Tailback Steve Slaton was the first West Virginia University football player ever to attain consensus All-America status as a sophomore.

But the 5-10, 195-pound superstar from Levittown, Pa., still thinks one has to continue to work even harder the following year. He wants to play an even bigger role in the No. 3-ranked team’s success.

How does he do that?

“Just keep working,” Slaton said. “There are a lot of little things you could do better. Just keep going over those until you’re more comfortable with them.”

He set Big East and WVU single-season rushing records with a net 1,733 yards on 245 carries in 2006. That ranked him fourth in NCAA Division I-A statistics. His 2,104 all-purpose running yards also a record.

Slaton also became the first player in the school’s history to gain 200 yards rushing and 100 receiving in a game. That historic feat came in the 45-27 come-from-behind victory at old rival Pitt.

For his efforts, he wound up No. 4 in the Heisman Trophy balloting.

“There’s no difference from one year to the next,” he reasoned. “You have to work hard just the same to become better, You’ve got to push yourself, no matter what.”

With all that he accomplished in 2006, was there anything different when he went home to Pennsylvania for visits?

“Yes,” Slaton said. “Everybody was so happy for me. They all were congratulatory. Some even were wearing West Virginia jerseys (in Penn State territory).”

Like teammates, he’s happy that scrimmaging is over. The Mountaineers have begun the polishing-up process leading to the season’s opener against visiting Western Michigan a week from Saturday.

“I’m ready to go against someone other than ourselves – new faces,” Slaton said. “There are just nine days now until the first game. I’m glad preparations at winding down.”

He agrees that every team on the 12-game schedule is going to try to give West Virginia its best shot. But he still feels that the Mountaineers can measure up to WVU’s highest-ever preseason ranking.

“I just think we’re capable of having that kind of season,” Slaton said.

He remains pleased with the progress of the true freshmen behind him, Noel Devine and Jock Sanders.

“I think they’re better off than I was (as a rookie),” Slaton said. “They’re further ahead in learning the offense than I was coming in my freshman year.”

He has helped them, as he believes he should because of his leadership role. He also thinks Coach Magee is going a fine job of bringing them along.

“The young guys on offense (redshirt freshmen and sophomores) have done a good job stepping up to get everybody on the same page,” Slaton continued. “I don’t think they’ll be the same as they were last year.”

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