Maurice Zereoue Paving Own Path at WVU - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Maurice Zereoue Paving Own Path at WVU

Maurice Zereoue gives the WVU defense a look in practice. Photo credit: Dale Sparks, All-Pro Photography Maurice Zereoue gives the WVU defense a look in practice. Photo credit: Dale Sparks, All-Pro Photography

You won't find his name on the team roster. Flip through the game day program to your heart's content, but you will end up disappointed. If you did happen to see it listed, though, you would recognize it.

Maurice Zereoue, a walk-on running back for the West Virginia football team, doesn't yet have a jersey number or a spot in any team publications, but that does not mean he isn't making a difference.

And while you likely don't know much about Maurice, the name Amos may ring a bell.

Amos Zereoue starred as West Virginia's feature back during his career from 1996 through 1998. He finished his time in the WVU backfield as the program's all-time leading rusher, something that his little brother views as a source of pride.

He can recall his big brother's first touchdown, which came on Aug. 31 in a game against Pitt. It just so happened to be Maurice's fifth birthday, so the memory stands out to this day. Back then, people used the nickname "Famous Amos," but Maurice viewed him differently.

"He was a big brother and also kind of like a father figure because that age difference is so wide," says Maurice, 15 years younger than Amos. "To me, he's my brother. To everybody else, he's Amos Zereoue."

While Amos began his freshman season with a Backyard Brawl blowout, Maurice's path to becoming a Mountaineer presented more obstacles.

Coming out of Hempstead High School in Long Island, N.Y., Maurice was taking visits and planning his future in college football before it became apparent that his academics would hold him out of pursuing the game that had given his family so much.

He put his dreams on hold, enrolling at Potomac State College in Keyser, W.Va., keeping his sights on the school that welcomed his brother all those years ago.

His focus was purely on education over the past two years as he became the student he should have been in high school. He obtained his associate's degree, but never set foot on the field in any sort of organized drills. Maurice was keeping himself ready for a return to football with no one's help but his own.

"I was definitely doing other things like I'd try to do little routes, but it's nothing like actually being on a field, competing against another player," Maurice says. "You can do a lot of stuff on the field in your free time, but you need that team camaraderie to get you going."

Back on track academically, Maurice had his choice of any number of schools to make an attempt at righting the wrongs that forced him to take the junior college route.

"I could've walked on anywhere after that, but I decided West Virginia because it was just still so strong in our family blood that I just had to do it," he says.

"We never had a conversation about me wanting him to go to West Virginia," says big brother Amos. "It was always his decision where he was going to go. I was just there to let him know that if he was really interested in West Virginia, it wouldn't be a bad thing for him to go down there."

His path was set, now he had to show that he belonged, and it began with an introduction to another former Mountaineer running back.

Quincy Wilson, who now serves as WVU's assistant director of football operations, first joined the team in 1999. Had Amos stuck around for his senior season, he would have been on the field to mentor a young Wilson. Instead, he did it from afar, helping out the next generation of Mountaineers while he began his professional career with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"I was a big Amos Zereoue fan. He was one of the reasons why I used to love coming down for games," says Wilson, a Weirton native. "He left before I got here, but it was one of those things where he's always checked in on me, I've always checked in on him and now that his brother's here, I'm kind of returning the favor."

Wilson first met Maurice over the summer. Maurice inquired about the process of trying to join the team as a walk-on and Wilson provided him with the information he would need.

So, during the first week of school, Maurice showed up to the football facilities and showed out for the coaching staff, enough so that his name was added to a list posted on the front door to the Milan Puskar Center.

He had made the team, a step one of sorts in the goals that he had set for himself during his time at Potomac State.

"It was like the first day, you're so jittery, you just want to make cuts, cuts, cuts," Maurice says now. "But little by little, I started getting back into and I got used to the tempo of it. That's what it was, just shaking off that rust a little bit."

Each day, he worked hard on the scout team to prepare the West Virginia defense for whatever opponent it would face that weekend.

He studied the film, he learned the tendencies and then he went out and did his best impression of what he had seen to duplicate the athletes who were game planning for WVU.

Junior linebacker Doug Rigg faces Maurice everyday in practice. He is one of the beneficiaries of the looks the scout team provides and he says the attitude he sees from the young rusher is what makes him a strong player.

"He runs hard all the time. Even in the walk-through, we're walking through stuff and the guy's running and you have to tell him to calm down," Rigg says with a laugh. "His work ethic is ridiculous. I see him in the weight room before I lift and he's counting out people's reps. Every time he runs a rep in practice, it's always hard. He never just slows up, he just keeps going."

Josh Jenkins, a West Virginia native, admits his memories of Amos growing up are not so vivid, but just by watching Maurice on the field, he can tell that he shares some of the qualities that led to his brother rushing for over 4,000 yards in his career.

"I enjoy seeing him out there and I think he's going to do well here in the future," says Jenkins.

This past week, Maurice was rewarded for his play in practice as the scout team player of the week. Along with the honor, he was allowed to join the rest of the game day roster at the team hotel the night before WVU took on Maryland. Saturday was his first time in a Mountaineer uniform.

"That's one of the, I wouldn't say perks or anything like that, but if you get scout team player of the week, you get to travel with the team," says Maurice. "So every week, you want to get that. Eventually, that will grow into something else."

Head coach Dana Holgorsen said this week that until just recently, he did not know anything about Maurice. His play in practice put a name to the scout team player and now his photo hangs in the hallway, showing his worth in preparing the Mountaineers.

Maurice says after what he has been through, he stresses the importance of academics not only to himself, but to his teammates around him. He continues to speak with Amos each step of the way, soaking up all of the little things that made his brother successful.

"I just play my role as an older brother," says Amos. "I try to get him on the right path and let him know the intricacies of what it takes to get to this level. I've always been behind him to guide him to make sure he's doing what he's supposed to do as far as off the field, on the field."

To guide him, yes, but never to stand in his way. Maurice has his own goals and his own desire to achieve them and while some will inevitably compare him to Amos, he knows they are two different people and he knows right now, his brother is his biggest fan.

"You want to be yourself. Nobody wants to be somebody else or be under somebody else's shadow," says Maurice. "I have my own shoes, he has his shoes, but it's still love because that's what he wants me to do. He doesn't want me to be underneath him, he wants me to set my own ways and set my own path."

Now that he has succeeded in making it to college football and becoming a Mountaineer, Maurice has new dreams.

"My dream right now is for this team to beat Baylor next week," he says. "That's what it is right now."

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