Jozwiak, Mountaineers Continue Tradition Helping Local Kids

More than three decades ago, Brian Jozwiak came to West Virginia University. The memories he took with him from an All-American football career may fade over time, but the passion he developed for helping local children will not.

Back then, in the early 1980s, Jozwiak took a short trip from Mountaineer Field across the parking lot to Ruby Memorial Hospital, where Coach Don Nehlen encouraged his athletes to meet with kids in the Children’s Hospital each week of the season.

“On Friday at 3 o’clock before home games, we’d get into a little bus wearing our jerseys and we’d go over and hang out with the kids.” Jozwiak recalled. “To see their faces and see the families embrace us as we would come in there and visit really struck a chord with me.”

Jozwiak was determined not to let his last visit to the Children’s Hospital to be the last time he gave back to the kids who filled its rooms. Five years after his career with the Mountaineers came to an end, he returned to West Virginia and started the annual Brian Jozwiak Golf Outing.

Now in its 27th year, Jozwiak estimates that proceeds from the event have resulted in more than $300,000 of donations to the organizations it benefits. These days, the funds go to WVU Medicine Children’s and to Buddy Walk for Down syndrome awareness.

Each year, current and former WVU football players gather as the “celebrities” in the golf scramble, joining five other golfers for a day on the course.

“That right there in and of itself is very special and for the young guys that come over, the current players, we’re helping them realize that giving back and kids, that’s an important part of this culture and we’ve got to have that. We try to keep that going,” Jozwiak said.

Quincy Wilson remembers the first time he attended the Jozwiak Golf Outing more than a decade ago as an undergraduate at West Virginia University and all these years later, it keeps him coming back.

“Just the way I was treated. Every year you come here, it’s like family,” Wilson, the former WVU running back, said. “It’s just one of those annual events that you look forward to. Every time I’m like let me know the date because I always try to make it up here.”

More than a dozen current Mountaineer football players filled the golf carts around Lakeview Golf Resort, including West Virginia natives Elijah Wellman, Jon Lewis and Mike Molina, but also out-of-staters Kyle Bosch and Will Grier. Experiencing the fellowship of the event itself is always a draw, as is the opportunity to be a part of raising money for two important causes.

“That means the world to me,” Lewis, a defensive lineman, said of helping children. “I think if I can go out there and I can help them find a way to meet their goals, there’s no price tag that you can put on that.”

Nearly 30 years of student-athletes have joined Jozwiak in this passion project of his and in many cases, the man who originally inspired his program’s connection with the Children’s Hospital attends the golf outing to see the work continue.

“It makes me feel good because as a coach, you get caught up in you’ve got to win this game and you’ve got to do this and do that, but when you get a little older, you find out the wins and losses don’t mean near as much as these guys,” Coach Nehlen said. “I come back here and I get a hug from about 60 guys that I haven’t seen for 20 years, 15 years or whatever and it’s pretty impressive.”

Friday’s showing made it clear that the event is not slowing down any time soon as generations of Mountaineers keep coming back to join Jozwiak in giving back to the community that supported them through their collegiate football careers.

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