When you’re far away from Morgantown, and you see a Flying WV, we bet you get a sentimental feeling.
That’s what being a Mountaineer is all about.
Whether it’s in the airport during a layover or overseas on the sidewalk of a busy street, Mountaineer Nation is a proud, proud group.
West Virginia University will make its way to Big 12 Conference territory for the first time ever on Saturday when the Mountaineers take on Texas.
Amongst all that Longhorn burnt orange, you’ll see some gold and blue, too. That’s because WVU fans are everywhere.
Eight of the biggest Mountaineer fans are currently in the running to be named the “Ultimate Mountaineer Fan” later this week. They all have different stories, but they have one similarity. They love WVU.
“Our passion for our school and our teams are second to none. West Virginia is not a big state. For the school to be on the cutting edge of research, academics and philanthropy while fielding a host of competitive teams, it is nothing short of miraculous,” said Patrick Daley, one of the finalists. “Passion drives us to reach a little deeper, to yell a bit louder – and to share with them a little bit of ‘Almost Heaven.’”
Dillon Tucker, another finalist, said: “I love this state and support every inch of West Virginia University and would never live my life another way. I want people to see me as that guy that goes to every game, that camps out for all the big sporting events, that is the biggest fan of Mountaineer Country.”
Jeremy Hatcher, a 2007 undergraduate and 2008 graduate alumnus, was the leader of the Mountaineer Maniacs in his time at school. He’s been a fan ever since he can remember. He said being a Mountaineer means “going against all odds, with your back against the wall and not only surviving but winning.”
Each game day, Hatcher wears the same socks washed of course and gets so nervous he can barely eat.
“Since I was a kid, I had dreamed of the day I would become a WVU student. I used to come to tours with our local 4-H group to football and basketball days and would come with my father to a few games each year,” Hatcher said. “I have been in love with Morgantown and WVU ever since.”
Miguel Sanchez graduated from WVU in 2000 with an undergraduate degree and secured a master’s degree two years later. He met his wife while in school, as well. He has worn the same “game day” shirt for 14 years and the same rubber wristbands since 2005. Sanchez makes sure to be in his seat by the time the Pride of West Virginia heads out of the tunnels.
“Our fans show great passion and pride. We travel in masses to games, and we are always cheering whether it’s a good time or a bad time,” Sanchez said. “Mountaineers will always be loud and proud for the University.”
Daley has been to more than 150 WVU football games and is known for his dancing on game day, he says. He was the first in his family to graduate from college; he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1996 and master’s degree two years later. Daley was a member of the Pride of West Virginia while at WVU.
“WVU represents everything that is good about the state and its people. The people are hardworking, loyal, caring, down to earth and a great time,” he said. “West Virginia is a beautiful state with much to offer those who are willing to chase down their dreams and goals. There is opportunity for West Virginians, and WVU is committed to helping the people grab hold of those opportunities.”
Josh Eppinger was the first person to camp out for ESPN College GameDay last year for the LSU football game. He put up his tent on Wednesday night nearly three days before the game. He said he got just 10 minutes of sleep over the time due to excitement.
He is a sophomore pre-occupational therapy student at WVU and says one of his favorite things to do as a Mountaineer fan is change the perception others have of the state.
“West Virginia doesn’t have any professional sports teams, so a majority of the people in the state proudly support WVU in athletics,” he said. “There is nothing like seeing a parking lot filled with nothing but individuals wearing ‘Old Gold and Blue’ on game days and seeing how a WVU win not only pulls the community closer but a state closer, as well.”
Tucker is a junior finance major at WVU from Winfield. He is a member of the Mountaineer Maniacs leadership board. Prior to games, he listens to the same music and wears the same jersey and outfit, as well.
“I was born and raised the biggest Mountaineer fan alive and love to spread my love for the Mountaineers,” he said. “I will continue to support and find anyway possible to support WVU and recruit as many people as possible to come to all the games for every sporting event.”
He didn’t miss a WVU football game for the first 10 years of his life, and now at the University he prides himself in attending many of the Olympic sporting events, as well.
Betsy Copen has been attending WVU games since the 1970s and has had season tickets for the past 22 years. She didn’t attend college, but did grow up in West Virginia.
“Growing up in West Virginia, there was never really a question of being a fan of anything else. Listening to Jack Fleming on the radio was how our family spent Saturday afternoons during football season and many nights during basketball season,” she said. “I am proud of WVU and our state.”
Her two children attended WVU and daughter-in-law and son-in-law also graduated from the University. Copen has three grandchildren who went to WVU, too.
James Layton has been to every home football game since 1987 and is a season ticket holder in football and basketball. He and his wife are 1986 WVU graduates.
He said his favorite memory as a WVU fan was the 2005 Sugar Bowl win over Georgia.
“I can remember hugging my wife with tears in our eyes at the end of that game. I will never forget that moment,” he said. “WVU had truly arrived as a major program.”
Stan Gould, who currently leads the Ultimate Mountaineer Fan voting, grew up in a mountain home of Valley Head, so he was born and raised a West Virginian. Despite dealing with cerebral palsy from birth, he continues to root for the Mountaineers.
He has a special game-watching spot at the Elkins Rehabilitation and Care Center where he lives and said his favorite WVU moment dates back to 1988 when legendary quarterback Major Harris executed “the run” versus Penn State.
“The term Mountaineer means a lot to our state and the pride of our citizens from all walks of life, including our loggers, farmers, educators, health-care workers, coal miners and working people,” he said. “Mountaineers, like the original people who settled this rugged land, are strong, proud, and innovative.”
These WVU fans prove many things, but one that truly transcends time; no matter how many changes to college athletics, Mountaineer fans will always be there cheering on the University’s teams.
When “Country Roads” plays at the end of games, these are the fans who are proudly swaying back and forth, arm-in-arm, with their friends next to them. They are what Mountaineer Nation is all about and why we are so proud of it.
To vote for your favorite Ultimate Mountaineer Fan, visit http://www.facebook.com/wvumountaineers/app_403112026415880.
The Ultimate Mountaineer Fan competition is part of Mountaineer Nation Day, which is a day for Mountaineer fans to show their pride and passion for WVU for the West Virginia football team’s first Big 12 road game vs. Texas. To learn more about Mountaineer Nation Day and to register a watch party for the game, go to http://mountaineernationday.wvu.edu/.
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