MORGANTOWN — As you get older, you begin thinking about what might have been and what you might change and right now, today, after touring the upgraded facility building out of which Coach Neal Brown's West Virginia football program operates out of I decided if there is such a thing as reincarnation, I want to come back as a football player.
Now, as a youth, I played football and baseball, but my true love was baseball. Perhaps it was because I was pretty good at it, perhaps it was because I had four teeth kicked out playing football.
But after seeing the way football players are treated today at WVU, giving up four teeth wasn't much of price to pay for what they have.
Brown had the media over on Tuesday afternoon to show how the place had been upgraded at a cost of $55 million or so. Amazing what you can get for $55 million these days.
"I'm excited about it," Brown said. "We've got great momentum in recruiting, and I think this is a reason why. I think this gives us a chance to compete."
Brown had three things in mind through the renovation process.
"It was renovated for three reasons ... for our current players, for recruiting — our future players — and as a source of pride for former players and coaches," Brown said.
The tour started as you enter the facility in the new Hall of Traditions, which used to be in the back of the facility and was hard to get to for fans.
"Now we've moved it up front, right as you enter you come into it," Brown said. "There's technology here, which is great, and there's artifacts. It goes from you being able to create your own uniform to whatever you want."
Brown thought the neatest thing was a display with footballs representing great moments in Mountaineer history and if you touch them, they play a recorded moment from that win.
And you don't want to leave, with interactive gimmicks to go along with trophies and pictures and memories that any Mountaineer fan would cherish, be it from Dick Leftridge integrating the program to a Pat White, Major Harris or Don Nehlen display.
And there's a video aspect that will enthrall both recruits and fans.
"There's three big moments we've had here where I became a little emotional," Brown said. "First, Coach [Don] Nehen came over and I showed him around. He was one of the first persons to come in here and he was excited. We showed him his display.
"Then there was our first recruiting weekend. That was a different deal. It had been 15 months since we'd had anyone on campus and to bring them in here. And then last week Bill Stewart's wife and son came through. That was neat."
So was it to see them play Bill Stewart's emotional "Leave No Doubt" speech before the Oklahoma game that may have saved big time football for West Virginia with Neal Brown standing there watching, hoping his day will come when he can challenge his players at an important moment with a memorable speech of his own.
And if he does, it will probably come in the new locker room, which is almost beyond words. Remember when a locker room was a bunch of nails up on a wall and maybe a three-legged, wooden stool to sit on.
Well, now the room is spread wide and far, with areas for wide receivers, offensive linemen, defensive linemen, running backs, etc. Each locker has a seat in and a number of hidden storage compartments which are either draws you call pull out of the wall for the shoulder pads or fold under the seat or alongside.
Each locker is marked above it with the player's number and name and picture and where he's from.
There's even a barbershop connected to the locker room. If they'd had that back when Owen Schmitt was playing, he might have had shoulder length hair one week and a mohawk the next.
And when Brown gets around to making that speech, be it pregame or halftime, his players will be gathered around on chairs, out of their lockers for the words and wisdom of Neal Brown.
The weight room is pretty much as it was, that having been modernized over the years, and the dining area also was upgraded a few years back.
But there are areas off the locker room where the facility becomes more of a luxury condominium.
They have a "nap room." Honest. You can't make this stuff up.
They have a couple of sleep modules in there that sort of look like the egg that Jonathan Winters came out of on the "Mork & Mindy" sitcom.
You go in there and relax, or nap.
And across the room there are massage chairs ... oh, what I would give for one of those at the end of a long day.
Then, if you are a 320-pound offensive lineman and someone says "Sit down and take a load off," they really mean it.
You can do it, too, in what they call a "zero gravity" chair. Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson spent hundreds of millions of dollars to get a minute or so of zero gravity in their spaceships. WVU players can get it just by heading into the nap room.
And what does this do for you? I went onto the Svago website, a company that sells zero gravity chairs, and here's what they had to say about them:
Gravity's effects are neutralized, your body finds alignment, the spine decompresses, discs rehydrate, pain subsides, aging slows and healing begins.
Let me run that one about aging slows. If I'd had one of these chairs from the time I was 18 until now, instead of approaching my 80th birthday, I probably wouldn't be a day over 50.
Now why is this necessary? Well, Brown notes, rather than having players running home to catch a midday nap, they can stay at the facility with their teammates.
Players need to relax. While it's hard to imagine with school, meetings, practices and time dedicated to NIL matters that they have any down time, they do and so there's a game room.
When Brown asked what they wanted in the room, the No. 1 request was the "Pop-a-Shot" basketball shooting devices where you shoot and the ball is returned to you.
So, there's two of them. Also, there's a pool table.
"The players like to play pool," Brown said.
Sort of gives a new meaning to it when Brown tells his players he wants them to "hustle."
"And for those of us over 30, we will have a ping-pong table," Brown said.
Again, this keeps the players together, building brotherhood. Better shooting pool in the facility than in a barroom or pool hall.
"The hope is they won't spend too much time away from each other," Brown said.
The team meeting rooms have been upgraded and moved to a different area of the facility and the coaches' offices are now more accessible as they line a hallway rather than being split offensive and defensive into different wings.
As for Brown's office, in a state where the beauty is breathtaking, he had a view of the parking lot.
Now he's been moved next to the family suite and looks out over his domain, which is Milan Puskar Center and Mountaineer Field, which impresses him and the recruits who come to visit.
At the end of practice there is a "recovery room" complete with light stimulation beds, cryo tanks and floating tanks. There's also a "mud room" built on a car wash principle where the players hang their dirty, wet shoes and shoulder pads to be air dried, move on to a wind area where they get blow dried themselves, the current removing the tiny rubber pellets from their uniforms and body and then where they go through a pool to clean everything else off of them.
They are monitored daily for sleep, nutrition, hydration and food intake, each with his own individual program of what is best for him.
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To view a full photo-tour of the Milan Puskar Center's renovations, visit this article on www.timeswv.com