collegiate football careers, they are automatically assumed to be earning positions of leadership on the team as they grow from callow freshmen to confident juniors and seniors. That process, however, is a long one, and it's often fraught with some tough lessons.

At first glance, no one would consider the career of Terence Garvin to be anything other than an unqualified success to this point. The Baltimore, Md., native avoided a redshirt during his freshman year of 2009, and while his stats weren't huge (10 tackles in 10 games), the mere fact that he got on the field at all put him far ahead of the typical collegian's career. In addition to his backup role at the spur position, he also served on all four of the open field special teams, and was clearly one of the most accomplished newcomers on the squad.

That performance merely set the stage for an outstanding sophomore campaign in which he led a star-studded defense in tackles (76) while starting all 13 games. Garvin displayed tremendous range and ability as he filled up the stat sheet, as he was the only Mountaineer to have at least one sack, interception, forced fumble, fumble recovery, pass break up and quarterback hurry.

With numbers such as those, it might be safe to assume that Garvin has always been a leader on the defense, or that he's always taken maximum advantage of every repetition. However, the soft-spoken, yet formidable, Mountaineer defender admits that's not always been the case.

"My freshman year, I might have come in the weight room and think 'Whatever. I'll just try to get through today,'" the aggressive defender said.

If that's surprising, it probably shouldn't be. Just about every freshman in college athletics gets a wake-up call at some point early in his career. Many, like Garvin, respond in the right way, learning those lessons and putting them to use. Others, of course, don't, and fans often see their careers frittered away or end abruptly.

Fortunately for West Virginia supporters, the former has been true for Garvin.

"Every year you grow," he said, describing a process that seems very slow from the viewpoint of the daily grind, but now seems to have passed in the blink of an eye when looking back. "You get better and you get mentally stronger. I don't have a lot of time to waste, so every day I try to come out and get better. I am trying to get better every day."

The same process holds true off the field as well as on. While Garvin's performance during the 2010 season has set him up as a potential candidate for a leadership spot on this year's rebuilding defense, it also highlights the fact that he will have to grow and mature in that role, just as he grew and matured in his approach to workouts and practices. Having seen the results on the field, however, it's likely that he will be able to navigate the leadership progression as well as he has the game itself.

Garvin's maturity is also displayed in his views of the preseason publicity the team has received. Predictions of Top 20 rankings have abounded, but he professes not to pay any attention to them. Whether or not that's coach-speak is a matter for debate, but it's clear that he also knows the important fact is staying in the rankings – not being placed there in preseason.

"We don't even look at [rankings]," he said with conviction. "We just have to get better. If we don't make plays, if we don't make tackles, if we don't throw the ball or score touchdowns, it doesn't matter where people predict us. We feel that we can be the best in the country, but it's all about work. Whoever works the hardest can be the best."

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