MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Skeptics would not be blamed for not believing Adam Stilley is on the West Virginia football team.
Stilley’s face is untouched by age. He looks boyish enough that it’s conceivable he would be carded for trying to get a ticket to an R-rated movie. His size – an even 6-foot and 291 pounds – does not translate to Big 12 football, especially not when he tells someone he’s an offensive lineman.
“There’s always doubters,” Stilley said. “But you have to use it as motivation.”
At least his story is slightly more believable than it was when he was a true freshman who weighed 258 pounds soaking wet.
The truth is actually found in his arms, which are clearly long and thick enough to shove strong people around.
“That’s where I think Mike Joseph and his [strength and conditioning] staff is the best in the nation,” Stilley said. “I’m at 290 now and still feel just as fast as I did when I got in.”
Stilley’s performance in spring football and August camp have been among the more attention-grabbing efforts on the entire roster.
“Every time we put him in a situation, he performs well,” said Mountaineers coach Neal Brown. “He’s not overly tall, but he’s got really long arms. His arms are really long for a guy that’s 6-1 at most. He knows what’s going on out there as well as anybody.”
Stilley has yet to appear in a game in his two years at West Virginia, though that is almost certain to change this season.
He has earned Brown and offensive line coach Matt Moore’s trust enough to be Josh Sills’ backup at center. And if an injury were to force Sills to take over at one of the guard positions, it is clear Stilley has earned the trust to take over at center.
“He’s become a solid backup. He’s been consistent more than anything,” Moore said. “He kept himself right in the hunt [to start]. I would trust him to go into a game.”
Stilley’s football IQ should come as little surprise. He played at Martinsburg, which is perpetually one of the top high school football programs in the state. Despite anchoring an offensive line that allowed four sacks while the Bulldogs rolled to a 14-0 record and another state title his senior year, it remained difficult for college coaches to get past his stature.
Stilley’s only offers came from in-state Division II schools: Charleston, Glenville State and Shepherd. The offer from Shepherd was only a partial scholarship, to boot.
When WVU told him he would be a preferred walk-on, Stilley didn’t hesitate.
“If you get on the field at the Division I level, you’re a Division I player,” he said.
It helps that his off-field smarts match up with his on-field intellect.
“It was alright [turning down scholarships] because I do a little better in the classroom. I’m on some academic scholarships, so my parents supported my decision,” Stilley said. “I’ve had a 4.0 GPA since I’ve been here.”
Though philosophy isn’t his major, he finds it easy to put mind over matter.
“I feel size is all in your heart and your head,” Stilley said. “I’ve been told I’m undersized a long time.
“I like having a little chip on my shoulder. I like working hard, putting extra hours in the weight room and film room. It’s just how I was raised.”