West Virginia has prioritized the family football program.
That starts with recruitment and extends well beyond prospects arriving on campus to begin their college careers. It’s something that’s become stuff of the DNA of what the Mountaineers coaching staff is made of and is integral to their approach to building a football team.
It was evident during official visits over the summer when coaches made sure to involve themselves and their families in every aspect of these trips. This also included a BBQ at head coach Neal Brown’s house and plenty of time to get to know each other off the lines on the field at numerous activities and events.
A real family atmosphere was one of the most frequently expressed phrases during these trips as players were very impressed with the top down approach to making them feel welcome. It was one of the crucial building blocks in redesigning the program in Brown’s image.
But the good news is that it doesn’t end there.
The same goes for the coaches when it comes to their current players, as evidenced by the summer meetings with each position group and various team activities.
“Most of the time you do that in recruiting and people just think it’s just a recruiting tactic. But you get here and then you do it again and you’re like, ‘Wow, this isn’t just a thing to get us here, this is really who they are,'” said co-offensive coordinator Chad Scott.
Scott bases his entire coaching style on this approach, trying to forge bonds that go beyond what a coach has with his players. It’s not just a recruitment interview with him, it’s part of the process.
“I can take it. It takes a whole village to raise these boys, it’s not just going to reach me, it’s going to reach the academics and all the staff that we have here and even the parents right now,” he said. “There might be days when they could call me and say this and that’s up. I need you to grab him and put your arm around him.”
Family is a key element in Brown’s program and it shows in the way each player gets to hang a picture of their own family on a wall at the Puskar Center and in all of the activities designed to build bonds between the other players and the coaches .
It’s a growth nurtured within the walls of football grounds, and it goes beyond mere unity off the pitch. It also has benefits.
“Knowing these guys outside of the game makes you fight that harder for the guy next to you on the football field when it matters most,” Scott said. “The same goes for us, if we know these guys and their families as well as we do off the football pitch, those guys will give us a lot more and know that we’re not coaching them personally. We coach an action and they will respond better to it.”
And the reasons for this are obvious.
“You realize the coach has taken the time to get to know me and my family so he looks after me beyond the game. It’s real for us,” Scott said.