The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

August 19, 2011

Mom helps steer Rowell to WVU

MORGANTOWN — Shaq Rowell probably doesn’t want to let this get to the centers and guards he’s going to go against in the Big East, so make a promise right now that you’re going to keep it just among us.

He’s a momma’s boy.

Looking at him, you might not believe that, considering that he stands 6-4 and the books say he’s about 308 pounds, which definitely is a slimmed-down version from the kid who once was pushing 360.

There is a reason for that, see.

“My momma’s a good cook,” he said.

His mother, Raymonda, knows her way around a kitchen.

And Shaq knows his way around the dinner.

“Chicken, macaroni and cheese, collard greens and cornbread on the side,” he says when asked her best meal.

He says so with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face.

Raymonda Rowell came into the conversation because she really is the reason he wound up at West Virginia University hoping to solve the biggest puzzle on the team, that being who will replace Chris Neild at nose guard.

Back in 2008, Rowell was a big-time recruit out of the Cleveland, big-time enough that he wound up committing to Ohio State.

That dream fell through with his ACT score and grades, although considering what has been happening at Ohio State in recent days, that well may have been a blessing in disguise.

“You see what they are going through. God blessed me. Everything happens for a reason,” Rowell said.

The grades sent Rowell west to Iowa, an area he was familiar with because his brother, Chris Rowell, was a defensive back for the Hawkeyes.

Chris, unlike Shaq, whose real name is Shawntel, stands only 6-1 and weighs 190, which leads you to believe that Shaq kept beating him to the chicken, mac and cheese, collard greens and cornbread … on the side, of course.

Shaq Rowell became a junior college star, helping lead Iowa Western Community College to a 9-2 record and a spot in the national semifinal, doing that while also getting a degree in 18 months so that now he has three years at WVU.

That sent Rowell looking for a Division I school to attend and brings us back to his mother.

“I love my mom to death,” he said. “A lot of the schools who recruited me were from out West — USC, Baylor, Texas … all those schools. West Virgina and Miami were the two schools from the East Coast that recruited me.

“My mom and I, we sat down and talked about it. She said ‘Shawn, I want you to sit down and think about it.’ Chris had been at Iowa and his mother never got to see him play. My plan was for my mom to be able to come see me play. It’s only about two-and-a-half hours.”

So WVU had its foot in the door geographically. They also had one other thing working for them.

“Coach Kirlav,” he said, referring to the veteran defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich. “He’s been here for 32 plus years, and he’s put a lot of players out (into the NFL). The way he coaches, he’s so specific about everything. I love that. Even when I’m doing things good he’s showing me things I can pick up on.

“It’s like ‘Shaq, you’re coming off the ball good, use your hands and your hips at the same time.’ These are things in junior college I was never coached upon. Now being here, he pays attention to the little things.

“When I sat down to talk to him, he explained to me, ‘Son, I’m going to coach you up. I want you to play here.’ That wasn’t like other schools that were going to give me everything. I don’t take handouts. I have worked for everything I got.”

There was something else, opportunity. With Neild gone the job was open, and he had a chance to compete for it, but Rowell didn’t make as much of that as one may think, and Kirelawich, as he always does, downplayed it.

“He never told me I was going to start,” Rowell said. “He told me I had to come in and earn playing time. Not one time did he tell me I was going to start.”

What Rowell has to do is work to prove himself.

“I work hard every day to get on the field,” he said. “I wouldn’t care if I started, as long as I’m a contributor to the team. Me starting right now is not the biggest thing. Me getting better is the focus, and I’ll let everything take care of itself.”

It is a mature, sensible approach, one that surely wasn’t there when he left high school for Ohio State.

“You are immature, don’t know what’s going on. You think I’m going to Ohio State; I’m going to be living the life. Once all that left me and I had to go to junior college, I had to grow up fast,” he said. “Now that I’m here, I appreciate this so much more than when I was at Ohio State.”

Yes sir, Shaq Rowell is living the good life. Now, if only he could get some that chicken, macaroni and cheese, collard greens and cornbread, on the side.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail. Twitter @bhertzel.

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