The Hargrave Tigers were in town on Friday to take on West Virginia's junior varsity squad in what has become an annual rite of autumn for the two teams. For two Tiger standouts (running back Terence Kerns and wide receiver Andrew Harris), the game served as an introduction to the surroundings they will be calling home over the next few years.
Throughout his recruitment, Kerns has been a visitor to Mountaineer Field several times. During his high school senior year of 2006, Kerns routinely made the short trip from his hometown of Frederick, Md. to watch the Mountaineers devour opponents in Morgantown.
Friday's game gave Kerns a chance to return to one of his favorite spots, this time donning a helmet and shoulder pads instead of street clothes and a visitor's pass.
"It feels good," Kerns told BlueGoldNews.com in an exclusive interview. "It feels really good. It makes me want to work harder in school now so that I can get up here, get out here and play with everybody."
Kerns originally signed with West Virginia in February, but had difficulty achieving the necessary academic requirements to be fully qualified as a freshman. Because the Big East Conference no longer allows academic non-qualifiers to enroll in school and spend a year in the classroom away from football, his options were pretty limited. Kerns could either enroll in a prep school such as Hargrave, or enroll at a school in a conference that allowed non-qualifiers. For the bruising runner, a year of prep was a no-brainer, as many former Mountaineers have traveled down the same prep school path before going on to successful careers in Blue and Gold.
Of course for Kerns, there was more to the story than just academics. During his senior season at Gov. Thomas Johnson High School, the talented back suffered a torn ACL, which required surgery and extensive rehab. Now, roughly a year after the injury, the one known as "TK" is finally running free of pain.
"My knee is getting great. It hasn't hurt at all for about a month now," he said without a hint of hesitation. "It was hurting really bad, so bad that I thought I had torn it again. I went to the doctor, and he said it was just a bit of scar tissue. I'm all good now. Nice and healthy."
The ever-productive Kerns used his time of recovery as an opportunity to strengthen not only his knee, but the rest of his body as well.
"I've put on about 15 pounds since surgery," said the well-chiseled, well-spoken Kerns. "I'm stuck at 230. I can't lose any, and I can't gain any. I eat everyday trying to gain a little bit of weight, but it doesn't happen. I guess I'm just stuck like this for now."
The added muscle was on full display on Friday as Kerns took a fourth quarter handoff around the left side of the line, slipped a tackle, and barreled over a Mountaineer defensive back to punctuate an impressive eight-yard run that left fans both present (Hargrave) and future (West Virginia) ooh-ing and ahh-ing.
"I was running, turned around, lowered my shoulder," he recalled. "I didn't know if anybody was going to be there, but they came, we hit, and I knocked him over. That was a pretty big hit."
Runs such as this combined with Terence's impressive physical stature could serve as a nice change of pace next season to a West Virginia backfield that will likely include Noel Devine, Pat White, and possibly Steve Slaton, should the junior standout opt for a return to school instead of leaping to the NFL.
No matter who he's running with next season, the message from Kerns is clear: he can't wait to be a Mountaineer.
"I'm just trying to work hard every day as a student so that I can get here, because everybody here is great. They're really good people."