Men at Work

West Virginia's football team is hard at work not just in the weight room, but also in their chosen fields, taking advantage of NCAA rules allowing player employment in various fields as a means toward extra money or resume' boosting.

And while they might not be making head coach Rich Rodriguez's type of money, the players are getting either great experience in their chosen fields of study, or – surprisingly – working tough physical labor. Offensive linemen Damien Crissey works for MBC Bridge Company in Bridgeport, W.Va. That's eight hours of hard work in the sun followed by the daily lifting in the Puskar Center.

"It's tough working like that, but I grew up on a farm, so it's not to bad," Crissey said. "It's nothing I want to do for a career, but it gives me a little extra money. Plus, I grew up on a famr, so early outside work doesn't bother me. I actually enjoy it."

Crissey, of any player, would know the value or work. The former transfer walk-on from Edinboro (a Division II school in Pennsylvania) has earned a scholarship spot on West Virginia's roster, and will have a chance this fall, as a senior, to earn a starting spot on a team expected to be ranked in preseason the top 10.

Fellow linemen Dan Mozes landed an internship with the Mountaineer Sports Network along with linebacker Justin Knapp. The center, an Outland Trophy and Remington Award watch candidate, has been able to help make the highlight video for West Virginia's Sweet 16 NCAA basketball team and add his insights into football videos pieced together by the in-house network.

"It's really neat," said Mozes, whose position is similar to that of former nose tackle Ernest Hunter. "I got to give some opinions of video they might want to use, some clips of me, haha. But it's really fun. They do a great job putting everything together. It's amazing what they can do with all the video and the clips and music and putting everything together."

The situation of Knapp and Mozes is unique because they are in-house. Hunter took the position because he was interested in being a filmmaker. Mozes is a communications major, and this will fit well on the resume'. Knapp is a duel psychology and communications major. That can be key for players who do nothing but football and classwork for five years, then try to find a job against other students who have more real-world experience.

"This will help me outside of football," Mozes said. "It's really more about the experience of it, and learning how and what they do to see if I am interested in it."

West Virginia once found summer jobs for players, placing them with various local businesses. The NCAA still allows teams to do that, but, according to Director of Football Operations Mike Kerin, WVU no longer finds summer jobs for players who want it. The University does help players like Mozes, or others who remain on an in-house style assignment.

"But the Morgantown area (apparently despite the myriad of new businesses opening) is hard enough to find a lot of jobs around, so we don't even do it anymore," Kerin said. "But players are allowed to get anything they would like, but we don't locate tem anywhere."

West Virginia must, however, ensure that players are not being paid an exorbitant amount compared to what fellow employees in the same position. For example, a player like Jay Henry, who has an internship at Centra Bank in the loan department, can earn what others in his position make, perhaps as much as $15-25 an hour. But he cannot earn $50 if the other employees are making $25. And a player who, has a job as a janitor or furniture mover, cannot be paid $25 if other janitors or furniture movers are earning $10.

Also in the past, almost all players worked some sort of job. But the NCAA began giving athletes stipend for room and board over the summer, ensuring that they would not need to work at all. The NCAA gives more than $500, which should cover rent and food, etc. When two players, or three, choose to share a room (no more than four unrelated people may live under one, undivided roof according to Morgantown housing regulations), they save enough money by dividing rent that they do not need to work. Often, they have more than enough left over for other payments as well (car, cell phone, etc.) So the jobs aren't as much about needing the money as wanting the experience.

West Virginia must also make sure all players are eligible, academically and to work. The academic side, as always under Rodriguez and former head coach Don Nehlen, comes first. So players who must take a crush of classes to stay eligible can't even think or working. Compliance – the act of checking players and jobs to be sure that everything will be in accordance with the tight and stringent NCAA regulations – partially falls to Compliance Director Brad Cox. His department must cross check any work situations to avoid NCAA sanctions that could wreck a season before it starts.

Two defensive backfield players, bandit-turned spur Eric Wicks and cornerback Antonio Lewis, are employed at Center Auto Body Service in Morgantown. The two clean and detail cars for the shop. Other players, like Tim Lindsey, are taking classes and volunteering at their leisure. Lindsey, WVU's senior longsnapper who won the Blue and Gold News' Tommy Nickolich award as the finest walk-on player, has helped at the Morgantown-based HIT Center.

HIT, or High Intensity Training, specializes in training high-end athletes for high school or other local sports competitions, like triathlons or road races, etc. Lindsey, a consummate worker, has helped the HIT center host clinics and combines and utilizes his workout intelligence to instruct players on how to run through drills and do footwork appropriately to cut down on times and impress more colleges.

"Most kids have no idea how to go through drills," Lindsey said. "They don't do the drills that potential college football players will do in combines in high school. They have no working knowledge of them. So we try to tell them what to do and how to run through it to maximize speed and minimize movement. I knew what to do because my brother, (fellow former WVU long snapper Donnie) told me about drills. So I knew some in high school. But otherwise, I would not have know what was going on either."

Quarterback Nate Sowers also helped work some of the combines, but is now only taking classes and lifting.

"It is a lot to ask of guys to go and work and then come in and lift or do anything," Sowers said. "I am just doing the classes now, and trying to throw with some of the wideouts. But those jobs are good. I think Dan (Mozes) really likes his."

Some other players are more worried about other aspects of the summer and conditioning.

"I'm just trying to workout and stay good-looking for the ladies," defensive lineman Keilen Dykes said. "Gotta stay fit, so when they squeeze your arm, their hands can't touch. That's a big enough arm. That and classes. I think everybody is working hard, and I'm trying to get the guys out there to do a little bit extra every day -- trying to stay positive and be a complete player both on and off the field."

Which, in the end, is what all the players – those with jobs and those just taking classes – are trying to accomplish throughout their time at West Virginia.

Note: Sowers said that his high school teammate, Mountaineer wideout Brandon Barrett, is working only on classes and lifting. Barrett allegedly needs to pass multiple classes to be eligible this season.

"He is practicing and lifting some when he can," Sowers said. "He wants to pull it out. I am definitely pulling for him. We both look out for each other. He can help us a lot."

BlueGoldNews Top Stories