The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

December 11, 2012

Former Pitt star falls in love with WVU girl

MORGANTOWN — It is a romance made in Almost Heaven, a modern-day Romeo and Juliet.

If it should blossom all the way to marriage, the only man who possibly could have performed the ceremony has left us, Richard Dawson of “Family Feud.”

It is as unlikely a matchup as you could possibly imagine, beginning more than a year ago as a Facebook flirtation and building into something no one could have ever imagined ... a man and woman falling for each other even though they represent the two sides of the Backyard Brawl.

And this is not just any two young people. Lauren Statler is the niece of one of West Virginia University’s most prominent alumni and donors, Ben Statler.

So who did she wind up in a relationship with, as they put it on their Facebook pages?

None other than a former University of Pittsburgh football player whose name is well known in these parts — Scott McKillop.

Just as Lauren Statler is not just from any WVU family, McKillop is not just another former Pitt football player.

He was the leading tackler out of his linebacker spot in the most devastating defeat the Mountaineers ever suffered, falling 13-9 to Pitt as a four-touchdown favorite when on the doorstep of a national championship in 2007.

And his role as West Virginia villain is even stronger from a comment he made at that time, for he is the Panther who said to columnist Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: “I (expletive) hate West Virginia. I can’t stand the state. I just don’t like the university.”

He said it, and at the moment he said it, he meant it. Now he lives with it, although his stand has obviously softened some over the time he went off to play professional football with the San Francisco 49ers and the Buffalo Bills.

So there you have it, that Scott McKillop dating a WVU graduate student who is the niece of a one-time West Virginia coal miner who started his own mining company, PinnOak Resources LLC. Statler and his wife, Jo, shared their success in life in 2007 by giving WVU the largest single gift it had ever received, $25 million for cancer research, academic enhancements and athletic improvements.

Then this year he and Jo topped even that with a $34 million gift to build a new research facility on the Evansdale Campus and create the Statler Research Scholars, which will provide scholarships and research support for 20 or more undergraduate engineering majors.

The gift also endows three faculty chairs in energy research and funds graduate research fellows.

Needless to say, this is a romance like few others.

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Bob Herzel
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