MORGANTOWN — Their names are not household words, sometimes not even in their own households, these men who run around with whistles hanging around their neck and a piece of paper with the day’s practice plan shoved into their shorts.
Their hours are long, their seasons longer.
The pay is good, yes, but they don’t do it for the pay, not these men who are lifelong assistant football coaches.
They do it for love, not of the game, although that enters into it, but of the profession and the way they can influence young men, often troubled young men, and for the way those young men can influence them.
They’ve been around, Steve Dunlap and Bill Kirelawich, West Virginia’s safety coach and defensive line coach. Dunlap’s been on the job 32 years since he finished his career as a Mountaineer linebacker, still ranking 10th on the all-time career tackle list with 359. Twenty-three of those years were spent right here in Morgantown.
Kirelawich has 31 years as an assistant since he left Salem, a school where his 89-yard interception return still stands as the record, all of them at West Virginia.
Neither has ever been a head coach, that dream having faded long ago. They don’t mind.
“It’s different things for different people,” Kirelawich said on a warm, breezy Wednesday, minutes after West Virginia’s second spring practice came to a conclusion. “It’s like this, the higher you go, the greater the sacrifice. It’s not as easy as just working hard. You sacrifice things. You sacrifice your family. Look at the sacrifices the President of the United States has to make.
“You say to yourself, ‘Am I willing to do that?’ I wanted to see my kids.”
And so he never pushed to be a head coach, never wanted to be out giving speeches, shaking hands, attending booster meetings, playing fund raising golf tournaments.