Several months ago, Sports Illustrated published an article featuring an uncommon setting and theme. The writer, Andy Staples, captures attention when he writes: “This is the most talented team Holgorsen has had [in Morgantown] since he took over in 2011 as West Virginia’s head coach.” Morgantown? Talent? This is exactly what Mountaineer nation has been saying this offseason. Staples’ article, however, did not focus on the talent itself. Instead, Staples focuses on how Dana Holgorsen and his staff are installing a winning culture in Morgantown.
Professional Development of the Mountaineers
This offseason, Holgorsen and associate athletic director for football Alex Hammond created a professional development program. Nine of the most veteran and mature Mountaineer football players attended the program. The young men learned a variety of professional skills to answer a number of key questions. How should a suit fit? What can I do to manage my wealth at various salary levels? How can I best prepare for pre-draft interviews?
The word “professional” takes center-stage in Staples’ article. Fitting, then, that Holgorsen himself uses the word with increasing regularity. Holgerson has labeled several of his current players’ professionals several times over the past few years, including Will Grier, David Sills, and Alabama transfer wideout T.J. Simmons. Holgersen knows that professionalism is a culture. He knows that winning is a culture. Lately, he has sought new ways to connect Morgantown’s football culture to both.
Fortunately, Coach Holgorsen’s program continues to evolve with the head coach. While various publications are circulating their pre-season prediction lists, Holgorsen’s most-veteran nine players repeat his messaging ad nauseum: “We should be pissed off at average.” Grier tells his team, “We need to win more.” The veterans mentor the next players in line. Coaches, staff, players, and fans all share the idea that not only can West Virginia win, but it should expect to win. The mentality is difficult to teach, but, once it takes root, it’s even more difficult to stop.
Mountaineers Tied to Success
West Virginia’s football program is now tied in a myriad of ways to its ultimate team goals: a conference championship, a playoff berth, and even a national championship. Simmons played 12 games during the 2016 season in which Alabama won the SEC Championship and played in the National Championship game. Jabril Robinson, incoming defensive line transfer, played for a Clemson team that appeared in two National Championship games. The won one national title and three straight ACC championships. Incoming transfer Kenny Bigelow played for a USC Trojan team that won a PAC-12 championship last season. Grier set the tone for a Florida team that won the SEC East in 2015.
Tony Gibson and Bruce Tall coached on defensive staffs that won four conference championships and two BCS bowl games. Doug Belk appeared on an Alabama staff that won three consecutive SEC titles and one National Championship. Joe Wickline won a Big 12 conference title as well.
Remember the offseason mantra “We need to win more games” and “We should be pissed off at average.” The players have had all Spring and Summer to absorb and embody these ideas. And Coach Holgorsen’s veterans’ taking a professional approach to the program’s development certainly cannot hurt the proliferation of a winning culture in Morgantown.