In late-2007 the West Virginia Mountaineers were vying for a spot in the National Championship game until their final regular season contest ended in a heartbreaking home loss and saw the ‘eers playing in a lower bowl game than the team had hoped for in the weeks prior.
Placing his own financial future and dreams above that of his team, West Virginia native and beloved head coach Rich Rodriguez snuck out of Morgantown in the middle of the night, leaving his players and team high and dry prior to the team’s upcoming bowl game.
As I recall, Mountaineer fans went crazy in their rage against Rich Rod as feelings of betrayal were soon morphed into outright hatred for the new Michigan coach.
For the Mountaineer faithful, Rodriguez leaving his team without a head coach just weeks prior to the team’s bowl game revealed his character and what is wrong with so many modern-era team sports and society in general: There are very few team players left anywhere.
Fast-forward a little more than a decade and this same mentality of “my future” being placed above the “team’s future” has again festered itself in the person of All-Star quarterback Will Grier.
WVU Sports has reported that Grier, one of the most successful quarterbacks in West Virginia history, has opted not to participate in the 2018 Camping World Bowl against the Mountaineers’ old Big East rival Syracuse in order to focus on his preparation for the 2019 NFL Draft.
Though I am extraordinarily grateful for what Grier has done for the Mountaineers over the past two years and I can certainly understand his reasoning for not wanting to get hurt in a seemingly meaningless bowl game on the eve of an NFL career, the fact remains that his announcement to skip out on his final collegiate bowl game has left a serious question as to whether or not he’s really even a team player.
If his team were playing in a NY6 Bowl Game or for the National Championship, Grier most certainly would be playing with them; however, because as a team he and others experienced some bumps and setbacks and are now playing in a lowly December bowl game, Grier has seemingly stated that it’s not good enough for him — even though many of his teammates are in a position no different than he: Running the risk of getting hurt in their final game in a Mountaineer uniform.
In a statement, Grier wrote, “After discussions with Jeanne and my family, and after receiving professional input, I have decided not to participate in our upcoming bowl game and focus on preparing myself and my family for what I hope is the next step in our journey. I want to thank Coach Holgorsen, Coach Spavital and all of our coaches for believing in me and, most importantly, to my teammates, who are now lifelong friends who taught me the true meaning of TEAM.”
I am not privy to any team discussions Grier has had with the guys who have protected him and in many occasions made him look better than perhaps he may even be, but I find that last sentence ironic — the true meaning of a team is that you win together, lose together and play together, whether it’s in the Cotton Bowl against #2 Clemson or the Camping World Bowl versus #17 Syracuse.
Over the past twenty-years, it would be impossible to number exactly how many sons and daughters of West Virginia coalminers, blue collar workers, and teachers graduated from the Mountain State’s flagship university beneath a mountain of student loan debt. Grier, a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, on the other hand, earned a bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University free of charge — this isn’t to say he didn’t earn it; FBS football practices are incredibly hard work and the players do earn everything they get; however, the arrangement was that in exchange for a degree, he would play on the team through the 2018 season.
The state and team kept its end of the bargain, unfortunately Grier will not be playing in the final game of the 2018 season.
Times are changing and as any coach will tell you, what it means to be on a team is, too. I fear that this is a new precedence that will not be good for college football, nor what it truly means to be on a team.
This may sound petty, but as a Mountaineer fan, I can’t help but feel like I’ve lost a little respect for NFL Grier — but I still wish he and his family well and look forward to watching him play on Sundays.
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