Ben Queen/MetroNews photo

West Virginia’s Terrell Chestnut forced a fumble on this Texas Tech kick return, the highlight of his 2013 season spent primarily on special teams.


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — For illustration of Terrell Chestnut’s never-back-down philosophy, rewind to his sophomore season at Pottsgrove High School, to a teammate’s interception, and to the runback that ensued.

“I was being dumb,” Chestnut recalled. “I felt like I was big and bad, so I went to block the biggest lineman and he ran me over.”

That’s when Chestnut believes he initially weakened his shoulder, the one he finally dislocated as a senior resulting in a torn labrum. The same labrum he tore again during his freshman camp at West Virginia, leading to a redshirt season.

It wasn’t the last or the worst of Chestnut’s injuries. That distinction occurred in the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl—a spiritless night for the WVU football program and a debilitating one for the cornerback whose third career start ended in the first quarter with a torn ACL.

During the hours after surgery, Chestnut deliberated on his bad luck, calculating the months of rehab ahead and realizing he wouldn’t be fully recovered for the 2013 season.

“I think there was a time when I was laying in a hospital bed after my surgery, that I was questioning whether I was going to play football again or whether I even wanted to put my body through it again,” he said. “You only get one body … and I was 21 years old feeling like I was 50.”

“In a hospital bed after my surgery, I was questioning whether I was going to play football again or whether I even wanted to put my body through it again. I was 21 years old feeling like I was 50.” — West Virginia cornerback Terrell Chestnut

Doubt can rid an athlete of his swagger, can stamp out his aggression and essentially make him a has-been. Emerging from a period of brooding, Chestnut decided he didn’t want to be a has-been, not at 21, not two years after coming to West Virginia as one of the top-rated recruits in Pennsylvania.

He recovered mentally but the knee required more time. Chestnut wasn’t cleared to play until the third game of last season, a juncture by which he wasn’t to be found on the 2-deep.

“Yeah, I was very frustrated,” he admitted. “Coming out of high school I had my head held high, because in high school I was the man. And then here I was at the bottom of the totem pole, and I was like dirt because of all the injuries.”

From the bottom, Chestnut began his climb thanks to some relatable affirmation from cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell, who had endured knee and shoulder injuries himself and had the scars to prove it.

“He told me just keep fighting,” Chestnut said. “That was the biggest thing.”

And in search of his big turnaround came a chain of small victories—battles against pain and impatience to push a bit further than the previous day. Out of the rotation at cornerback, Chestnut sought to assert himself on special teams, ripping a fumble away from Texas Tech kick returner Austin Stewart.

“Last season I wanted to make sure I contributed in some way,” he said. Entering this, his junior year, he unapologetically “wanted to have a bigger role.”

Two weeks ahead of West Virginia’s opener against No. 2-ranked Alabama, Chestnut’s role has grown considerably. He’s moving like he did before the knee injury and scrapping to make tackles in run support, and with 2013 starter Icky Banks being held out of practice for a reported academic issue, Chestnut has worked repeatedly with the first-team defense. Competing with Travis Bell for a starting spot, he’s at the bottom of the totem pole no longer.

“It feels great just to have my name called again,” Chestnut said. “It’s been two years since I really played corner in a Big 12 game.”

After Saturday’s scrimmage, Mitchell evaluated Chestnut as fundamentally sound, adding that he “has enough lateral quickness and enough top-end speed to be effective because he’s never going to have any mental letdowns.” Beyond the mechanics and techniques, though, Mitchell offered a more telling description: “He’s a warrior.”

And Chestnut has the scars to prove it.

Ben Queen/WVMetroNews

West Virginia cornerback Terrell Chestnut climbed up the depth chart during preseason camp.
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  • WVU 2014

    Gotta believe WV comes out with a D that is a 4-4-3. Spurs will have a tall order taking down some of these big boys, but just can't see a 3-3-5 working in this game. Make them throw, but Kiffin is all about dumping to TE's in the middle and screens to FB's. If WV's D can get some nice pops, let Bama know we can hit, and any yards in the middle won't be easy, would be pretty big.
    I'm more concerned with our O, than our D...
    BTW, the hottie looks like she can play a little nose guard if we need it. Whatever it takes fellas!!!

  • Rick55

    @The "D"

    Who the heck is U-W-V?

  • Ole Sasquatch

    I was wondering if the sports depart. went on vacation since this has been the last story for awhile.

  • William

    Who's the hottie with the gatorade?

    • Capt. Obvious

      Too skinny fer ya Marsha?

  • any major dude

    A vital part of what is shaping up to be a much improved defense.

    • The "D"

      When you give up 56 points in a single half, one has to think you can improve. LOL @ the bottom feeders that are U-W-V.

  • Shepherd


  • Shepherd

    Aaron, your comments make sense, they apu to the issue at hand, and are fair. I enjoy reading them.

  • Aaron

    An intersting side note is that the first injury suffered by Chestnut, a torn labrum that force him to redshirt is the same injury suffered by Ohio State QB, Heisman hopeful Braxton Miller and will cost the OSU player this season as well.

    What does that say about Clint Trickett given that he suffered the same injury and played in 8 games last year?

    • uncle phil

      Not following.

      You should give up trying to sound smart and just come out and say what you gotta say. All these Trickett this, Ohio State that, Heisman this, Braxton Miller that, blah blah's not working for you.

      I'm dumbfounded. I'm still not sure what your message was.

    • TruthTeller

      Well for us real WVU fans that is great news!!!! Ohio State is over rated every single year any ways and should of not been in the top ten.
      They lost to Clemson. The same team WVU killed in the Orange Bowl. Nobody cares about Ohio State Suckeyes!!!! This is a WVU fan base.
      Get out of here with that crap!!!

      • Aaron

        Perhaps someone can explain to you the meaning of my post as you clearly do not understand.

        I'm shocked...

  • Aaron

    These are the type of players who can wreak havoc on those who believe WVU's defense will get throttled this season. One player can and often does make a difference. WVU has several of those type of players. Hopefully this young man comes back with a vengeance.

  • d

    I like these kind of stories. Terrell is the kind of player that is proud to be a Mountaineer and as a Mountaineer fan, I am glad to see Terrell succeed. Give it your all Terrell we need your skills on the field. Good luck to you and all your Mountaineer teammates this year.

    PS... Whip Alabama's azz.

  • nashville cat

    i've watched his career, hoping that he finally got healthy , and now it's his time , his time to show all the fans that his scholarship was well deserved.
    He's a fighter, a warrior, and we need his type to pick us up and move us forward.
    I am 200 percent behind this young man, and will be watching for him this fall on the playing field

  • hey allan

    When is Dana's next press conference?

    • JimJim

      The dude only gets $10,000+ a day why do you think that he would tell you anything???

      • wow

        I didn't realize metronews paid that well..but since im sure you were referring to Holgersen I'mnot delusional like most our fans and think he owes me anything or is even obligated to inform me personally of anything..however and the press conferences I was referring to Holgersen is usually asked questions about players and he is usually pretty forthcoming on their status.

  • Mountaineer Fanatic

    A great story. May God be with you and keep you healthy. Looking forward to watching you play at your very best.
    May God go with all the Mountaineers.

    • uncle phil

      FYI, I don't think Chestnut actually reads these articles.

      • Aaron

        If you were a division 1 athlete, would you read stories about yourself?


    WVU needs more guys like this. Let's hope he stays healthy.

  • Shawn H

    Great story. Good luck young man! Stay healthy and play hard.