Hilarity, Hijinks, and High Hopes

A relaxed and happy Mountaineer football team descended on the Caperton Indoor Facility this evening for the 3rd annual ‘Night of Champions,' an opportunity to show off the results of the winter conditioning program and have a few laughs.

The full West Virginia roster was divided into ten teams, each led by one of the assistant coaches, for a two-hour variety show conducted by strength and conditioning coach Mike Barwis. The team looks strong, sculpted, and quick. There is not an extra ounce of fat on anyone, not even the offensive linemen, and several players look like they've had whole body transplants, including kicker Pat McAfee, who is dramatically buffer than when we last saw him on January 2. In fact, Rich Rodriguez himself appears to have benefitted from a winter's exercise regimen, and is as trim and fit as he's been since assuming the head coaching mantle.

The irrepressible Dusty Rutledge acted as master of ceremonies, and Coach Rodriguez awarded Olympic-style gold, silver, and bronze medals to the top performers.

1. Bench Press Weight Lifting Contest
Gold: Pat Liebig, who bench pressed 490 pounds
Silver: Dan Mozes, 480
Bronze: (tie) Kevin Burke, Craig Wilson, and Keilen Dykes, 465

2. Box Jump

This event, which had both fans and teammates watching in awe, tested the standing vertical leap. In the first round, a representative from each team jumped onto a 30 inch box. The second round moved to 50 inches, and the third round was an astonishing 60 inches (5 feet).

Gold: Leon Price
Silver: (tie) Darius Reynaud, Brandon Myles, and Jarrett Brown

3. Medicine Ball Toss

One representative from each team threw a 30 pound medicine ball over and behind his head.

Gold: Owen Schmidt, 12 ½ yards
Silver: John Holmes, 11 ½ yards
Bronze: (tie) Scooter Berry, Warren Young, and Doug Slavonic, 9 yards

4. Fast Man Relays (4 man 70 yard tag teams)

Gold: Charles Pugh, Dwayne Thompson, Abraham Jones, and Dorrell Jalloh
Silver: Darius Reynaud, Antonio Lewis, Jetavious Best, and Vaughn Rivers
Bronze: Steve Slaton, Trippe Hale, Brandon Myles, and John Holmes

5. Farmer's Walk

One representative from each team carried 2 130 pound dumbells, one in each hand. The one who made it the furthest distance won.

Gold: Keilen Dykes, 126 yards
Silver: Damien Crissey, 115 yards
Bronze: Owen Schmidt, 113 yards

6. 2-man sled

This was a 40 yard relay, with each runner pulling a 50 pound sled behind him.

Gold: Ovid Goulbourne and Jason Colson
Silver: Reed Williams and Aaron Meckstroth
Bronze: Quinton Andrews and Jay Henry

7. Standing Broad Jump

Gold: Darius Reynaud, 10' 4 ½"
Silver: Jarrett Brown, 10' 2 ½"
Bronze: Brandon Myles, 10' 2"

8. Tug of War

Gold: Team led by Jeremy Sheffey
Silver: Team led by Leyonne Price
Bronze: Team led by Craig Wilson

9. Fast Man Competition (60 yard dash)

Gold: Steve Slaton
Silver: Pat White
Bronze: Brandon Myles

10. Egg Eating Contest

A perennial fan and team favorite event involves one representative from each team consuming 10 hard-boiled eggs and a cup of water as fast as he can.

Gold: Justin Knapp
Silver: Jeremy Sheffey
Bronze: Thor Merrow
Honorable Mention: Pat McAfee, who finished next-to-last, but with great and greatly entertaining melodrama that involved hilarious facial contortions, increasingly purple skin color, and, um, shall we say, an inability to digest the eggs.

The evening ended with Pat White and the Mountaineers leading the hundred or so spectators in a rousing version of "Hail, West Virginia!"


  • The new turf looks and feels wonderful, giving a nice spring to the step.

  • Running back Pernell Williams is moving to defensive back this spring.

  • Members of the crowd were gossiping about the impressive pass-catching abilities of Assistant Coach Jeff Casteel's 8 year old son.

  • Members of the crowd were complaining about all the taunts and bragging they are already enduring from Marshall University supporters anxious for the September 2 football matchup with WVU. As one fan put it, "Let's see if they can back it up."

  • Members of the crowd also reacted, variously, with shock or delight to the news that while the ‘Night of Champions' progressed, University High knocked off favorite Morgantown High in the AAA Sectional Basketball finals. Starring for UHS were Jedd Gyorko, younger brother of former Mountaineer Scotty Gyorko, and Ryan Nehlen, grandson of former head coach Don Nehlen. Morgantown High's starting lineup included J. T. Lewis, son of WVU basketball great Junius Lewis.

  • Rich Rodriguez's motto for the 2006 season: "Humble, hungry, and eager for more." He announced that a large cooler of free water bottles was available to spectators, then quipped, "We win another Sugar Bowl and next year, we'll have Cokes – or even Budweisers."

  • A happy and relaxed Rita Rodriguez sat in the audience, chatted animatedly with Jahmile Addae, and snapped photos of all the medal winners.

  • Owen Schmidt and Pat McAfee have had their ears pierced and were sporting white bandages on both earlobes. Schmidt has also acquired a large eagle tattoo on his back, courtesy of the artist who illustrates Kevin Pittsnogle.

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