Opportunity Taken

Deciding to forego scholarship offers from Football Championship Subdivision schools to walk on at a higher level was a difficult decision to make, but freshman Ricky Kovatch decided he would follow that route with the West Virginia Mountaineers.

"(West Virginia) seemed like a good fit for me. I liked to offense. I liked the coaching staff. It was only about three hours away from home. It seemed like a good fit," Kovatch said of his decision to choose West Virginia over schools like Elon and Holy Cross, where he was offered scholarships to play football.

Kovatch was introduced to West Virginia by his high school coach Mark Hundley, who had coached with WVU offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen.

"I was talking to Coach Mullen (during recruiting) because my high school coach used to coach with him. I didn't have any (Division) 1A offers," said Kovatch.

Although it is rare for a freshman walk-on to dress and travel to road games, much less see any playing time, Kovatch has done just that. Although his time has been limited, it can be crucial. During the Mountaineers' victory over Auburn, Kovatch had an important block that allowed Jock Sanders to get a key first down in the third quarter. That drive resulted in a score that sent WVU on its way to a 34-17 win.

"It was a short yardage situation and they told me before the game to be ready to go on short yardage situations. The play was called, so I sprinted onto the field and I got the play in," he described. "I happened to be leading up through the hole so I did everything I could to block the guy out of Jock's way so that he could get the first down. It was exciting."

With coaches and fans desperate to find a replacement at the fullback position for Owen Schmitt, many eyes are watching Kovatch in the expectation that he will fill that void. Teammates have even noticed some similarities between the two players, saying that Kovatch posses a similar mentality to Schmitt. He welcomes those comparisons.

"That is one of my goals -- to make myself that kind of player. He was a great player and now he's in the NFL. He's a great role model," Kovatch said of Schmitt.

Whether or not Kovatch is able to fill the huge shoes left by Schmitt, only time will tell. He has however, vowed to "stick his face in there" for his team, and it's no coincidence that he's echoing a phrase made about Schmitt during his WVU career. Although he admits that is still adjusting to the hard-hitting, fast pace of college football, he believes that game experience will continue to help him adjust. Until then, he is just enjoying being part of the Mountaineer team this year.

"It‘s challenging. Being in my position, it‘s fun. If you get in for one play, you‘re still in for one play. I would love to be in for more plays but if the team just needed that one short yardage situation I am ready to go in."

Kovatch could be the answer to the fullback problem plaguing the Mountaineers. He has the willingness to step up and play a big part in the Mountaineer offense in coming years. Could this walk-on from Ohio prove to be the next big factor in West Virginia history? Only time will tell, but he may have taken the first step down that path with his important block against the Tigers


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