Career Highlight

As former West Virginia head coach Don Nehlen might note, playing offensive line is not akin to enjoying a hot fudge sundae. But for a kid from Mudlick Branch and Lizard Creek, the Sugar Bowl will be the culmination of a gritty career built upon slogging sweat and toil.

"It's the biggest game I will ever play in," Garin Justice said.

There is no NFL career awaiting the senior, no multi-millions. The 300-pounder will instead utilize his physical education and teaching degree, likely with the same desire that turned Gilbert High's all-Coalfield Conference selection into a solid major college lineman. The same effort and head-down determination that gave the Whitey Gwynne Award winner (presented annually to WVU's unsung hero) a spot on his State U.'s roster.

And his players and students? They'll be all the better for it.

Players - nay, people - like Justice aren't often unearthed. Here's a true country kid who relishes the opportunities and limelight WVU has given him and one who yet seems as so aw-shucks ordinary that it's borderline boring. And one who knows the value of unselfish labor and love.

"This team genuinely cares about each other," Justice said. "Coach (Rich Rodriguez) speaks about the football family here. Some people bought into it and now everyone truly cares. It sounds wimpy, but it goes a long way when you really know that guy next to you cares and has the same goals as you."

So thus transformed a team that last season couldn't pinpoint exactly what its goals were into one with such a like mindset that pundits are giving it a chance against a foe measurably more talented.

"I look back now and realize it is coming to an end," Justice said. "In practice sometimes it seems like it will never end. But I am very thankful for the time I have had here."

Too much remains for Justice to focus on the conclusion. But it's worth noting that when closure comes on his career, his will be among the names etched in among the greatest of WVU lore: The in-state player who overcame physical limitations to contribute at the highest level.

It'll be there with a Ben Collins, a Jeff Noechel, and Gilbert teammate Josh Bailey. Players like Quincy Wilson or Robert Alexander are great - marquee Mountain State talent in high-profile slots. But it's the worker bees which deserve just as much respect, if not more, in getting WVU to places like the Sugar Bowl.

It might sound wimpy or even read wimpy, but Justice's contributions are the stuff of which West Virginia's program is made.

"I always say the greatest achievement in college football is to be able to say you played five years, that you made it through," Rodriguez has said frequently.

Justice now can, though he has yet not realized it.

"Maybe when I watch all these guys play next year," he said. "Things like hanging out in the locker room will be what I really miss. I won't, but hopefully the younger guys will play in bigger games. We'll have to play hard to win. I saw no signs of quit on the defense, so we'll just compete and go at it."

Somehow one believes Justice likes his foes that way, begging the question if Georgia is worthy of stepping on the field with Justice and the Mountaineers, rather than vice-versa.

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