By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
West Virginia University went into the locker room at halftime on Friday night trailing in the Backyard Brawl, 17-7, and in trouble.
The offensive line, especially on the right side, had as many holes as deli full of Swiss cheese, and coach Dana Holgorsen knew he had to do something or forget about having any chance to win the Big East Conference title and BCS bowl bid.
One move was easy. It was one he had done before, going to The Human Mountainside, Quinton Spain, and asking all 335 pounds of him to go in and do some blocking.
The other move was about as surprising and radical a move as he could have made, walking up and telling Curtis Feigt he was going in at right tackle to start the second half.
Feigt looked at his coach and said softly to himself, “Oh, crap.”
See, WVU was playing its biggest game of the year, a do-or-die Backyard Brawl against Pitt, and this native German’s entire college football experience consisted of a few mop-up snaps in the Norfolk State game. He was playing his first year on the offensive line, having been converted from the defensive line during the off-season.
“This morning waking up I did not anticipate getting in at all, but at halftime coach said you get in so I said, ‘All right; it’s time to play. You better step up,’” he told himself. “You’re second string; you don’t expect to get in.”
But Feigt acquitted himself well, right from the start.
West Virginia’s second play of the second half was a run by Dustin Garrison to the right side with Feigt the man who needed to make the key block.
“I did get my block. We ran a zone right play. I just took my man and tried to push him out,” he said.
Garrison was tackled … 14 yards downfield. The comeback had started.
By now you may be wondering just who Curtis Feigt is and how he came from Germany to play at WVU. It is an interesting tale, one in which athletic director Oliver Luck plays a role, although it’s not certain he’s aware of it.
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 last year when he began his WVU career.
The problem was there was no club in Berlin, but a cousin of his who was a cheerleader in another town took him to football practice and he liked it.
He’d tried soccer, but would say “soccer was not for me.”
Considering that he would grow to 6-foot-6 and 290 pounds, that is not hard to understand.
He was bigger and better than most of the people he was playing with and knew he needed to face better competition if he was going to improve.
“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, of course, was president of NFL Europe.
Feigt looked for a place to play and wound up at Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania, defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich’s recruiting territory.
And that’s how he got to WVU as a defensive lineman, but there were a lot of players ahead of him.
“Last winter Kirelawich came to me and said that the offensive coaches were thinking about switching me to offensive tackle. He told me they felt I had a better chance to play there. I was just like, ‘Well, if it gets me on the field, I guess I would.’”
The change was not easy.
“It wasn’t physically at all where I had to adjust. It’s just mentally, mental preparation. Physically, I think I’ve always been there. It’s body type, big body. My body has always been there,” he said.
“Mentally, it’s a new thing. It’s my first year playing offensive line ever. The mental preparation is a lot different on defense, and that was a big step for me, getting over the hump and realizing what I have to do and grasping the concept.”
He admits that he was hit by a case of nerves when he went in.
“I was very nervous. It was my first play against a team like that in my career,” he said of the first snap. “I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Quinton Spain. He helped me out a lot, telling me what to do.”
And WVU has to give Feigt a lot of credit, for in his first real action as a Mountaineer he made a difference at a crucial moment.
Rest assured there will be more of that as his career goes on.
He, of course, misses home and his parents and friends, but he says his parents are extremely proud of him and also like this scholarship idea that gets his schooling paid for.
“They want me to chase my dream,” he said.
And that dream, he says, is to play in the NFL.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.