MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — On several occasions over the first few weeks of spring practice, West Virginia football coach Neal Brown went out of his way to sing the praises of wide receiver Preston Fox.
With the Mountaineers lacking depth at wide receiver after three of the team’s top five wideouts from 2021 entered the transfer portal, Fox was afforded extra work over the course of 15 practices.
It didn’t take near that many for the walk-on to make an impression on coaches and teammates that he could handle a more featured role.
“Preston Fox, all he does is catch the ball,” Brown said following a late March practice. “If I was going to list the traits of a receiver, catching the football would be right at the top. The kid just catches the ball and he makes contested catches, so that’s a credit to him.”
Fox has only one college reception to this point, that coming for 8 yards last season against Long Island. He played five games, with most of his time on special teams. Yet when the opportunity came about this spring for added repetitions at receiver, Fox continued to excel and work his way back on to the field.
It continued Saturday in the annual Gold-Blue Spring Game.
Fox, a Morgantown native, hauled in a 50-yard pass from Will “Goose” Crowder on the second play of the exhibition at Milan Puskar Stadium.
In the second quarter, Fox brought in three passes from Crowder over a six-play span. The first went for 8 yards to allow for a third-and-manageable, before Fox then made a highlight-worthy grab of 39 yards on third-and-10.
On the very next play, Fox came up with an 11-yard reception for a first down.
Fox also hauled in a pass from Matt Cavallaro that went for 9 yards and a first down in the third quarter, and he led all players with 117 receiving yards on five receptions in the spring game.
The Preston Fox experience:
Morgantown grad catches 5 passes for a game-best 117 yards and earns a scholarship after the game. #wvprepfb pic.twitter.com/QvVZaPoWWf
— MetroNews HS Sports (@MetroNewsPrep) April 23, 2022
Afterward, the 5-foot-10, 184-pound redshirt sophomore was awarded a scholarship in the locker room, with parents Tom and Tammy on hand to soak in the experience alongside Fox. It was a culmination of Fox’s work ethic paying off to display as much improvement as what he did over the last six weeks.
“Those are some of the best moments,” Brown said. “His parents came in the locker room and he earned his scholarship. He’s been super productive.”
🚨 SCHOLARSHIP ALERT 🚨
All of @P_fox21‘s hard work was on display for everyone to see today, then we had a surprise for him after. pic.twitter.com/tcKh7e75eE
— West Virginia Football (@WVUfootball) April 23, 2022
Fellow wide receiver Kaden Prather, also expected to assume an expanded role for the Mountaineers in 2022, suggested players sensed Fox had earned his scholarship.
“We’ve all been waiting,” Prather said. “It got to a point where we were like, ‘coach Brown, what’s going on here? What are you waiting for?’ We were really all excited for him. If anyone deserves it, it’s ‘P’ Fox for sure. Very proud of him.”
As for the high-level grab Fox made in the spring game, Prather wasn’t surprised.
“He’s very consistent catching balls like that, so when he does it, it’s just like there goes Preston again,” Prather said.
It remains to be seen if West Virginia adds more depth through the transfer portal to its wide receiver room, which possesses steady veterans Bryce Ford-Wheaton and Sam James, both of whom will be relied upon heavily.
By all accounts, Fox has earned an opportunity either way to factor into the equation offensively. That could be in the slot or on a case-by-case basis, but he certainly only helped his cause in the months that have followed his second college season.
“The next step for him is he has to do it versus the top guys,” Brown said, “but I’m really pleased with him. He had an opportunity and made the most of that opportunity over these 15 practices and earned his scholarship.”