There are many things that make that final week special, including the moment on the night before the game in which head coach Rich Rodriguez opens the floor for any and all seniors to give some parting words to their teammates.
Another big part of the week comes on Thursday night, when the team holds a mock walk-through of pre-game activities. This gets everybody on the same page with a pre-game routine that is certainly different from normal. One by one, the seniors run out of the tunnel. At the very end, though, four special seniors run out as team captains.
How does one become a team captain, you ask? Earlier in the week, the players take a vote. There's no campaigning, at least not any intentional campaigning. It's an open ballot, which means anyone is eligible. The four players with the most votes are named team captains by Rodriguez.
"Coach Rod announced it to the team on Wednesday night (before the Rutgers game)," said long snapper Tim Lindsey, a native of Bridgeport, W.Va. Lindsey was elected as one of the lucky four along with linebacker Jay Henry, wide receiver Brandon Myles, and offensive lineman Dan Mozes. "When guys are picked as captains, I don't know how many people know this, but we're picked by our peers. It's an open process, with an open ballot to choose who represents the team as captains. I hope that I represent them well, and I thank them for picking me."
For a player like Lindsey who doesn't get much recognition (which is what he prefers due to the anonymity associated with great long snappers), it's a reward for giving his all every day both on the practice field, and in the games.
Middle linebacker Jay Henry has certainly left his mark at WVU both on and off the field. Henry, who is the lone Mountaineer hailing from the state of Oklahoma, has recorded 40 total tackles in 2006. He's also registered three tackles for loss, an interception, and a sack. For his career, Jay has made 179 total stops, including four sacks and 11.5 TFL's.
Off the field, Henry has recorded a perfect 4.0 Grade Point Average during his five years in Morgantown. In fact, for as far as he can remember, Jay has never received any grade lower than an A. Henry's uncanny ability to balance the academic rigors that come with the pursuit of a finance degree, while still doing all the football work necessary to pursue opposing ball carriers was recognized this past fall when Jay was named a finalist for the Draddy Trophy. Known as the "Academic Heisman", the Draddy was ultimately won by Rutgers fullback Brian Leonard. The fact that Jay was a finalist, and thus invited to the College Football Foundation's banquet on December 5 at the Waldorf Astoria speaks to the type of effort he has put in to both his academics and his football. Being elected as a team captain, though, means just as much to Jay as anything else he's accomplished.
"It's right up there with everything else," said Jay, an Academic All-American. "It's something that I've worked hard to get for a long time. When I first came here, that was definitely a goal of mine. Part of being a captain is being a leader, and that's one thing that I think I've tried to be ever since I've been here both on the field and off. It means a whole lot, especially when you know that it's coming from all of your teammates."
Since that night, Brandon has made plenty of big plays himself. Over the past three seasons, the Goochland, Va. native has racked up 1,142 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns. His longest catch was a 57 yard screen pass from Rasheed Marshall against Central Florida during the 2003 season. This year, Brandon's biggest catch came in the win over Rutgers, when the senior caught a touchdown in the third overtime which set up what would become the game-winning two point conversion. Just like his fellow captains, Brandon was humbled by the honor bestowed upon him by the team.
"It's a great honor, just knowing that everyone respects you like that. I didn't expect to be a team captain, but I'm very happy to be elected one by my teammates.
Finally, senior center Dan Mozes will leave West Virginia as one of the greatest offensive linemen in school history. The Washington, Pa. native has paved the way for runners like Wilson, Kay-Jay Harris, Steve Slaton, and Patrick White to run for countless records over the past four seasons. At the conclusion of the 2006 regular season, Dan was crowned as the winner of the Rimington Trophy, given annually to the nation's best center. In addition to winning the Rimington, Mozes was also a finalist for the Outland Trophy. Finally, he was recognized as a unanimous All-American by the American Football Coaches Association, the Associated Press, the Football Writers Association of America, the Walter Camp Football Foundation, and The Sporting News.
For a man who has acheived enough to build a trophy wing (not room) onto his house, no honor means more than being elected team captain.
"All of those awards and honors and everything are great, both for me and the team, but being able to leave here as a captain, having been elected by my teammates, is at the top of the list for me," said the communications major. "Being the last guy to get called out of the tunnel on senior night, that means you're the captain of the team. It means people look up to you, and it means that you're there to lead. That means a lot to me."
They're four players, who are from four different backgrounds, and play four different positions. While it may seem like they may not have much in common, they'll all leave their WVU careers behind having been honored by their teammates as captains of one of the school's most successful squads.