MORGANTOWN — They were football heroes all, these grown men, one-time Mountaineers gathered once again with a mission.
All of them had known the sound of 50,000 people cheering. All of them had lived the West Virginia University dream, playing in Mountaineer Field, running for touchdowns or making tackles. They had learned how to make 50,000 people cheer, but now they were remembering how one little child could make them cry.
It was the morning of the Gold-Blue game, hours before a group of more than 100 former players would get together to play a game of flag football less than 150 yards away. Now, though, they had returned to West Virginia University Children’s Hospital, which takes up the sixth floor of Ruby Memorial Hospital, “a hospital within a hospital” Cheryl Jones, director of Children’s Hospital, would call it.
They had come before as players, touched the lives of sick and dying children, brightened their day for a moment, but at the same time they, too, had been touched. The feelings they had lived through the years and drew them back one more time.
It was an important trip for Wes Ours, the good-time fullback from 2000 Music City Bowl team, the team that gave Don Nehlen that long-awaited bowl victory that put an exclamation point on his Hall of Fame career.
For most of the players these were mostly anonymous kids they were to visit, but for Ours there was a child from a neighboring town in Maryland, a helpless, limp body in a hospital bed wearing bandages where a WVU T-shirt should have been.
He had been mauled by a dog, and Ours wanted to make sure he visited and brought with him this group of former football players that included the likes of running back Tom Bowman, running back Undra Johnson, linebacker Dave Benn, defensive back Willie Edwards and so many others.