End of an Era as Brock Burwell Passes the Musket - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

End of an Era as Brock Burwell Passes the Musket

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Brock and me after his final home football game this past fall. Brock and me after his final home football game this past fall.
MORGANTOWN -

My first memory of Brock Burwell was this random Facebook message telling me that he was interested in my position as a manager for the West Virginia football team and he wanted to know how he could get in on the action.

He didn't even go to WVU yet, but we shared a mutual friend and he heard stories of what it was like and wanted to join me. If I'm being honest, I probably did not provide him with all the help he should have gotten, and for whatever reason, he never became a manager for the football team.

We've joked about that initial cyber meeting since then, but the truth is that it may have been the best thing that could have happened because who knows if he had chosen that path whether or not he would have wound up at the Passing of the Rifle ceremony today, saying goodbye to his role as the Mountaineer.

Brock, our friends York Sheffer and Grant Bayerle and I all lived together in my senior year of school on Stewart Street in a house that has since been torn down to make room for some fancy apartments – Sunnyside Up at its finest.

That year was Brock's first as alternate Mountaineer, backing up Michael Squires, and we would constantly hound him to fire the musket on the front porch or march around with his buckskins on when we had guests. But he took his job seriously and kept the hooligans he lived with away from his prized belongings.

There was one time that he obliged my inane request, though. I was heading up to Hartford, Conn. for WVU's game against the UConn Huskies and the meeting was scheduled to take place the day after Halloween. I needed a costume, and boy did that Mountaineer get up look enticing.

So, with the exception of the firearm, Brock let me take his buckskins and his coonskin cap and whatever other accessories to Connecticut with me and even though he's a far bigger man than I and I essentially swam in his wardrobe, I got second place in the costume contest.

Even Huskies fans have a soft spot for the Mountaineer, apparently.

I'm not totally certain Brock would want that story becoming public knowledge, but there are pictures on Facebook and honestly, buddy, what are they going to do – fire you?

His second year trying out for the position yielded the same results. He was up in Hartford for the women's basketball tournament and I had an internship with the Mountaineer Sports Network and I told him I'd let him know whether or not he was announced as the mascot during that season finale loss to Louisville.

But again, he didn't get it.

He served a second term as the reserve and made his football debut in a primetime game at Cincinnati. From that point on, his face and his name and his history became a little more well known around West Virginia.

The nephew of former Mountaineer Rock Wilson, Brock used to hang around at games as the "little Mountaineer." It had been his dream since way back then to take the same job Rock had and finally, in 2010, he did.

I've spoken to Rock a number of times and he gets emotional talking about Brock and the connection the two share. He told me before Brock became Mountaineer that he would probably be crying like a baby up in the nosebleed sections of the Coliseum if his nephew's name was announced for the position.

Rock helped explain what it meant to be the Mountaineer at Brock's Passing of the Rifle ceremony two years ago, and he will do the same again today. I do not expect him to get through the event with dry eyes.

When Brock first started as alternate, he was nervous and didn't know exactly how he would approach being the Mountaineer. But what he learned in the time since then is that he didn't have to approach it any certain way because the Mountaineer would be what changed him and not the other way around.

Anyone who met Brock in the past few years will tell you how genuine he was in his kindness and his excitement to interact with fellow WVU fans. This was never news to those of us who have known him over the years, though, because these traits are what made us grow fond of him in the first place and the reasons why looking back on my time in Morgantown, I can find few others I would consider better friends.

Brock and I stood together at just about every football game over the past two seasons and were frequently called out by people in the stands with camera phones for not paying enough attention to the game. That part of game days this fall will be missed.

As Brock hands over the controls to Jonathan Kimble, a moment he says is bittersweet, a new era will begin. Brock will have opportunities to return for homecoming and other events, but his time doing what he had always dreamed of has come and gone.

It is in this moment that the phrase once a Mountaineer, always a Mountaineer must be evoked because Brock has represented his alma mater in a manner that should make his fellow alumni proud and in a manner that will forever connect him with West Virginia University.

He's a great mascot, he's a better friend and I'm glad the rest of the state got to know that the same way I have since he first contacted me all those years ago.

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