High School Honor

When Jeremy Sheffey's number is retired by Boyd County High Friday, it will mark the culmination of one of the most unlikely success stories on the West Virginia roster.

While Sheffey, as a 230-pound defensive tackle coming out of the small eastern Kentucky school, was getting a bundle of mail back in 2001-02, very little of it contained what he most wanted.

"There weren't many scholarship offers," he said. "Just mainly letters. I jumped on it as soon as West Virginia offered me."

And it wasn't even at the position where he would eventually develop into a three-year starter and an all-Big East second-team player with a chance to better that this season. The Catlettsburg native came in as a Bill Kirelawich understudy as an end on the defensive line. He had most successfully manned the spot for Boyd County, and so West Virginia gave him a chance, having used undersized lineman to exploit offenses in the past. He struggled his first year, but an innate toughness – Sheffey would be the first to tell you he is a country kid with a penchant for fishing and anything outdoors – drew notice from assistant head and offensive line coach Rick Trickett in the spring of 2003.

"I asked for him," Trickett said. "I needed numbers, needed players."

Attrition had hit the Mountaineers especially hard along the O-line, and so Sheffey flipped to the other side of the ball and flopped, at least initially. He soon developed technique and a physique that, now at 6-3 and 295 pounds, is perfectly suited to WVU's zone blocking scheme in the no-huddle offense.

"I really wasn't recruited much out of Boyd High," Sheffey said. "And as much as I hate to admit it, as great as it is to be from Boyd County, it's not really all that recruitable. If I were a coach, I'd go to Lexington, where you can watch a bunch of teams and players, rather than Boyd Country, where you have to travel 40 minutes to see another game."

Indeed, the 160-square mile county is smaller than many in West Virginia with 49,752 people. Best known for Ashland Oil company – now Marathon Oil after a merger in 1999 – the football played at Class AAA-8 is on a small-school level. The Lions (colors: red and white), which average 36-38 players per team according to Sheffey, don't send many players to Division I-A football, and even fewer have the success of the WVU senior, who has graded out at 81 percent over his career, tallied 20 knockdowns, been named Offensive Champion twice (Connecticut and Pitt) and will graduate with duel degrees in sport behavior and athletic coaching education on the athletic director's academic honor roll.

So the hanging up of No. 71 (Sheffey wears 65 at West Virginia) is a big deal, both to the 66-teacher, 936-student school and to Sheffey. It will be the third number retired by Boyd Co. High. One other player will be retired alongside Sheffey Friday night. Cermonies will come at halftime of the Lions' game against Mason County

"I am the youngest player they have ever retired," Sheffey said. "It's great, too, that it came on our off-week so I could be there. I still stay in contact with them, and go down and help out with the football team. I used to do more under the coach who came directly after mine, when he was installing a spread offense. I gave them pointers and things. But I have less contact now, so it will be nice to get back and see a game."

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