Former All-American Lineman Doing Well In Florida

Brian Jozwiak is still a Mountaineer through and through, but he certainly is thriving in the Florida sun.

A native of Catonsville, Md., Jozwiak came to WVU in 1981 as a tall, rangy defensive lineman. Five years later he left as a 6-7,310-pound consensus All-American offensive tackle.

He seemed destined for greatness in the NFL after being drafted with the seventh pick in the first round by the Kansas City Chiefs. But a hip injury forced him to retire just three years after his pro career began.

With his playing days over, he returned to West Virginia, finished his degree at WVU, started a family with his wife Johnna, a Marion Country native, and eventually got into coaching, becoming an assistant at West Virginia Wesleyan College in 1991.

He stayed with the Bobcats through 1997, but then a former teammate gave him a call. Brad Metheny, a one-time defensive back at WVU and a native of Kingwood, had recently taken a head coaching job at Winter Haven High School in Florida, and he wanted to know if Brian was interested in coming down to serve as the associate head coach.

Leaving West Virginia wasn't easy, but the Jozwiak family, which now also includes a 13-year-old daughter and a nine-year-old son, has flourished in the Sunshine State. And so has Brian. As an assistant, Joz helped turn Winter Haven around, taking it from a bottom feeder in Class 4A into a regular in the state playoffs. This past season Winter Haven advanced to the second round of the playoffs and finished with a 7-5 mark.

When the season was completed, Metheny stepped aside as the head coach, and it didn't take those in charge long to turn to Jozwiak. He was named the new Winter Haven head coach a few weeks ago, and he's already looking forward to the new challenges.

"I really enjoy working with the players at this level," explained Jozwiak in the booming,animated way that would have made him great in the WWF.

"There's so much development in kids this age. One day they are skinny kids who can hardly put two feet in front of each other and can't bench the weight bar. The next day, they're strapping men who are benching 300 pounds. Sometimes it takes the vision of an artist to see what possibilities lay ahead, but when it all comes together, it's really fun to see."

The Jozwiak family is very happy in Winter Haven. His daughter is a freshman cheerleader,and his son, Thor, is starting to get his Dad's size, though so far his hitting has been confined to whacking a golf ball further than many adults.

Given the opportunity at the head job, Brian was thrilled to take it.

"Things happen for a reason," explained Joz, whose parents recently moved from their long-time home in suburban Baltimore to the Winter Haven area. "God has a plan for all of us, and I'm very happy with the one that I've been given. I was very honored that the people around here thought enough of me to entrust me with the football program. I'm going to do all I can to live up to that faith.

"I think we've got a chance to keep this program headed in the right direction," added Jozwiak. "We've made some incredible strides since we took over four years ago, and we can continue. We've got a lot of kids in the school excited about football,and we're getting a lot of players to come out now. The last few years we've had an average of 28 seniors on each team. In a way, that makes it tough because we have to rebuild every year, but it also means we're doing something right, because those seniors are working their way through the program and staying with it. There's so much difference between a 15 or 16 year old and a 17 or 18 year old in terms of physical ability and maturity. It makes your program so much better if you have a lot of seniors, and we've been fortunate to have a lot."

Brian also has a nice nucleus of underclassmen to build around for next year as well, and with the help of defensive coordinator Chad Young, a Morgantown native, WVU grad and son of former Mountaineer assistant coach Donnie Young, Jozwiak expects big things in 2002.

"I'm still working on my staff, but I think we'll be in good shape there," noted Brian. "Chad is invaluable and will be a great asset. He'll be in charge of the defense, and I'm looking forward to taking charge of the offense.As the offensive line coach, I ve always had an input, but I haven 't had an opportunity to call the plays. That 's something I think I 'll enjoy."

Football is still a big part of Jozwiak's life, but for the past four years, he's been involved in something even more important than coaching. He's been working in Winter Haven's ACE program,which is an alternative learning center for high schoolers. His job is to take at risk and misguided youngsters and turn them around. If the sight and sound of Jozwiak doesn't scare a kid straight, not much will. Though it obviously can be a trying line of work, he finds it very rewarding.

"I work with a lot of kids who have some serious issues,but nothing is better than helping them make the right choices," said Brian, who teaches everything from algebra and English to geography. "It can be exhausting, but I love it."

No one embraces the world quite like Joz. And he hasn't forgotten West Virginia. He already is deep into planning the12 th annual Brian Jozwiak Celebrity Golf Tournament at Bel Meadows Country Club outside of Bridgeport. The event, which has been a fixture each summer on the golfing scene in Northcentral West Virginia, has raised well over $100,000 for the WVU Children's Hospital over the years.

It may seem that Brian spreads himself pretty thin, but there's enough of him to go around for all involved, West Virginia and Florida, football players and at-risk teens.

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