Family Ties

When junior spur Mike Lorello makes one of his patented tackles behind the line of scrimmage, you can bet that his personal cheering section isn't far away.

It's become almost commonplace, an event that happens two or three times per game. As the Mountaineer defense sets up, the seek-and-destroy defender wearing number 23 aligns himself near the line of scrimmage. At the snap of the ball, he skirts big blockers, knises into the backfield, and blows up a play for a loss. And as he rises from yet another tackle, junior spur Mike Lorello spares a quick thought for his father Ray, who is a visible attendee at every Mountaineer game.

"There's really no words to describe how proud I am of the fact that my dad has come to every game since I've been here," said Lorello after WVU's 45-20 win over Central Florida. Even when I was a freshman, he still made it to every game. It's just amazing. I know that growing up his dad couldn't make it to a whole lot of his games because he was busy with work, so I know it's important to him to be there for me. That's my Dad."

As Lorello makes that last statement, a warm smile crept across his face. It's an emotion you wouldn't expect to see following a tough, draining game played in high humidity, but the bond between Mike and his father overrides such trivial matters as exhaustion.

"It really does mean a lot to me. He's made the effort to be at every game my sister and I have participated in," Lorello continued happily. "Both of my parents do that, actually, and my sister is one of my biggest fans. I just love my family to death. They are great."

Having that support in the stands seems to fuel the Powell, Ohio native, who absolutely lights up when talking about his family. Compare that to the low-key commentary Lorello provides when talking about himself, and it's easy to see where his priorities lie.

That's not to say, of course, that Lorello downplays football. He puts everything he has into the game, and that effort yields great results for the Mountaineer defense. Lorello is tied for second on the team with 11 tackles, and has three stops behind the line, which is tops in 2004. Last year, playing further from the line of scrimmage, he still managed 13 tackles for losses, and he figures to top those totals this season. Each of those opportunities is one to be savored, according to WVU's quiet standout.

"You definitely want to take advantage of chances like that," he said of making hits behind the line. "Getting a big hit can get the defense going and get everyone's blood flowing. Plus, when it's behind the line of scrimmage, you get excited. You can put someone in second and long or third and long, and that's good for the defense."

Despite the good start, the heady Lorello thinks a back to the basics approach is necessary after some errors in the first two wins of the season.

"I think we need to focus on fundamentals - sure tackles, fewer mental mistakes and no penalties. We had some penalties [against Central Florida] on third down that cost us and kept drives alive. It's going to get down to execution, because we're playing a great team in Maryland."

At some point during that game, Lorello will line up, blow past a potential blocker and spill an opposing ballcarrier for a loss, And when he does, he'll again have that juxtaposition of family and football, and also, one suspects, another smile on his face.

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