By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
When you return nine starters from an offense that scored 70 points in its final game, as West Virginia University does this year, you would hardly expect there to be much in the way of competition for jobs.
And that really is the case, especially when you consider that at one of the positions where an opening has cropped up they have a much-awaited prodigy like 336-pound Quinton Spain to move in, and at the other they actually return a starter from two years ago in Josh Jenkins, who redshirted what should have been his senior year with an injury.
Yet there on that same offensive line where Spain and Jenkins join center Joey Madsen and tackle Jeff Braun, there is one job that would seem to be offer a chance for competition, that being at right tackle where Pat Eger is the incumbent.
The player listed at second string on the depth chart, however, is something of a intriguing character, in part because he is as big the Coliseum itself and in part because he is so inexperienced that it is not unreasonable to think he could possibly show great improvement from one season to the next.
That player is Curtis Feigt, Germany’s gift to West Virginia football, a player who wound up starting the final regular-season game over Eger, a move that shook Eger’s foundation so badly that he wound up winning his job back and having a huge game in the Orange Bowl.
That Feigt should win the job that one week, however, offers evidence that it could happen again.
“During the spring Pat and I battled around, but he came out on top again,” Feigt admitted on Friday. “I have to work a little bit harder and improve at a faster pace rather than take my time. You have to keep in mind he has a little advantage over me because he has been playing offensive line his whole life, and I just started a year ago.
“That’s the only advantage he has, but I’m trying to overcome that, and if I don’t win the starting job, I want to at least push him.”
This is something of a friendly competition, considering they are former roommates.
“We roomed together our freshman and sophomore year, so we’re friends, too. The battle on the field doesn’t stand in the way of our friendship at all,” Feigt said. “We try to teach each other; if we see something wrong we tell the other.”
That Feigt is knocking on the door of a starting job is something of a major accomplishment in and of itself, for there are players who long ago would have given up, even if they measure 6 feet, 7 inches and weigh in at 316 pounds.
Feigt’s journey started on the streets of Berlin, where he was raised. Soccer not being his game, as you can imagine considering those dimensions just mentioned, he looked for some other outlet.
The way he remembers it, he was a little kid, maybe 6 or 7, living in Berlin, and like most kids that age he was quite impressionable. He recalls one day when a Heinz ketchup ad came on television.
“They used some Steelers football players in it, and when I saw that I wanted to try it out,” Feigt explained when he began his WVU career.
He joined a club team, and his size allowed him to dominate.
“The NFL Europe recruited me, together with USA football. They told me if I registered on their Web page I might get the chance to come to the USA. I did that, and I got picked to go here. They sent me a list of schools I could come to,” Feigt said.
Oliver Luck, WVU’s athletic director, of course, was president of NFL Europe.
Feigt wound up at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania, then defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich’s recruiting territory, and Kirelawich brought him to WVU to play defensive line.
After two years on the scout team, it became obvious it was a failed experiment, leading Kirelawich to ask him if he would like to switch to offense, something that would mean a third year on the scout team as he learned.
Instead of quitting or transferring, Feigt took on the challenge.
“All my life people have told me if you are going to go to college you will be recruited as an offensive lineman, so when Coach Kirlav came to me and asked me to switch, I said yes. Once I thought about it, I thought maybe it’s a new start for me, a chance to start fresh.”
He spent half a year on the scout team, but made enough improvement that he worked his way onto the depth chart, got to mop up in a game or two.
Then it happened. At halftime of the Pitt game, coach Dana Holgorsen walked up to him and told him he was starting the second half.
His response, softly to himself though it was?
But he went in and played, doing well enough to wind up starting the South Florida game.
Now he knows he can make it, but perhaps not this year. He is a junior and could wind up starting his senior season, putting himself in position to catch the attention of the NFL and maybe wind up making his dreams come true.
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.