Perfect Fit

One of the greatest successes within the Mountaineer football program has been developing walk-ons into solid, dependable Big East players. One Kanawha Valley native is hoping to be the latest success in that trend.

Ever since winning the Class AAA state championship in 1994, the South Charleston football program had been trying to climb back up the mountain. Prior to the 2005 season, the closest the Black Eagles had come to even making the state playoffs was .500 campaign during the 2001 season.

That drought was about to change. Led by senior speedster Tommy Spurlock, the Black Eagles not only made the state playoffs, but advanced to the Class AAA semi-finals before losing at Pony Lewis Field to eventual state champion Morgantown. While they came up short of their success from 11 years prior, the rejuvination of the program was complete, due in no small part to Spurlock.

His abilities were good enough to get him an invitation to the North-South game this past weekend. They were also good enough to attract some scholarship offers from Division I-AA schools, and walk-on opportunities at several Division I schools. After taking a look around, he decided he wanted to follow his heart and be a Mountaineer.

"It's everything I could ask for. I couldn't ask for anything more than being on a 9-3 team my senior season, and getting to play Morgantown, the eventual state champion, in the playoffs," said Spurlock.

"Add that in with getting invited to play in the North-South game, and getting the opportunity to play in Morgantown…I've been blessed with all of this. I can't wait to go up there and show them what I've got."

Spurlock was a first team all-state selection on offense as a senior. Most of his high school exploits came as a speedy running back. In the North-South game though, the South had Kennedy Award winner Josh Culbertson to tote the pigskin.

The South coaches decided to give Tommy a try at wide receiver, and he delivered with a 24 yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter. In addition to that, he got to show off his speed on a couple of kickoff returns. The game was the perfect ending for his high school career, he said, and the touchdown was just the cherry on top.

"That wasn't too bad of a cherry. I wanted to take a kick back, and I got close, but it didn't work out for me," he said with a laugh. "Making a touchdown catch was good because I was a little bit timid playing receiver. I'm used to being in the backfield as a running back, but athletes have got to find a way to get it done and tonight I did."

So why, other than the fact that he's a lifelong fan, would Spurlock spurn playing on scholarship at a smaller school for a chance to walk-on in Morgantown?

"The atmosphere is what did it for me," he said without a hint of hesitation. "It's a great football school. The facilities are beautiful, and the coaching staff is made up of geniuses. They all work hard, and I feel that it's the perfect football program for me to fit in with. I'm going to work hard, do what I'm supposed to do, and hopefully get a chance to play."

Where he'll start out playing is almost certainly running back, just like he did for most of his high school career.

"I've been talking to Coach Magee and I'll be up there playing running back first. They have a lot of great guys at running back, and it'll be hard to break in and get on the field, but I'm going to give it my best shot."

While he's living out a boyhood dream of getting to play football for the Mountaineers, he knows nothing will be given to him, especially as a walk-on. Spurlock is likely to redshirt his first season, and as a result will get to spend a lot of time with Mountaineer strength coach Mike Barwis and his staff. Having followed the program from the outside, Spurlock knows that being a part of Barwis's strength program is no walk in the park.

"I need to spend a year getting bigger, faster, and stronger. Those guys are so good up there that there probably isn't a spot for me yet anyways," he said with a chuckle. "That's something that intrigues me about playing at WVU. I know that Coach Barwis and his staff bring out the best in everybody, and I want to know how good I can be."

How good he can be at the collegiate level remains to be seen. But what he's about to become is what he's always wanted to be: a Mountaineer football player.

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