Stick-ing Out

In life, there is a fine line between confident and cocky. In football, that is a line that many wide receivers show little regard for. But while WVU freshman Ivan McCartney has faith in his ability and makes no mistake about his desire to contribute this season, he shows no signs of arrogance.

The young man they call "Sticks" was cool, calm and collected in his first session with the media that regularly cover Mountaineer athletics Tuesday.

And unlike his cousin, Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco, there were no outlandish comments or bold proclamations coming from McCartney's mouth.

In fact, the freshman emphasized the positive role Ochocinco has played in his development as a football player and as a person.

"Me and Chad, we conversate [sic] a lot," McCartney said. "When we do, I don't really ask him for pointers. We just talk about how life is, and he'll tell me at the end of our conversations, ‘Be great at whatever you do.' No matter what, when I'm on that field, I've got to work harder than anybody else in the nation."

It's that kind of attitude that helped the Miramar, Fla., native become a 4-star prospect and the No. 12 receiver in the recruiting class of 2010.

Those lofty rankings caused plenty of college coaches to work hard to get McCartney to join their ranks. In the end, the receiver chose WVU over schools like Florida, Georgia, Miami, Oregon and Tennessee.

While the connections the Mountaineers have with Miramar High School -- from Patriots head coach Damon Cogdell, a West Virginia alumnus, to three former Miramar players (Stedman Bailey, Josh Taylor, Geno Smith) on the WVU roster -- certainly helped sway McCartney into coming to Morgantown, those were not the deciding factors.

"[It was] the opportunity for me to play early," said the true freshman. "As [wide receivers] coach [Lonnie] Galloway recruited me, he showed me the depth. There weren't too many receivers here.

"All of them were good quality receivers, but I knew anywhere I went I would have to compete to get on the field. But it was just the depth was very low, and I could come in and possibly contribute early."

That notion has not changed since McCartney stepped foot on campus this summer.

While the workload in the offseason strength and conditioning program was admittedly a shock at first for the 6-foot-3, 183-pounder, he became acclimated to the Mountaineers' system and life as a college football player fairly quickly.

"I have confidence that I can contribute," McCartney said.

"It was a struggle at first, but I'm coming along very well. I'm starting to get a lot of things down and I feel comfortable right now. I'm feeling as if I'm getting into my comfort zone.

"There's a lot of things they're throwing at me right now, but that's what it takes, and I'm trying to play this year."

The true freshman has shown flashes of the talent it takes to play at the highest levels of college football. Teammates raved about his ability to make plays in summer 7-on-7 workouts, and he made an athletic grab on a pass from fellow newcomer Barry Brunetti near the sidelines in a scrimmage this past Saturday.

But there is a country mile between making plays against the second-team defense in a scrimmage and seeing the field in an actual game.

To work towards that goal, McCartney has sought out the assistance of Smith, his former high school quarterback, and others. They have helped the receiver learn how to live as a college football player -- both on the field and away from it.

"Geno has helped me along very well," McCartney said. "At first, every freshman goes through that thing, especially when they're far from home, of homesickness. But he just showed me how it was for him, so I really got over that after about my second week here. I wasn't homesick anymore.

"He showed me the ropes -- how the plays are called, the depth of the routes we run, where to expect the ball. Things of that nature. He showed me along very well."

And with an obvious eye towards improvement, McCartney has won the respect of Galloway, who has transitioned from the person who recruited the receiver to WVU to being his mentor on the field at practice every day.

"[Galloway] just tells me as long as I stay with the playbook and I learn to block right, I can be on the field," the freshman said. "That's the biggest confidence he can give me right now."

It takes a certain innate confidence to become the first Mountaineer since Pat White to don No. 5. But since the No. 1 jersey he had hoped to wear was already taken by teammate Tavon Austin, "Sticks" had two options -- the No. 5 or the No. 85 made famous by his cousin.

Given that choice, he made the bolder move. Instead of riding on the coattails of his family member, McCartney will set about trying to add to the already illustrious history of the No. 5 at West Virginia.

"I'm aware of what that means to Mountaineer nation," McCartney said of the number previously worn by the WVU quarterback who won the hearts of fans during his time in Morgantown from 2005-2008.

"But if I would have had [No. 85], everybody would have labeled me as Chad Ochocinco. I just took 5 and wanted to put my own legacy on it. I admire what Pat White did for No. 5, but I feel as if it's time for a new legacy to be written on No. 5."

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