Probably the most enjoyable aspect of promoting college athletes is the unique and interesting personalities that you run into through the years, particularly when you’ve been doing this for as long as I have been now.
Since the mid-1980s when I first began working here at WVU, there was the incomparable Major Harris, perhaps one of the funniest human beings on the planet who also just happened to be a terrific college quarterback.
To this day, whenever there is a team reunion or get together, the guys will immediately huddle around the Maj’ to listen to him bust out some stories or crack some jokes.
Harris’ teammate Reggie Rembert was immensely popular, too. Once, during a flight somewhere to play a game, Reggie was overheard saying to teammate Milton Redwine, “Hey, Milt, throw me my bag so I can have it near me in case we crash!”
Ah, yeah Reg.
Baltimore defensive back Lawrence Drumgoole’s impersonation of Bill Cosby was so convincing that a prank he once pulled on Don Nehlen has lived on for years, even making it into Nehlen’s 2006 book, “Tales from the West Virginia Sideline.”
Mammoth offensive tackle John Ray was quite a character as well. He once missed the bus for a charter flight out of Pittsburgh and had a student assistant speed him off to the airport before the team arrived. When he finally met up with them, Nehlen stopped Big John before he could board the plane.
“Hey John, where were you?” Nehlen growled.
“What do you mean, Coach? I was on the back of the bus. Didn’t you see me?”
Ray stands 6-feet-10 inches tall and weighed something well north of 325 pounds at the time, so it was virtually impossible NOT to see him!
Offensive guard Pete Tirado was another. I once saw Tom Robsock spend about 15 minutes in the end zone seats at the Meadowlands going over all of the pass protections with Pete the day before West Virginia’s season opener against Nebraska in 1994, and Pete becoming more confused with each new scenario Tom brought up.
It was then that I realized that the Mountaineers were headed for a tough time against the Cornhuskers the following afternoon.
Later on, I think it might have been old Pete who took his van out for a little spin on Mountaineer Field during one snowy winter night.
Offensive tackle Chris Klick was the first person I ever saw have a tattoo placed on the side of his head, several years before Mike Tyson did it to his face. Klick also had a snake collection that would have made Marlin Perkins take notice.
Then there was linebacker J.T. Thomas 1.0, who might possibly be the best magician this side of David Copperfield.
J.T. used to turn the Milan Puskar Center hallway into the Atlantic City Boardwalk with his card-trick wizardry. When the players would gather around him and watch J.T. do his thing they’d always say, ‘Damn, J.T., how’d you do that?”
“Magic,” he’d say.
When All-America punter Todd Sauerbrun was a freshman placekicker, he once left the team without telling any of the coaches following West Virginia’s game at Boston College to return home to his native Long Island and spend the rest of the weekend with his family.
Then, when Tuesday’s practice rolled around and the team was on the field ready to begin special teams work, Sauerbrun was nowhere to be found.
“Where in the hell is Sauerbrun?” one of the coaches yelled.
“He went home to see his mom,” a player answered.
“As we were leaving to come home from Boston College,” the player replied.
It was said that the reason Sauerbrun came to West Virginia was because the Mountaineers were good enough to go to bowl games, but the offense was just bad enough for him to kick a lot.
A few years later, when Sauerbrun became the best punter in college football, he somehow got the phone number to the press box and after each game he would call to get his punting statistics.
In 2001, for some reason defensive back Richard Bryant was encouraged to say that he was going to be the best Bryant on the football field when the Mountaineers faced Pitt's Antonio Bryant. But unfortunately for Richard, that didn't happen and I think Antonio just caught another touchdown pass while I was writing this!
And, who could ever forget kicker/punter Pat McAfee, whose sharp-witted humor kept reporters furiously scribbling in their notepads after games? Pat has since parlayed his great comedic sense of humor into a successful post-NFL career working for the popular satirical sports website Barstool Sports.
Old baseball coach Dale Ramsburg used to tell his assistant coaches to never recruit players smarter than him. Well, I know of at least two instances when Don Nehlen’s assistants violated that unspoken coaching philosophy.
Probably two of the most brilliant persons I’ve ever run into were football players Steve Redd, the son of a microbiology instructor at Alderson-Broaddus College, and center Eric de Groh.
Once, during a flight back from Syracuse, I sat next to de Groh and listened to him talk about microchips and the immense potential of computer processing to the point where he had all of us sitting around him completely befuddled.
Now many years later, I wonder if what he was describing back in 1998 wasn’t some primitive version of today’s iPad or iPhone?
More recently, the quick-witted and extremely bright Tyler Orlosky frequently kept Coach Dana Holgorsen and football sports information director Mike Montoro holding their breath with his stream of consciousness speaking.
Tyler, like Pat McAfee a decade before him, was a walking quote machine.
This leads us to senior offensive guard Kyle Bosch
, whose hilarious photo shoot for ESPN earlier this week made its way to my Twitter feed on Wednesday night.
In a sequence of four different photos, Kyle can be seen listening to the football, striking his Desmond Howard Heisman Trophy pose, pretending to lick the ball and demonstrating his goofy zone-read option look.
Bosch blamed his brother for “prematurely leaking” his photos from his “Playgirl Magazine shoot.”
Now that’s some funny stuff!
Therefore, it looks like Mr. Orlosky has passed the baton on to Mr. Bosch, which should make those mundane weekly Tuesday afternoon media sessions with the players much more lively when the calendar flips to November.
Sometimes, being around these guys is more enjoyable than actually watching them perform.