The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

February 11, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN: The fullback doesn’t need to die at WVU

MORGANTOWN — If I might be so bold on a Thursday morning, I am here to offer a suggestion to West Virginia University’s new offensive coordinator and head coach of the future, Dana Holgorsen, and maybe even his entire offensive staff.

Being new in town and probably looking for something to do on a Saturday night, I would like to overstep my bounds and invite them all to help former WVU fullback Owen Schmitt celebrate his birthday at the Morgantown Event Center.

I do this in part as a service to the new coach, allowing him to get out among what is sure to be his adoring faithful in a setting in which he will feel quite at home, considering he brings with him a reputation for enjoying the nightlife. This certainly will let him know he doesn’t have to trek up to Pittsburgh to find afterhours entertainment.

Schmitt became so much of a legend while playing at WVU and breaking his own facemasks and various appendages of potential tacklers as Rich Rodriguez’s fullback that he is able to put together with Triple S Harley Davidson a night of entertainment beginning at 8 p.m. It will include the Davisson Brothers Band, with whom he sometimes appears, and Ryan Dunn from MTV’s “Jackass.”

More important, though, than the wine and whiskey that will flow from the cash bar after an entrance fee is paid and the social climate and entertainment that will ensue, it might be time for Holgorsen to sit off to the side with this football legend and allow him to enlighten him on the history and tradition of the fullback in West Virginia football.

It did not begin with Schmitt, you know, but went back through the likes of the loveable Wes Ours and the power-packed Jim Braxton, to Dick Leftridge and Walter Easley through Leroy White and today’s Ryan Clarke.

The fullback in football is a dying breed, no doubt, because coaches like Holgorsen and so many others never saw Marion Motley or Jim Taylor or, perhaps the best of them all on the goal line, “The Fridge,” William Perry of the Chicago Bears.

Schmitt certainly could convince him of what a fullback brings to the game, just as he did with Rodriguez, who came to Morgantown thinking he would be throwing the ball from Bluefield to New Cumbersville and Hedgesville to Huntington.

Schmitt could do it with a sense of urgency in his voice, too, for he realizes he is a dinosaur in the National Football League, the realization being driven home when he was cut last summer by the Seattle Seahawks.

“I was the only fullback in Seattle. I’m going through pre-season camp, and I started doing really well. It was like the old me and they used me a bunch,” he said, thinking back to that day. “I made the roster cuts, then the next day they call me and say ‘We decided to go a different direction’ and it’s like, oh, wow, my whole world is crashing down.

“So I sat on the couch for a week, worked out twice, tossed the football around the back yard and started thinking of doing something else.”

It reached the point that he even began calling friends in the construction business to see if he could find work.

“I wanted to get on somewhere real quick,” Schmitt said.

But where?

Clear across the country, however, things were working in his favor. Leonard Weaver, the Philadelphia Eagles’ fullback, was injured.

This is how things transpired.

At 8:30 a.m., he received a call from his agent.

“What do you think about Philly?” he said.

“It seems cool,” Schmitt answered.

“You want to get on a red-eye?” the agent asked?

“When?” said Schmitt.

“Tonight,” the agent answered.

So he packed up three pair of underwear, a pair of shorts and a T-shirt.

“They just said it was going to be for a red-eye and I didn’t know what to expect,” Schmitt said, not explaining why he needed three pair of underwear but only one pair of shorts and T-shirt.

Schmitt got on the plane at 11:30 p.m. and arrived about 9 a.m. and went directly to work out, being on the field a little more than an hour after his flight landed.

“I made the team, and the rest is kind of where it is now,” he said. “There isn’t a big want or need for fullbacks. I was bummed. It was really a blessing I got picked up so quickly. Most guys, that doesn’t happen.”

You know how the Eagles did with a fullback. They won the NFC East with a 10-6 record.

Schmitt didn’t carry the ball but blocked for Michael Vick and 1,000-yard rusher LeSean McCoy and caught 19 passes, including one for a touchdown.

It would be a shame to see the fullback die in West Virginia. As Holgorsen will learn if he attends, they throw too good a party to become extinct.

E-mail Bob Hertzel at

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