MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When Wil Schoonover was making a name for himself as one of the top high school football players in West Virginia during the 2015 season, he was looking for opportunities to compete at the next level.
Five years later, and after serving his country in Afghanistan, Schoonover is hoping he gets his first chance to play a snap at the college level.
Playing for a Moorefield program that has consistently been one of the best Class A programs in the state over the last twenty years, Schoonover excelled as a running back and a linebacker. He amassed over five thousand yards from scrimmage in his career with the Yellow Jackets. Schoonover’s teams won four playoff games from 2013 to 2015, falling to eventual state champion Magnolia in the semifinals in his senior season.
“Our offensive line wasn’t always the biggest. But we probably had a seven-play playbook out of the Wing-T and they had it down pat. That’s what made me so successful running the ball was my offensive line. I tell people all the time that I may have been a good running back but I wouldn’t have gotten over five thousand yards or ninety touchdowns in high school if it wasn’t for those guys.”
Schoonover was offered a walk-on opportunity to play at WVU in the fall of 2016 and the coaching staff was impressed with his abilities as a linebacker. He was also a state champion wrestler and all-state outfielder on the MHS baseball team.
“Mark Scott would come down to Moorefield to talk to me. I was getting visits to watch the games in Morgantown. Everyone from West Virginia, for the most part, wants to play for the Mountaineers. Reed (Williams) was a big factor in that. I always wanted to live up to his aspects.”
A full scholarship opportunity though opened up at Glenville State, and Schoonover signed to join the Pioneers. He was slated to begin the 2016 season as a starter on special teams. However, just prior to the season opener against Urbana, an issue with his transcript came to light.
“I failed a tenth grade English class. I went to a credit recovery course over the summer. I wasn’t getting recruited at this time and I wasn’t thinking about playing college sports.
“When the season was about to begin (at GSC), the athletic director said, ‘Hey, we need to talk’.”
After a call to the NCAA eligibility center, Schoonover was told that credit was not allowed, and he needed to sit out the fall semester. He also lost a portion of his scholarship.
Looking at other options to help pay for his education, Schoonover returned home and enrolled in the United States Army.
“When I came home for Christmas break, I went and talked to the recruiter. Months later, I was leaving for basic training and then I was in the Army. It was a new chapter in my life.”
Following basic training, Schoonover served in the role of Specialist in the 4/25 Brigade 3-509th Airborne Infantry in Afghanistan. They were also known as ‘3 Geronimo’ – Charlie Company 3-509th as part of a reconnaissance and sniper platoon. Schoonover served overseas until May of 2018.
“In that type of environment, you really bond with your comrades regardless of female or male, black or white. You don’t forget those memories when you run out of water or run out of food, you don’t have a proper way to bathe yourself, it is tough. Most people don’t know what it is like until you get over there.”
Schoonover’s military service ended last month and he has since returned to Moorefield. He will be attending West Virginia University this fall and is hopeful that a walk-on opportunity comes available through preseason team tryouts.
“I am already signed up for classes and I have a place to live up there. I am in contact with (defensive analyst) Casey Vance. I am waiting for the word on when walk-on tryouts will be if school is going to happen and if they are going to have football. It is a tough time to walk-on.”
Schoonover is getting back into football shape by training with a pair of former in-state Mountaineers — Moorefield native Reed Williams and Martinsburg native Nate Sowers.
“I live next to the school and I work out in the weight room every day doing cone drills and bag drills. It is stuff I used to do a few years ago. But now I am trying to knock the rust off. I feel I am in the best shape of my life right now though.
“The biggest adjustment would be speed. I weighed 180 pounds my senior year. Now I am 210.”
The odds for any potential walk-on player earning playing time are long and with the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, walk-on tryouts may be altered this fall. But Schoonover is looking for the chance to finally compete at the Division I level.
“For 23 years, I have always wanted to play college football. I worked my butt off all the way through high school. This is all about redeeming myself. Everyone expected me to go play football. Everyone expected me to be a great athlete. Now I just have to live up to it.
“I like the challenge. Most people can’t live up to the pressure or don’t like that. I like the atmosphere of people doubting me, saying I am too slow or too small. That’s what makes me have that itch when it is 5 a.m. and I go work out.”