MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Even after four years playing for West Virginia, safety Darwin Cook admittedly knew little about West Virginia.

That began to change after the Pinstripe Bowl loss to Syracuse, when head coach Dana Holgorsen sought to inject some traditional significance — and a hearty dose of state pride — into the offseason program. With WVU’s roster constructed primarily from out-of-state talent, it was a direct way of connecting players to the fan base they represent.

“We’d go through the Mountaineer Mantrip last year and really didn’t know anything about it. But now we know the importance. … Coach Holgorsen has really pushed Mountaineer Pride, and it makes me feel special just to be here.”— Safety Darwin Cook, an Ohio native

A weekly parade of speakers, ranging from residents to former coaches and players, educated the team on the citizens who comprise West Virginia, giving real-life impact to the blue-collar mentality that frequently sounds like nothing more than a cliche.

“We’d go through the Mountaineer Mantrip last year and really didn’t know anything about it,” said Cook, an Ohio native. “We didn’t even know the coal out there came from a real coal mine. We just thought it was fake coal.

“But now we know the importance. Next year, when we do the Mantrip, it’s going to feel better to be a part of it. Coach Holgorsen has really pushed Mountaineer Pride, and it makes me feel special just to be here.”

Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson, an Oklahoman who just completed his first season at WVU, found himself becoming just as informed as the players and called the speaker series one of “the best things I’ve experienced in 25 years of coaching.” Patterson found especially memorable a discussion led by new safeties coach Tony Gibson, a Boone County native returning to WVU after five years away.

“To hear Coach Gibson, whose father was a coal miner who passed say from the black lung, to see him stand up in front of our team and talk about the history of coal mining in this state, it was inspirational and educational,” Patterson said.

The series resonated with quarterback Paul Millard, who played his high school football in Flower Mound, Texas. A junior angling to replace Geno Smith next season, Millard grew to appreciate the labor force personify the state.

“To hear Coach Gibson, whose father was a coal miner who passed say from the black lung, to see him stand up in front of our team and talk about the history of coal mining in this state, it was inspirational and educational.” — Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson

“It blows my mind what those coal miners go through on a daily basis, the grind that they do,” he said. “We think sometimes that we’ve got it hard playing football here, but those guys are sacrificing every day.”

That’s the takeaway Holgorsen and his coaches wanted: Thinking players who feel more invested in their surroundings will take more pride in their preparation.

“For our young men, it’s a way of recognizing we’re representing something bigger than ourselves,” Patterson said. “Sometimes it becomes me, me, me, so we’ve tried to create an atmosphere of respect and that has players thinking ‘I’m honored to be here.'”


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  • Michael

    Great story, a class like this should be taught in all our schools. Like the Battle Of Blair Mountain. It's our history, and everyone who plays any sport at WVU, Marshall or any other school should know these things

  • Bill

    Great article. I've been married to a "coal miners" daughter for almost 39 years. Her day worked underground for 37 years and was one of the toughest individuals, mentally, spiritually and physically, I have ever met. He's gone now but during the time I knew him he became a second father to me. I miss him to this day. I like articles like this and I also encourage articles about the players. Each one has a story. We sometimes look at them as just football players, but they are so much more than that. I had the experience of playing in a charity golf tournament with several of them last year and it was a blast They are really good kids. Got to meet and talk to the Mountaineer at the tournament as well. He's one of the nicest young men I have had the opportunity to meet. WVU MS "75".

  • JB

    Great article

  • Doug

    Great job Coach Holgorsen and coaching staff! West Virginians are very proud and hard working people. Forever, we've been the butt of so many jokes referring to us as stupid hillbillies by much of the rest of the country. Our football, basketball, rifle and other University teams are a great way for us native West "By God" Virginians to gain a measure of respect. I'm so glad that the coaches and players are learning about and gaining a new found respectful for our state!!! Let's Gooooooooooooooo Mountaineers!!!!!!

  • Bob

    My favorite class in the '60s was Forestry 101 taught by a Prof. Brookes (sp) who packed them in for his lectures on WV pride. Best course I ever took!

  • Doug

    JimJim, that was totally ignorant. You purport to know something about a 'changing' environment in WV & can't even accurately name the "Stand Your Ground' law you obviously dislike. GTFO.

  • Maxxajay

    First I think it was a super article. We always have the Marshall fans Pitt fans Ohio State fans always cutting down West Virginia and their fans. For once why can't you say something positive about West Virginia and their coaches. Sounds like you are someone who has their head under their arm pit if you know what I mean. You don't have no knowledge of West Virginia and their culture put your head under your arm and move on Go Mounteeeeeers

  • Alum

    Thank you Coach. Thank you, thank you, thank you. As a native son I really appreciate your effort.

    And thank you Coach Patterson for listening and learning.


  • Chad

    With the comment about me, me, me, it makes me wonder if that was prevalent this last season.

  • Stephanie Knight

    Well written article about most people think of when West Virginia is mentioned. But there is so much more to the state than coal. Think of all the chemical plants in the Charleston area and the tourist industry. Finally remember the Greenbriar and the bunker.

  • Charles

    Great article. Just shows how an "outsider" such as holgerson can get it. What is special here in wv. What is special about being the hc at wvu. Why mountaineer athletics is so important to the residents and natives of wv. You don't have to be born here to get it. He has assembled a staff that now gets it. Lets go!!!!!!

  • WV Citizen

    Make us proud. We are honored to have you young men as Mountaineers!
    Let Go Mountaineers!!!!

  • Shawn

    Finally! They are finally understanding the meaning of being a Mountaineer and what it stands for. Now they know they are playing for more than just themselves, they are playing for a whole state! Good Job coaches, thats the best offseason work you can do.

  • Matt

    Awesome job by coach Holgerson and the staff. Mountaineer pride is what gives our team the edge, now they these young men know what they represent its time to put it to good use. Well done guys!

  • Ryan

    What about all the Teachers and Wal-Mart employees, those are the two most popular jobs in West Virginia

    • John Daniels

      Who let the Pitt fan comment? Get your a## back to the fryer and bring me some fresh fries.

      • Alum

        A pitt troll was exactly my first thought when I read this idiotic comment.

    • rtdeco

      what was wrong with the article as written? it was about coal and coal miners which is the fabric of this state. maybe you should do a personal tribute to walmart and teachers if that makes you feel better. it was a well written article and the shame is the first comment is negative and the poster missed the entire point. to coach holgerson and the rest of the coaching staff...great job.

      • DAVID


      • Ryan

        oh relax, its just joking around, I love coal miners just as much as the next person, I just dont know any cuz there is no coal any where near i live