State Native Wins Nickolich Award

A present Mountaineer will be honored during Saturday's Gold/Blue Spring Scrimmage, and with his recognition, a former Mountaineer will also be honored.

Clarksburg native George Shehl will be honored as the 2005 winner of the Tommy Nickolich Award. Tommy's parents, Tom and Suzie, will be on hand to present the award to Shehl in a pregame ceremony Saturday.

Shehl will be the 15th recipient of the Nickolich Award, which was first presented in 1991. The award is given annually each spring to the walk-on member of the Mountaineer football team who has distinguished himself with his attitude and effort.

The award is presented in the memory of Tommy Nickolich, a native of Fairmont, W.Va., and a former walk-on for West Virginia (1980-82) who died of cancer in 1983. The winner is selected each spring by the Mountaineer coaching staff.

A senior-to-be who graduated from Robert C. Byrd High School in Clarksburg, Shehl is also listed as a defensive back on the Mountaineer roster, but his primary role for WVU is as the holder on all field goals and extra points. It's a duty he has performed flawlessly for the past three years.

"I can't say enough about what George has meant to our team," said WVU head coach Rich Rodriguez. "He has been a real key to our special teams. I'm the type of guy who worries about almost everything, but George is one of the things I worry about the least. He's done a wonderful job for us. The snapper and the holder are both important parts of the field goal and extra point effort, but if they do their job right, nobody ever pays attention to them. When they mess up, though, everyone knows who they are. George has almost been anonymous around here for the past three years. Everyone just takes him for granted, but the coaches don't. They know how vital he is."

Saturday will be a great day for George, as he is recognized in the pregame ceremony. But this will also be a day to remember Tommy Nickolich. Tommy and I were childhood friends, and our families were very close when we were growing up. I'm glad that each year the Blue & Gold News, which sponsors the Nickolich Award, can help keep Tommy's memory and spirit alive. I see that same spirit and desire in so many of the Mountaineers today, players like George Shehl.

As I talked to Coach Rodriguez about Tommy, the award and his 2005 team, I made it clear that I thought his squad would be a very pleasant surprise to many this fall. Rich was very interested in my prediction and quickly offered his coaching observations.

"I don't like any predictions, whether they are good or bad," said the fifth-year Mountaineer mentor. "Now I know what this day Saturday is all about. I also knew Tommy, and I'm sure he would love the attitude this team has. Knowing what Tommy was all about and knowing what he brought to practice every day, I know he would have appreciated the work ethic that this team has."

PAST NICKOLICH AWARD WINNERS
YEAR PLAYER POS
1991 Keith Taparausky RB
1992 Ray Wilcox LB
1993 Matt McCulty WR
1994 Randy Fulmore DB
1995 Rob Keys DB
1996 Matt Ceresa OL
1997 David Lightcap DB
1998 Mark Corman TE
1999 Bryan Lorenz TE
2000 Ben Collins DB
2001 Jeremy Knapp TE
2002 Moe Fofana FB
2003 John Pennington WR
2004 Jeff Noechel LB

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