Wellman Carries Flag for In-State Mountaineers - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Wellman Carries Flag for In-State Mountaineers

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Buffalo Creek native Elijah Wellman carries the West Virginia state flag onto the field for the season opener against Missouri. (PHOTO: Emily Coyle) Buffalo Creek native Elijah Wellman carries the West Virginia state flag onto the field for the season opener against Missouri. (PHOTO: Emily Coyle)
MORGANTOWN -

Dana Holgorsen doesn’t always have an easy time putting West Virginia natives on his roster, but when he gets them, he puts them to use.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Mountaineer football coach mentioned at Big 12 Media Days that on average, his team only signs zero to two student-athletes from the Mountain State each year. Others come via walk-on offers, but the scholarships are few and far between.

Then, on Wednesday, he was asked about the leaders on his roster and he again referenced those who are local, homegrown products, and how he incorporates them into team meetings to get the rest of the team’s attention.

All of those sayings in the back,” Holgorsen said, referencing a graphic on the wall of the team room, “the last one is a Mountaineer mentality, understanding what it means to be a Mountaineer. Understanding what it means to the state is important. It’s tough for guys to get that after one year or two years.”

WVU has built its roster with the help of transfers who can plug in and play right away, but the core will always be the four- and five-year players who grow in the program from their freshman year through graduation.

Elijah Wellman is one of those players. A fifth-year senior from Buffalo Creek in Wayne County, the fullback represents those zero to two players in his recruiting class. Now, in his final season with the Mountaineers, Holgorsen relies on him to step up as a leader not only in what the team does on the field, but in the way they conduct themselves based around West Virginia values.

Along those lines, Wellman became the first WVU football player from the state of West Virginia to make the trip to Big 12 Media Days in July.

You don’t really plan out what’s going to happen when you first get in West Virginia,” Wellman said in Frisco, Texas. “Just going with the flow and working your tail off and stuff comes like this and you take the opportunity and enjoy it.”

Why haven’t other players from West Virginia gotten the same opportunity to enjoy a five-year career at the state’s flagship university?

“There’s not a big amount of fast, super athletic guys in West Virginia. It’s more gritty guys that like to work and are hard-nosed guys,” Wellman said.

The 6-foot-1, 241-pound Spring Valley High graduate counts himself among those in his state who did not fly off the page as far as athleticism was concerned. That isn’t what defined the best players on his own team or those he lined up against under Friday night lights. Despite that, he found a way to stand out just enough to get Holgorsen’s attention.

“It’s just taking the opportunity and making the most of it,” Wellman said. “Not taking stuff for granted and going in there, getting your work done, trying to be the best you can be day in and day out. I think that’s something I haven’t taken for granted. I’m getting my school paid for and having the opportunity to play Division-I football. I’m going to give it my all, no matter what. I think there’s a lot of guys doing that and a lot that have been overlooked in the past that could be doing the same thing I have.”

Even for Wellman, the only West Virginia native in the 2013 signing class, it took a great deal of work to get the Mountaineers to notice what they had a few hours away in the Huntington area. WVU was the only Power 5 school to offer him a scholarship and many times he felt his biggest obstacle was that recruiters didn’t go looking for talent in his neck of the woods.

“I didn’t really have anybody getting my name out there through high school,” Wellman said. “It was me and my dad sitting there, you know? I made my own highlight tape, sent it out with our own money, mailing it out personally in envelopes and everything like that.”

Now, the Internet has made it easier for prospects to share their own tape through social media. If you are worth a look as a high school athlete, you can prove it without paying for postage or getting a coach to make a visit.

The WVU roster currently shows 38 players from West Virginia and Wellman expects that number to increase both for the Mountaineers and other programs around the country.

“We kind of started the process for a bunch of those younger kids who are now getting a lot of offers from all kinds of different places all over the country,” Wellman said. “I think it’s starting to change around a little bit in that aspect of not having talent. I think there’s a lot of talent in West Virginia and I think it’s just been overlooked for years and now it’s starting to come back around.”

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