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August 30, 2012

HERTZEL COLUMN-Defensive duo learns their lesson

MORGANTOWN — Darwin Cook and Terence Garvin weren’t exactly Bonnie and Clyde.

Their crime was not one of passion or anger, more a crime of hunger that night last May when they walked into a Sheetz convenience store empty handed and were captured on a surveillance camera walking out with three bottles of Gatorade, two bags of Doritos and two bags of pretzels.

It was, Garvin would say this past Tuesday night, “a dumb accident” more than the birth of a life of crime for two West Virginia University football players who seem capable of stardom in the coming season if they can earn the forgiveness of their coach, Dana Holgorsen.

Holgorsen certainly was willing to forgive. His last image of Cook, for example, was running away — not from a police car with siren screaming but from a mob of Clemson tacklers in the Orange Bowl, having picked up a football and taken it 99 yards to a game-changing touchdown, a crowd of more than 67,563 screaming far louder than any police siren could.

Chasing him on foot — and the term in this case should be singular — was not a police offer but his buddy Garvin, so close a friend he would say, “He’s like my brother. We have arguments all the time. We fight on the field. We fight off the field. It’s like a real brother relationship. I’d do anything for him, and he’d do anything for me.”

Disabled from a knee injury obtained in practice between the South Florida and Pitt games, Garvin was on crutches on the sideline at the moment Cook took off on his memorable escape from the pile of humanity on the Mountaineer goal line.

“When Darwin got the ball he must have seen me trying to run down the sideline after him on crutches,” Garvin recalled, laughing at the mental picture he had created.

With Cook having become a true Mountaineer folk hero and Garvin penciled in as moving from his safety spot into the important Star linebacker position, Holgorsen had football reasons to give the two a second chance, but the fact that he believed that they basically are good guys made it easy for him to decide that they would be punished and tested ... but kept in school and on the team.

“We handled that a long time ago,” he said when asked in a recent press conference how he approached it. “We’ve had lots of talks with them and lots of early morning workouts with them to see if they wanted to be here, and they’ve done everything that they’ve been asked to do.”

The two verified the coach’s description of their penance.

“We did our punishment. It was about everything you can imagine — getting up early on mornings, whatever (the coaches) could think of,” Garvin said.

“Coach put us through a lot of physical things, just made us realize what a privilege it is to be at West Virginia,” Cook added.

Running Law School Hill at 6 a.m. can make you realize a lot of things, even how unnecessary a meal breakfast can be.

And the running may have been the easiest part of it.

These two young men, however, were ready to earn the respect of their coaches and their teammates.

Cook, in particular, with still a couple of seasons left to play, seemed genuinely reborn through the experience.

“It wasn’t a difficult process at all,” Cook said. “I could have been home. I was so happy. They could have doubled the things I did. I would have laid my body down on the ground just to be here at West Virginia.”

“It was something that I regret, and I wish I didn’t do it, but we’re moving on from it and trying to get better,” Garvin said. “I just remember my mom praying with me on the phone. She was like, ‘You’re going to be all right. God’s got you. Everything happens for a reason.’ I talked to my mom and dad every day this summer. If it wasn’t for my family and my faith, I probably would’ve been back home right now.”

Perhaps the most interesting thing that came out of it is that because of their reactions, they are becoming the leaders on the defense that the coaching staff felt was vital to create.

“Last year I had to step back and look at myself. I was the little guy on the field, the young player with all the seniors. I saw they were looking up to me, so I had to step into that role,” Cook said.

“I always wanted to be a leader. My mom and dad always told me, ‘Be a leader.’ Those things happened. Now I’m working on trying to get everyone’s trust and trying to become a better leader every day,” Garvin said.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

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