By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
If pedigree counts, West Virginia University’s newest middle linebacker would surely win best of show.
A week ago Jewone Snow one of those faceless backups who work hard, play special teams and operate in the shadows cast by the likes of Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Dustin Garrison. An injury to SAM linebacker Doug Rigg, however, opened a linebacking spot before the Bowling Green game and Snow found himself moved right into the high profile spot of middle linebacker for his first start.
As nine inches of snow fell in Snowshoe on this early October Saturday, 236 pounds of Jewone Snow was coming down upon Bowling Green ball carriers, just as his bloodlines would have predicted they would.
It is almost fitting to point out his lineage a day after his birthday, as today is, for he is the son of former Michigan star Garland Rivers and Linda Snow Rivers, whose brother, Percy, was a Michigan State star and other brother Eric an NBA standout.
Here, perhaps, is good place to highlight the accomplishments of his relatives, things that he would like to accomplish himself as his career grows.
His father, Garland, was the only freshman to start at Michigan in 1983. He saved the Fiesta Bowl victory over Nebraska for the Wolverines with an interception and in a game against BYU he recorded 17 tackles, still a school record.
Uncle Percy Snow was one of the greatest college players of his generation, one of only two players in college history to win both the Butkus and Lombardi Awards. He was a first-round pick out of the Kansas City Chiefs of Michigan State, but played only three seasons after being injured in a car accident.
And uncle Eric Snow played basketball under Jedd Heathcote at Michigan State. Like West Virginia’s own Joe Alexander, he was picked by the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA draft of 1995, immediately to be traded to Seattle.
Eric Snow didn’t play much for Seattle but when traded to the Philadelphia 76ers he became Larry Brown’s starting point guard and led them to the NBA Finals before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers. It was after that series that Kobe Bryant proclaimed that no one had ever guarded him better than Snow.
Snow went on to play with the Cleveland Cavaliers before a knee injury ended his career as one of the finest citizens the league had produced. He was the 2005 recipient of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award presented by the Professional Basketball Writers Association, won the NBA Sportsmanship Award in 1999-2000 and founded the Shoot for the Moon Foundation, dedicated to supporting and strengthening communities and families within northeastern Ohio.
Can such a background help and in what way?
“I was around sports. Football and basketball, I loved both of them. I was around people who played the game and had them passing down what they know,” he said.
Coming out of the storied Canton-McKinley program in Ohio, right there in the shadow of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Snow was recruited by all the big-time schools, including his father’s program, Michigan.
The college decision was left up to Snow, and he opted for WVU, perhaps the best gift his prime recruiter, Jeff Mullen, the much maligned offensive coordinator, gave to the school.
Asked why he selected WVU when his family had that strong Michigan background, he replied:
“I thought the coaching staff was the most genuine. It was close to home. I just liked it here. I liked the family environment. The coaches seemed genuine.”
Those coaches, of course, are gone now but Snow says it doesn’t change anything.
“When you are here, you have to do your part. You have to earn your scholarship,” he said.
He stated that last week when, on Wednesday, he was told he was going to start at middle linebacker, he tried to take a low-key approach.
“I just wanted to be ready, be prepared. I didn’t want to be caught up in it being my first start. I wanted to be calm, focused,” he explained.
And, for the most part, Snow was all of that. He admits to some first-play jitters, but as usual the first hit got his full attention and he was ready to go.
Even though he led the team in tackles, Snow wasn’t satisfied.
“I made quite a few mistakes, but I just wanted to play hard. I wanted to make sure I got to the football. I probably could have had a lot more tackles if I had erased a lot of the mistakes I made,” he said.
While he brought his athletic ability to the field, he was smart enough to rely on veteran Najee Goode, who moved out of the middle back to his strong-side linebacker spot to make room for Snow.
“Just being out there with a guy who has played with some of the best competition helps,” Snow said. “He has a great deal of experience.”
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.