In His Footsteps?

It's far too early to make comparisons between rising high school seniors and departed Mountaineers of lore, but the personality and playing style of WVU commitment Branko Busick brings to mind the persona of Owen Schmitt.

Busick, whose straightforward look at life is a refreshing one in the midst of a sea of jaded youngsters, reminds of Schmitt in more ways than one. Ask Busick a question, and you get a straight, unvarnished answer. Hints of humor poke up now and again. On the field, he plays with a battering ram style that draws the admiration of all who watch. And he's genuinely grateful for the chance to play football, and the opportunity to continue his career at WVU. If you're not thinking "Schmitt" now, you haven't been paying attention.

Ask, for example, what Buick likes about the game. Many might respond to the effect of the relationships built and friendships made. For Busick, it's much simpler.

"I take pride in being a hard nosed tackler," he quickly responds. "I'm not real pretty. I just like hitting people. If I didn't get to do that it wouldn't be a lot of fun."

Still not thinking Schmitt? Then take this into consideration.

"I definitely like the fans at West Virginia, and the way the players play," the rising Steubenville senior explained when asked about the items that ranked highly in driving his WVU commitment. "It's just a tough team out there playing. Guys like Owen Schmitt -- those guys are the real deal.

"I've watched West Virginia since Quincy Wilson was there. I grew up watching and hanging around with Quincy and Zac Cooper. My brother played on Weir's state championship team together, and I would hang around them. I was good friends with Zac, too. He would come over and we'd lift together. I was excited when he went to West Virginia, and I'm fired up that I'll be on the team with him."

Convinced? There's more to like if you aren't. Busick's father is a no-nonsense type who set the bar high for his son, then helped him get over it. A former police officer in both Atlanta and Weirton, he now works at Mountaineer racetrack.

"My Dad and Zac's dad were policemen in Weirton together, and he always preached to me about having a dream no matter what. People may tell you that you can't do it, but you can. I owe a lot to my Dad for that. He put everything at my fingertips to help me get to where I am, and I was able to take advantage of it."

Branko was born in Georgia, but moved back to the Mountain State with his father when he was four. There, he and his older brother Robert became early students of athletics. They played football and wrestled from an early age, and learned the life lessons that his father taught. Some of those came from the wrestling ring, where his father competed on local wrestling circuits and made acquaintances with some of the sport's biggest stars.

"My brother's godfather is the Iron Sheik," Busick noted, recalling the arch nemesis of Hulk Hogan from the early 1980s. "I never got to see my father wrestle, because he retired when I was one, but I have some videotape of him, and I've watched it a lot. Let me tell you, there's a reason why I don't cross him!"

It's easy to see, after just a short conversation, that the Busick clan is a tight one. Branko's older brother followed his father into police work, and is now a West Virginia State Trooper. Branko thinks that might be a career opportunity, but the siren call of contact and competitive sports also beckons.

"I have a friend who is a mixed martial artist, and that looks pretty inviting to me. I think I might get into that."

With Busick's penchant for contact, that seems like a natural fit. However, it would be a mistake to classify him into the "jock" class, even when he jokes about majoring in "ripping people's heads off".

"No, that's a joke," he follows up quickly. "I'll major in something where I might go into law enforcement. And I won't have any trouble qualifying. I have a 3.0 GPA and already have a 23 on the ACT."

Busick also evinces Schmitt in another way – his humble nature when speaking about himself. He makes sure, in every interview, to thank his family and friends in Steubenville, to his football program, and to the WVU coaches that offered him the scholarship.

"The city of Steubenville, they are all behind me. Ever since I committed, they've been telling me they are proud of me and behind me 100%. I want to make sure they all know I appreciate it, and I want to thank them and West Virginia for making me the offer.

"This is definitely it for recruiting for me," he added. "It's something wanted to be sure of before I made the decision. I talked to my dad about it, and I told him when I make the decision, that's it. I want to be 100% sure. So I took my time, but now that I've decided it's West Virginia, that's where I'll be."

Schmitt. Busick. Whether the latter ever achieves the folk hero status of the former is still to be resolved, but there's no doubt that he shares many of the same qualities – ones that most Mountaineer fans find it easy to get behind.

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