Home Grown

Over the years, a number of native West Virginians have won the Tommy Nickolich Award, which is presented each spring by the Blue & Gold News to the walk-on member of the Mountaineer football team that distinguished himself with attitude and work ethic, and it's not a mystery to the latest winner as to why state natives have a stranglehold on the award.

"As a West Virginian, when come in to the football team, we have an extra air of confidence, and we want to work harder and do more," said Tim Lindsey, the 2006 winner. "This is not only our team, but it's our state. We grew up here. We are always willing to give even more, and I think that's why so many guys from West Virginia have won this."

Tim's father, Charles, echoed his son's thoughts.

"A lot of the reason the players from West Virginia do well is that they have to work a little bit harder. They want to be a part of the team, and they might put a little more into it. It pays off for them in the long run."

Lindsey, who joins the recent instate group of Ben Collins, Jeremy Knapp, John Pennington, Jeff Noechel and George Shehl to have won the award in the last seven years, also believes that factor weighs heavily when home state products get the chance to perform on the field.

"It's not just a feeling of accomplishment, but of pride too," said Tim as he talked about the recognition that comes when a walk-on gets some acknowledgment or makes a contribution. "Coming in as a walk-on, you know you have to work hard to prove yourself, so when you finally get that chance to play you want to take advantage of it. You never want to get complacent."

Taking things for granted won't be a problem for Lindsey, who worked his way from scout team tight end to the starting long snapper in 2005. He has been a dedicated workout performer who has also labored hard to master the mechanics of long snapping – work that paid off last year when the Mountaineers needed someone to replace four-year starter Scott Fleming at the position, and doesn't plan to back off now that his senior season has arrived. Noting that "you can do anything one more time", Lindsey says he is anticipating another difficult summer of workouts to help prepare him for his final season, but that there is some excitement in looking forward to those drills as well, because he knows they are the key to a successful 2006.

Lindsey, whose older brother Donnie was a four-year letterman at the same position from 1996-99, took advantage of his sibling's experience at WVU as well as of his expertise as a snapper.

"When I first came up here, I talked to him a lot," Tim said of his older brother. "I would turn to him anytime I got frustrated. He taught me how to cope with being at this level, because it's a whole ‘nother world. If things go wrong you can't fix them later, you have to fix them right now. He was a great role model to help me keep my game at the highest level I could keep it."

Tim's mother, Melinda, notes that both Tim and Donnie played sports growing up, so they always formed a pitcher and a catcher duo or a long snapper and a holder pair when they practiced together. She and Charles have watched their sons play together, then in high school and at West Virginia for a long time, and are naturally a bit emotional about the fast-approaching end of that aspect of their careers.

"It was pretty emotional [Saturday]," Melinda said. "When we walked down to our seats we commented to some friends that it seemed unreal that we had been here this long, but that now it's almost over. But, we are excited for Tim to go on."

For, Tim, that list of "last times" that seniors go through has already begun as well.

"The whole feeling is a little nostalgic, but you don't start thinking about it until it's over," he said. "When we got to the stadium, all the seniors were looking at each other and saying ‘This is it. This is our last spring game.' You do think about it and look back on it, and I wouldn't change a thing. I had a great time with a great group of guys."

Tim had an important, if unnoticed, hand in Phil Brady's fake punt in the Sugar Bowl (he made the snap that set the play in motion), which is something of the lot in life for a long snapper. He only gets noticed if something goes wrong, but that doesn't mean there aren't a few sets of eyes on him. Melinda admits that she still gets nervous anytime Tim takes the field, but also notes that she had a feeling about WVU's bowl game last year.

"Our local television station was down at the Sugar Bowl, and I told them that the game would come down to special teams, and sure enough it was Tim and Phil Brady on that play," she said.

Melinda was also the only member of the Lindsey family who thought Tim might have a chance at the Nickolich Award.

"It was just a passing thought, but it did cross my mind a little bit. We are really proud of him."

"I didn't have a clue," Tim said. "I had forgotten about it until [Friday night] when I thought about it for a little bit, but I forgot about it again on Saturday at the game. It was a total surprise. A couple people told me ‘congratulations' [on the sideline] and I said ‘What are you talking about,' and the next minute Coach Rod was calling my name. I was caught off guard, but this is a great honor.

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