Mountaineer Legends Pregame With Fans

Mountaineers Legends Pregame with Fans

As sports writers, we can only know so much. We lack a place in the locker room. Our access to the sidelines comes when the school allows it. We do not carry recorders or notepads into the huddle. Simply, we can write about what we think, which is based on what we observe. Unfortunately, what we even can observe remains limited. When you hear about the games from current and former players, on the other hand, they can share unique perspectives. Sure, we can transcribe them, but they can tell you, with the passion that they derived from playing the game. Thus, we were excited to hear that we can expect a Mountaineer legends pregame show with fans this season. We spoke with co-hosts Dale Wolfley and Brian Jozwiak this week, and here is what they had to say.

Excited for the Backyard Brawl

The Backyard Brawl calls to mind some of the best–and worst–moments in Mountaineer history. Fans know this well, but Jozwiak, perhaps, knows it even better: “if you got to line up on the field [against Pitt], everything went out the window.” Records, talent, ranking, expert predictions: none of that matters.

We wrote about this particular rivalry, both directly and indirectly, three times during our Mountaineer Moments in Adversity Series. We started with the 1952 version of the Brawl. To that point, the Mountaineers had never won against a ranked opponent. As Jozwiak said, though, even that history gets thrown out the window when the Mountaineers and Panthers face off. We also wrote about the 1988 game in the series. Pitt just demolished a ranked Ohio State team and looked to build on that momentum. Finally, we wrote indirectly about the worst Mountaineer moment in that series (13-9) in part seven of our series. Again, respective team rankings went out the window as Pitt knocked WVU out of a certain berth in the BCS Championship Game.

History proves Jozwiak is correct. What a way, then, for two legends who both faced off against Pitt a number of times to open their live series against the Mountaineers’ most hated rival. The game is so big that ESPN is doing a rare two-day College Gameday and traveling to Pitt for the opener. Wolfley and Jozwiak offer a more intriguing product to Mountaineer fans, however.

Opening the Show with Multiple Legendary Mountaineers

Together, Wolfley and Jozwiak will have no problem filling air time with banter and storytelling in their Mountaineer Legends Pregame Show. What happens, though, when you add even more? For their inaugural episode, sponsored by Par Mar Stores, they plan to feature such guests as Darryl Talley, Stedman Bailey, Major Harris, and Andy Peters. They even offer a “special” Pitt alumni guest in Hugh Green.

Because the Mountaineers and Panthers renew their rivalry after an 11-year hiatus, the guys wanted to bring in players who have had big moments in the Backyard Brawl. Not surprisingly, Wolfley told us that the players who played in that game really hated each other while on the field. Even Stedman Bailey, who they wanted to feature in one of their future shows in Florida, demanded to be on the pre-game this Thursday. According to Wolfley, “you would think Stedman was a lineman the way he talks” about his hatred of Pitt. As for stories, there will be plenty to share to highlight the passion in the rivalry. He would not give us a preview of what to expect here, but Wolfley drew particular attention to Peters: “wait until you hear this story.”

The inaugural event will start at 12:30 on September 1. Fans can attend in person at Clark’s Restaurant in Pittsburgh. For those unable to attend, though, the show will be live from 2:00 to 4:00. Fans can tune in on the Mountaineer Legends Pregame Show YouTube page. The live show will also be streamed across several Mountaineer-based Facebook groups, including the group “Lets Go Mountaineers” (without an apostrophe). For guests showing up in person, they will get to see a performance by Marshall Lowry (and we presume he will offer the crowd a rendition of “Country Roads” and maybe even a rendition of “Sweet Caroline”). In future weeks, Wolfley and Jozwiak take their show on the road to places like Nashville (where they expect to stream from Marc Bulger’s new restaurant), and Charleston, South Carolina (where we might make a guest appearance).

Uniting Under the Old Gold and Blue

Aside from getting information for their show, we talked to Wolfley and Jozwiak about Mountaineer football and what the game (both the Brawl and the game, generally) means to them. Of the Backyard Brawl, Jozwiak offered that once “you got up to line up on the field, everything went out the window.” Record means nothing. Ranking means nothing. Gambling favorites mean nothing. Instead, once the opening kick was struck, players “were engaged in a physical, street fight battle” where “you gotta earn every inch.”

Both of the guys tell us that they started the show because they want to give back to the fans. After all, they say, Mountaineer football is different because “you play for all the people of the State.” In their view, that also includes all of the Mountaineers that came before. Based on that symbiosis between the team and the fans, Wolfley said that the Old Gold and Blue that “rips through our veins run deep.” They remarked about the team’s recent trip to the coal mines as an example. All of the guys in the mines, they noticed, had the Flying WV on their hard hats. No surprise then that they both agree that most games are “won and lost in the trenches.” That is where Mountaineers–both on the field, and off–have found their fortunes for generations.

Wolfley then brought the conversation back to the Old Gold and Blue. He asked, simply, “who do you want to go to the alley with” in that street fight? Asked about success this season, Wolfley assured us that “we want it so bad for the guys this year.” He talks about the Mountaineer standard, though, and he says the team has to meet that standard. Simply put, the Mountaineer way is blue-collar. According to Jozwiak, that means that Mountaineers play “tough, hard-nosed” football, and “you don’t ever quit.” Indeed, this is why we chose to focus our pre-season series on Mountaineer Moments in Adversity. It is not just the culture of the team but also the culture of the State.

Mountaineer Legends’ Parting Thoughts on Neal Brown

Jozwiak and Wolfley both played for a Mountaineer legend in Don Nehlen. As a result, we were interested in hearing their thoughts on Head Coach Neal Brown. They started by saying without hesitation, “we’re not going to sugarcoat anything.” Jozwiak continued, though, that he wanted fans to think about what Brown has been through. Brown’s culture, Jozwiak said, is the “polar opposite” of former Head Coach Dana Holgorsen‘s. As a result, when he came, he offered a culture shock for the guys who were here and the guys recruited to play in Holgorsen’s culture.

Then, Brown walked into COVID, the expansion of the transfer portal, and the birth of NIL. After last season, Jozwiak told us, Brown really stepped back and analyzed how to take the reigns of the program once and for all. Brown looked closely at the roster and let go of some holdovers, he hired a top-notch offensive coordinator and brought in the right types of guys to fill the voids on the roster. Now, Jozwiak says, “the nucleus, the mainstays, and the leaders” are all in place, and 2022 “is the year for them to strike.” He finally gets a sense in talking with the players that “they represent; they know that they’re playing for Mountaineer nation,” and that this purpose “fuels the passion.”

We do not pretend to know what will happen on the field just yet, but we know we are in for a treat when listening to Wolfley, Jozwiak, and a host of former Mountaineer players and legends. If you see him at an event, though, do not give Jozwiak hot sauce. He has handled a lot in his life, but, according to Wolfley, “Joz’ can’t do hot wings.” We all have our limits.