From WVU to NFL, Mountaineers Reunite in Preseason - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

From WVU to NFL, Mountaineers Reunite in Preseason

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The Mountaineers hanging out after Monday Night Football.             PHOTO: Geoff Coyle The Mountaineers hanging out after Monday Night Football. PHOTO: Geoff Coyle
LANDOVER, Md. -

Time ran off of the clock at FedEx Field Monday night and the second preseason game was in the books for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Washington Redskins. Some players met at midfield and then quickly turned to jog into their respective locker room and head home for the night.

But six of them stayed behind.

Pat White and Chris Neild of the Redskins joined Pittsburgh's Will Johnson, Terence Garvin, J.D. Woods and Joe Madsen in a conversation that went well beyond the game that just ended.

This was the West Virginia University contingent that played on the field and they had catching up to do. They had stories to tell. They had this brief amount of time together and they didn't want to let it pass so quickly.

A team representative broke up the gathering by telling the WVU six not to be the last ones in the locker room. So they went their separate ways, forced apart when there couldn't have been enough time for former teammates to talk.

"I always like to say, ‘Once a Mountaineer, always a Mountaineer,'" said White, who made the phrase famous following the final game of his collegiate career. "I guess you can tell with guys from both teams coming together and spending time and not really wanting to walk off the field and leave each other. It's a special place that we enjoy and appreciate."

The words get thrown around quite a bit these days. They adorn the wall just inside West Virginia's football facility, attributed to the quarterback from Daphne, Alabama. To the players who actually went through the years in the program and know what it means to be a Mountaineer, they aren't just words.

"The whole West Virginia community, we're all like one big community, we all come from the same place," said Garvin. "It's all love to see each other out there. It's really encouraging, trying to push each other like go do what you've got to do."

Each one of these players is fighting for something. Johnson established himself as a starter with the Steelers last season as a rookie and Neild appears guaranteed a spot on the roster, but none approaches a preseason game as though it is just an exhibition. For most of them, it is a long job interview, and everyone in their same uniform has also submitted an application.

White played the fourth quarter and finished with 46 total yards, including two called runs that evoked memories of his college years, but he also threw an interception. Johnson left the game early after taking a hit that bruised his ribs. Neild got plenty of playing time, Garvin saw some action on defense, Woods got a look or two on special teams and Madsen didn't take a snap.

There is nothing guaranteed in this game that has afforded them so many opportunities in life to this point. This is the NFL. It's a different beast. The Mountaineers were there to encourage each other, even if they happened to be sporting different colors on this day.

"It's a great moment. It lets us know that it's in our reach and it's an opportunity," said Woods. "We all talked about that – all six of us – just talked about the opportunity and just taking advantage of the opportunity now."

Six WVU players in one NFL game is a significant step forward, regardless of whether it is preseason or not.

"It's good to see us out here trying to make a living and trying to excel into that next level," said Neild. "When you see it out there, I mean, like you said, there were six of us out there. Just seeing guys reminiscing on old times, that felt really good."

It wasn't long ago when NFL rosters were completely lacking of Mountaineers. Many of these six remember those days even as recently as when they were making plays in Morgantown.

"It means a lot to the program, to look around and see numerous guys across the league getting an opportunity to play," White said. "Definitely when I was there coming up, there weren't that many that I can think of. Just to look around and see us guys getting the opportunity, it's a blessing."

And they didn't want to walk off the field and see it end. 

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