MORGANTOWN — There exists within college football the same type of life cycle as exists in the real world and it is exhibiting itself as we converse today in the West Virginia University football program.
We could be talking about the dismissing of the athletic director and the search for his replacement, just as we could be discussing the fight for his coaching life being waged by Neal Brown.
But we’re not, and considering how you have been bombarded with all of this in recent days, you are probably thankful to move on to something.
We will begin at the end of one life cycle on the offensive line and how it morphs into a new life cycle, the premature end that starting left guard James Gmiter has put to his football playing day and the birth of the career of his replacement, redshirt freshman Tomas Rimac.
In another life Gmiter was as naive and enthusiastic as is Rimac, but had to endure the growing pains that came with putting together an offensive line that would become the strength of the offense.
While the growing pains evaporated, Gmiter grew and established his own identity, a talented, tough interior lineman who combined enough elan to dye his hair blond and grow a prominent mullet while creating a family with his wife and two children.
The senior year was to be a crowning achievement, but much went wrong. The team lost games it shouldn’t have, Gmiter was injured and missed four straight games. Then came the toughest blow, the loss of his mother, which had to hammer home the reality that life is too short and it was time to move on.
So we were greeted one day with this Tweet that read: “I’m going to miss this game ... thank you for everything.” It was followed by a broken heart emoji.
Gmiter was moving forward, putting aside the double life he was living as husband/father and football player. He plans to enter the police academy and join the Morgantown police force.
As in real life, though, the cycle goes on the torch is passed to Rimac, a soft- and well-spoken giant of a man at 6-foot-6 and 312 pounds is moving into the vacuum left by Gmiter, who played 10 games last year without allowing a sack and this year was an anchor on a team that developed a strong run game.
It’s a big step, far more important than if he were moving into the lineup on a .500 team, for the fate of the season and maybe the coaching staff is at stake, but he seems to be moving into it confidently.
“Playing in any game you get a little nervous because you want to play well, obviously. Me, I’m a little nervous before but after that first hit you just lock in and try to win the game,” Rimac said as he sat down with the media for the first time Tuesday.
Out of Brunswick, Ohio, you know there’s so much new to experience, so much room for growth.
For example, in high school he was a tackle, not a guard, and he was able to get by on his physical assets while technique was not stressed.
“In my league I was one of the bigger kids and they didn’t coach me up very much,” he said. “I was actually at left tackle in right-handed stance. So, it was a little bit of a transition but I felt like I transitioned pretty well.”
While he came in with the highly-rated Wyatt Milum, who now plays left tackle alongside him and who this week graded out higher than any other WVU offensive lineman, he had a longer way to go.
“I had a talk with Coach (Mike) Moore,” he said.
Moore is WVU’s offensive line coach.
“He sat me down and said I was going to be a good player and that he had a plan for me,” Rimac said. “I just stayed on that plan and worked hard even though I was second and third string.
Sometimes, when you are a high school star, accepting coaching and not starting is difficult to take, but Rimac handled the tradition well.
“I have pretty tough parents and I’m grateful for that,” he said. “They put that work ethic into me ... no matter what happens, just keep working and you’ll get there.”
He was helped no small amount by having also been a force in track and field where he was state runner up in the discus. Those are technique and strength events and, as you might guess, that is exactly what you need in offensive line play.
While Rimac excelled in track, it turned out not to be an option moving forward.
“Not many colleges talked to me about shot put or discus because we didn’t have that 2020 season, so I verbally committed just before my senior football season,” he said.
He has no regrets.
“I don’t think about it. Sometimes I would find myself watching videos of others technique throwing, but I can’t say I think about it much because football is the best sport on earth. I thought about pursuing that then but I felt football was the better option because it would give me more options down the road,” he said.
“I left it there at the state meet.”
Follow @bhertzel on Twitter