Buie Back, Ready to Work

Andrew Buie knew it was inevitable when he made the decision to leave West Virginia before the 2013 season with the intentions of returning for spring practice.

He knew there were going to be questions about why he left, what happened that caused the Mountaineers' leading rusher to take a season off, when he got back to Morgantown.

But there he was, the hero of WVU's signature win on the road against Texas, sitting in the front row looking on as West Virginia lost to the Longhorns, 47-40, in overtime in front of almost 59,000 fans at Milan Puskar Stadium. It was the only game he attended last season. He missed his teammates, he missed the atmosphere of a Saturday night in Morgantown, but he also admitted he just needed to get away from home – even if it was just for a day or two.

"If you think coming up here and having 100 people asking you what you were doing at home is bad, imagine having 100 people coming up to you every day asking why you're home. It was good to get away from that," Buie said. "Regardless of what the actual truth is, everybody's going to have their opinion of what they think happened."

In reality, the actual answer to that question was pretty simple. And it had nothing to do with football.

"I went home for Andrew Buie – to make Andrew Buie a better person," he said.

"I kind of always knew, in the back of my mind, that I would be back here. Football just wasn't my primary focus when I was home. I took time to worry about other things, spending time with my family."

Now that the Mountaineers have started spring practice, Buie is back to playing the game he has known and loved since he was 6 years old.

Even with his absence, the junior has picked up right where he left, adapting to his first few practices back without missing a beat. While it might be a surprise to some that he could have missed a full season and jump back into it, the Jacksonville, Fla., native did not see it that way.

"I've just been doing it for so long," he said. "It's like waking up and getting out of bed in the morning. It's like opening your eyes when you wake up. It's just second nature.

"You never really forget how to do it … That's how I look at it. (Football) is my life."

He admitted he did not spend a ton of time thinking about the game as much, taking as much time as he needed to in order to focus on personal things and making himself the best person he could possibly be. But as it got closer and closer to time to come back to Morgantown, he started to get the itch to compete again. And that's perfect because, in order to crack the rotation for WVU this season, he'll have plenty of competing to do.

The Mountaineer running back room is as crowded as it has been in quite some time. Buie (who led West Virginia with 851 rushing yards as a sophomore in 2012), senior Dreamius Smith, junior Dustin Garrison and sophomores Rushel Shell and Wendell Smallwood have all seen extensive action in major college football, and with talented freshman Donte Thomas-Williams expected to get to campus this summer, it's not going to be easy to get to where he is seeing a significant number of snaps right away.

"We haven't played yet. That's not my job to worry about," Buie said. "I just know that when Buie's name is called, Buie's going to do what Buie's got to do.

"You always miss it. I'm just ready to play. When you miss a whole season, of course it bothers you. But I had other things I needed to take care of that were more important to me."

The biggest of those things involved simply growing up and becoming more mature off the field. Buie knew he had plenty of lessons to learn if he wanted to be the best he could be, both on and off the field. On his mission to accomplish that, he realized one of the most important lessons he could learn.

In football and life, you have to work hard every single day in order to succeed.

"As a kid, you'll find a million ways to take a shortcut versus just doing it the right way," he said. "Once you accept the reality that you're going to have to work for the rest of your life, and that there are no shortcuts in life, the better off you're going to be. I finally found that out."

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