MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The scholarship wasn’t there for Woodrow Wilson High linebacker Troy Lilly, but he sensed an opportunity at play football at West Virginia nonetheless.
This week Lilly become one of eight preferred walk-ons to enroll at WVU, joining summer workouts alongside the program’s more celebrated signees.
After making four interceptions and 117 tackles as a high school senior in Beckley, including 31 stops behind the line, Lilly emerged determined to make his mark in the FBS, despite lacking major-college offers. The 6-foot, 220-pounder understands he’ll begin as a scout-teamer facing long odds of seeing the field.
“It’s all about a personal challenge—that’s why I love football—and WVU seemed like the biggest and best challenge,” he said. “I felt like I had a chance of playing there and making a difference, that the coaches would give me an honest shot.”
The other walk-on enrollees, according to West Virginia’s sports information department:
Justin Cogar, TE/FB, 6-3 220, Westside High (Clear Fork, W,Va,)
Brady Watson, RB, 5-8, 170 Frankfort High (Ridgeley, W.Va.)
Brent Osborne, QB, 6-0, 180, Woodrow Wilson High (Beckley, W.Va.)
Matt Vucelik, TE/FB, 6-0, 240, Bishop Donahue High (McMechen, W.Va.)
Shea Campbell, S, 5-11, 180, Morgantown High (Morgantown, W.Va.)
James Whitaker, QB, 6-0, 170, Roswell (Ga.) High
Grant Slezak, DL, 6-1 240, Salem High (Greensburg, Pa.)
Lilly said it was difficult declining a scholarship offer from Division II Concord University, yet found an empathetic ear in coach Garin Justice.
With the Mountaineers, Lilly expects to begin at the Will linebacker spot, “at least until I get a little heavier.”
Many fans expected Cogar to accept Toledo’s scholarship offer after leading Westside deep into the Class AAA state playoffs. But the third-place finalist for the 2014 Kennedy Award, who compiled more than 4,300 yards total offense as a senior, tight end.
“Growing up and being a fan of WVU, always watching them, it means a lot to me just to get a chance to play football there,” he said. “I hope to prove myself once I get there and maybe one day earn a scholarship.
“There’s been some players do it in the past and I hope to be in that same position in a couple years.”
Parkersburg defensive end Max Chefren, who was not listed among the enrollees for this summer session, announced after winning North MVP honors at last week’s all-star classic that he had decided to walk-on at WVU.
“My heart and soul’s at WVU,” he said. “I can’t describe how much I wanted it. I’ve never considered any other college. WVU is where I wanted to go.”