10:06am: Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval

Once new to America and college football, Vesterinen enters senior season understanding his role and responsibilities

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Edward Vesterinen is well aware he’s no longer the new guy.

That doesn’t mean the West Virginia defensive lineman doesn’t sometimes still feel like one despite preparing for his fourth and final season with the Mountaineers.

“It is very hard to believe, because when you come here, you think you have so much time, but really, it goes quick, and life goes quick if you don’t pay attention,” Vesterinen said. “This year, I’m trying to come with a different energy knowing that every snap could be my last, and just enjoy the friendships and playing for this school.”

It wasn’t all that long ago Vesterinen, a native of Helinski, Finland, was discovered by West Virginia defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley through social media clips and then offered a scholarship to play for the Mountaineers.

In a way, the work was just beginning for Vesterinen, who spent a good portion of the next few years acclimating to life in the United States and American football.

In fact, Vesterinen admits he had little to no idea what to expect upon his more permanent arrival in America.

“All I saw was the movies. Everything I based off America was from movies and Hollywood movies,” Vesterinen said. “I came here, people are very friendly and very talkative. I feel like I’ve become more Americanized now. I like to talk more and express myself. I enjoy the long summer here. I’m becoming more a part of this American society.”

A season ago, Vesterinen was a bigger part of the WVU defense. He played in all 13 games and was in on 28 tackles, while recording 4.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. That’s in comparison to Vesterinen’s first two seasons, when he was utilized at a lower rate, played a combined 20 games and finished with 17 total tackles, three tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.

“Last year was more of like, I can’t believe I’m here as a Power 4 level-starter,” says Vesterinen, who felt his level of play picked up as the season progressed. “Now, I’m here for everything.“

At 6-foot-3, 285 pounds, Vesterinen has the stature to hold-up against the run and can also be counted on to get after opposing quarterbacks.

Still, playing a position where statistics hardly ever tell the entire story and can be tough to come by, Vesterinen says his discipline through more knowledge of the scheme and game as a whole is a key reason he believes his best football is still in front of him.

“Playing boundary tackle, I celebrate when I see other people doing their job. I can’t just try to make plays, because I’m going to make mistakes and lose my responsibility if I I try to do too much,” Vesterinen said. “I need to do my job and wait for it. The play will come to me at the end of the day. I do value rings more than how many tackles I have. I value memories more. I’ll do anything for the team. I’m that type of a person.”

Oct 28, 2023; Orlando, Florida, USA; UCF Knights running back RJ Harvey (7) is tackled by West Virginia Mountaineers defensive lineman Edward Vesterinen (96) during the second half at FBC Mortgage Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

That wasn’t always easily understood by Vesterinen, who played for the Helinski Roosters and Finnish Senior National Team before being introduced to life in the Big 12 Conference.

“It’s more finding a way of how can I make a play through playing my job? Seeing what kind of pass the offense is using and are they sliding? I’m able to find edges I can work with rather than before when everything was numbers and very straightforward,” Vesterinen said. “Now, I’m able to think outside the box more.”

As one of the Mountaineers’ more experienced defensive lineman, Vesterinen’s role in the position room has changed at least somewhat.

A player who found himself soaking in as much knowledge as possible in the past is now instead dishing out his fair share of it to teammates.

“In our d-line room, Sean [Martin] is our designated leader and the more vocal guy,” Vesterinen said. “I help enforce everything. I really like that. I might not be a guy who talks a lot, but I’m the guy who likes to enforce things.”

A business major, Vesterinen says he hasn’t yet decided what he’ll do at the conclusion of his college football career, though he has it narrowed down to continuing on with the sport or putting his degree to use, whether that be in America, back home or elsewhere.

“I’ll find out how it’s going to go at the end. I like this place a lot and I could spend some time here,” Vesterinen said. “I’m going to pursue my football career as long as I can and then we’ll see where it goes.”

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