The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

March 8, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN: Buie returns to WVU after a year away

MORGANTOWN — It’s nearly every little boy’s dream to become a college football athlete, to play in a stadium before 60,000, 70,000, 100,000 fans, to wear the colors of a university proudly. There are cheerleaders and groupies; there’s your name in headlines, your picture in the newspapers.

You are getting your education for free, a chance to earn the Heisman Trophy, All-America honors and the ultimate dream, being drafted by the National Football League and to play in the Super Bowl.

It’s always been that way, as evidenced by this song from 1933:

You gotta be a football hero to get along with the beautiful girls

You gotta be a touchdown getter, you bet,

If you want to get a baby to pet.

The fact that you are rich and handsome

Will get you anything in curls.

You gotta be a football hero to get along with the beautiful girls

But times change. People become more complicated. Life becomes more complicated.

Life is harder now. Football is harder now.

Combining the two creates pressures, pressures that sometimes an 18- or 19- or 20-year-old mind is not ready to deal with.

Andrew Buie will tell you about being a football hero and what it can do to you.

He had the world at his feet two years ago, had gone down to Austin, Texas, as a member of the West Virginia University football team and rushed for 207 yards including a 5-yard TD run with 1:18 left to help the then No. 8 Mountaineers defeat Texas 48-45, before a Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium record crowd of 101,851.

He had it all.

A year later, when West Virginia played Texas at home, he was in the front row at Milan Puskar Stadium, no longer a member of the WVU football team in what should have been his junior season, having left in August, just days before the season was to begin, of his own volition.

He simply had gone home to Florida.

Why?

“I went home for Andrew Buie – to make Andrew Buie a better person,” was the only explanation he offered upon meeting with the media for the first time since returning to school in January and rejoining the football program.

There was no further explanation.

Suffice is to say Andrew Buie did not like what was going on in his life and felt he had to rejoin his family in Jacksonville, to get back in touch with reality.

It wasn’t permanent, he knew.

“I kind of always knew, in the back of my mind, that I would be back here,” he said.

He discussed it with the coaches. It was understood he was withdrawing from school only for the fall semester, sort of a semester sequester.

“He had to make some decisions,” coach Dana Holgorsen said at the news conference when he announced Buie’s departure. “Did we force him to redshirt? No. He just felt like it was in the best interest for him and in the best interest for the program to save his year.”

And so he went home.

“Football just wasn’t my primary focus when I was home. I took time to worry about other things, spending time with my family,” he said.

Time to grow, time to mature, time to see the other side of life.

“The break was really good for me. I was getting myself to where I need to be … more mentally focused, just maturing all around.

“When I say I was really just home spending time with my family and becoming a man, that’s all I did. Football was one of those things I had to remove from my life for a little while.”

It turned out to be a wonderful time for Buie, a time to walk away from the fantasy world of football hero and rediscover life as it is lived by the masses, including his father.

“He’s a barber, and just watching how hard he works every day to provide for my brothers — he works crazy, crazy hours,” Buie said. “I’ve never seen a human being work like that. If I could have just half that work ethic, I should be all right in life.”

He put football on the back burner, would call the coaches only every so often, but it wasn’t what you’d call a Florida vacation by any means.

He took classes while in Jacksonville, worked out daily, building his body and clearing his mind.

“I didn’t just go home, kick up my feet on the beach, relax in the La-Z-Boy every day,” he said.

There were, of course, home-state programs interested in him, but he didn’t budge. He was going to come back to WVU and get back into football … at the right time.

“I stayed away from all that,” he said.

It wasn’t easy, being home.

“If you think coming up here and having 100 people asking you what you were doing at home is bad, imagine having 100 people coming up to you every day asking why you’re home. It was good to get away from that,” Buie said. “Regardless of what the actual truth is, everybody’s going to have their opinion of what they think happened.”

So now he’s back and part of a really crowded backfield scene that includes himself and a number of players with experience like Dustin Garrison, who once held the school record for rushing yards in a single game, Dreamius Smith, Rushel Shell and Wendell Smallwood.

Buie isn’t worrying about whether he can win his place back at the top of the heap or not.

“I’ve just got to go out there and be the best Buie I can be everyday, not worry about nobody else,” he said. “As long as I put myself in the best position to help the team, that’s all I can control.”

It’s time for the second verse:

If the girls are what you want to get, man

Then hurry and become a triple threat, man.

You gotta be a football hero to get along with the beautiful girls.

In spite of all a million dollars can do

A tackle or two will more to you.

If you can make the winning touchdown

You’ll never have to buy a string of pearls.

You gotta be a football hero to get along with the beautiful girls

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

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