The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

September 22, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN: Receivers coach went against the norm in Louisiana

MORGANTOWN — In many ways I felt something like my favorite man of all time, Diogenes the Cynic, who wandered around ancient Greece, a lantern in his hand, in search of an honest man.

In some ways I was following in his sandal prints as I began a search of my own, an effort to find someone from Louisiana who did not worship the Louisiana State University football team.

This is like the proverbial search for a needle in a haystack, for there are those who will tell you that from New Orleans to Shreveport, from Baton Rouge to Bogalusa, such a person could not possibly exist.

But I pressed on, thinking not so much that I was searching for someone who rooted against LSU, but like Diogenes simply in search of an honest man who would admit it.

As it turned out, such a person was so close he could have reached out and touched my toga.

Shannon Dawson is the West Virginia University assistant coach charged with the wide receivers, and the fact that the Mountaineers have produced four different 100-yard receivers in the past two games should tell you he is doing quite nicely in that department.

His hometown, though, is listed as Nichols, La., a town of fewer than 2,000 people so Louisiana-ish, if such a word can be coined, that it was used as the setting for the filming of the William Faulkner classic “The Long, Hot Summer” starring Paul Newman in the 1950s.

If ever there were a place where you would expect to find everyone wearing the purple and gold T-shirts that proclaim “Geaux Tigers,” it is this town.

And so it was … except for little Shannon Dawson.

To begin with, he grew up something on a maverick, an ornery sort of character.

“That probably had something to do with it,” he admitted the other night during an interview session that precedes Saturday night’s LSU game at Milan Puskar Stadium. “I was always against the norm. Being a follower wasn’t something I was fired up to do. Any chance I had to go against what everyone else was thinking, I pretty much took that route.”

So there he was, caught up in this football-mad state among a colony of LSU fanatics, the kind who were recently ranked by FoxSports.com as the third most obnoxious fans in college football. As evidence they offered the moment one of their faithful once ran out onto the field and mooned the crowd.

By now you probably are wondering who the top two most obnoxious fans were. Rest easy; WVU was not among them.No. 2 was Michigan and No. 1 … a drum roll, please.

NOTRE DAME.

Which delivers us to the next part of this story. Which team do you suspect Dawson rooted for as a kid while growing up in Louisiana?

That’s right.

NOTRE DAME.

Ask Dawson how this came about, and you get an answer that proves he may just be the only honest man in Louisiana.

“Honest to God, from a little kid until now, I could care less about LSU,” he said. “It’s very unusual down there. Part of it has to do with my parents not

being LSU fans. I didn’t grow up in a household that worships LSU, like most kids do in Louisiana.

“It is a state where everyone loves them. I think everyone else’s love for LSU turned me away. To be honest, I’m not Catholic or anything, but I loved Notre Dame because they were on TV every Saturday.”

This, quite naturally, led to some areas of conflict, for LSU fans are not necessarily known as being fair-minded and forgiving. You are either for them or against them, and if you are against them … well, this what FoxSports.com had to say:

“Dare to play them in their own stadium and you’ll be doused with beer and ‘Tiger Bait’ chants.”

Dawson was not one to run for cover or disguise the fact that he was a fan of the Fighting Irish.

“I was the only guy in class wearing a Notre Dame shirt while everyone else was wearing purple and gold,” he said.

Now he gets the chance to go against LSU, to send his receivers like Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Ivan McCartney and Devon Brown against one the nation’s top defenses, a chance to inflict real harm to the Bayou Tigers’ national championship chances while giving a huge boost to that of his favorite team.

No, not Notre Dame any more.

“I’m a West Virginia fan, baby,” he declared.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

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