Final Fling

West Virginia signee Joe Madsen's final high school game was a fun event that signalled the transition to his college career.

Madsen was West Virginia's lone participant in the Big 33 game in Hershey, Penn., last weekend, which pits some of the top graduated seniors from Ohio and Pennsylvania. For Madsen, the game and the week carried meaning on several different levels.

First, and perhaps most important, was the Big 33's "Big Buddies" program, where each participant hosts a mentally or physically challenged person for several events.

"When they told us about the Buddies program I thought that would be fun," said Madsen. "They said they had been waiting all year for this so they could meet us. We got to throw the ball around on the field with them, and eat lunch with them, and it was just an amazing experience. I was glad to be able to give back to the community in that way."

While temperatures during the week of practice rose into the 100s on more than once occasion, Madsen and his teammates were able to enjoy themselves. Chief among those opportunities was a trip to Hershey Park, where the big lineman was able to enjoy all of the rides.

"I was able to squeeze onto all of the roller coasters, even though there was one where one of my teammates had to push down on the bars to snap me in," he recalled. "That was kind of funny. But there were a couple of guys who didn't fit on everything."

The fun continued for Madsen during the game, as he got both competition and enjoyment from his final high school career.

"We did learn a few things during practice, but when we were in the locker room we were all thinking, 'It's kind of crazy that we are playing a game now when we haven't played one in months. But it was fun to get one more high school game in. I was thinking that the next time we got on the field we'll all be in college, and that there will be a lot more good players out there.

Madsen grades his overall performance as good, although he was upset with giving up a couple of beats to his opponents. That certainly won't be the last time it happens to Madsen, or any freshman lineman, as he will be facing veterans once practice begins in August.

Like most newcomers, Madsen is set to report to West Virginia on June 29. He will take a class in sports management to help get him acclimated to college academics, and, of course, begin workouts with his teammates. He'll go through July in summer conditioning with the team and strength staff before hitting the field in August with the football coaches.

"I want to work hard, do everything they tell me and see if I can get some playing time this year," Madsen said. "If that doesn't work out and I end up redshirting, that's o.k. It will give me a chance to work and improve and get more time down the road."

Madsen has been talking with fellow linemate Josh Jenkins about their future, and is raring to go.

"He's a cool guy, and I'm really looking forward to getting started with college. I'll do whatever they need me to do."

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