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January 29, 2014

FURFARI COLUMN- Geno Smith showed stance and class in airplane issue

MORGANTOWN — I am so proud of Geno Smith, the New York Jets’ rookie quarterback, for standing up for his rights in a recent incident as an airplane passenger.

You may have read about that in The Associated Press’ story last Friday, saying Virgin America Airline issued an apology to the former West Virginia University All-America star.

He apparently had a serious dispute with a flight attendant when asked to remove his headphones.

“And an argument ensued,” The Associated Press was told by a person familiar with the situation. That happened on Jan. 17 aboard the airline at the Los Angeles International Airport.

In a joint public statement by the New York Jets and the airline, no details were included as to what happened.

“We believe it was a matter of misunderstanding that regrettably escalated unnecessarily,” Virgin America Airline was quoted. “We’ve apologized to Mr. Smith for his experience, which could have been better.”

Obviously, Geno Smith felt strongly that he had the right to wear his earphones as a paying passenger. Wouldn’t you’ve protested, too?

This reminded me of what my wonderful father once told me as I was growing up in Morgantown—among other memorable bits of really sound advice.

“Son, when you believe you’re right, don’t be afraid to stand up for that right!”

So I’m pleased that Smith, arguably the greatest passer in WVU football history, did just that in his unfortunate incident with that airline.

What’s more, it is certainly not surprising that the Miami native issued this statement to the media:

“I really appreciate that Virgin America took this seriously, looked into this matter, and followed up with me. I look forward to flying their airline again soon.”

Geno has class as well as talent and excellent athletic skills.

Like Geno, the all-purpose expert Tavon Austin, and Stedman Bailey not only earned All-America status as Mountaineers but became considered among the best in program history.

Yet despite their presence, WVU finished a shocking 7-6 in Dana Holgorsen’s second year as a head coach. This, despite a 5-0 season’s start and No. 5 national ranking. Then it was 4-8 in 2013!

As a senior here, Smith completed a fantastic set of career statistics. In the process, he set 33 school records.

For 44 games, he finished with 986 completed passes in 1,455 attempts, for 11,662 yards and 98 touchdowns. His completion percentage was 67.4 and he had 21 interceptions.

In his first season as an NFL quarterback, Geno completed 247 of 443 passes for 3,046 yards and 12 touchdowns. He threw 21 interceptions. His completion percentage was 55.8.

As a runner, he netted 366 yards on 72 carries. That’s a 5.1-yard average per rush.

Both Austin and Bailey fared well as rookie wide receivers with the NFL’s St. Louis Rams in 2013.

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