WHEELING - Growing up as a kid in New Martinsville, Larry Heck loved watching WWE.
Never did the Magnolia graduate think he would one day be working for the company.
''It was never a career path I thought I'd go down,'' Heck said. ''I wanted to play football. Then I realized I didn't have the size of a major college player, so I thought what else could I do? Then I decided athletic training was more for me.''
Athletic trainer and Magnolia graduate Larry Heck, pictured with professional wrestler Big Show, has traveled all over the world in his 12 years working with WWE.
After earning his diploma at Waynesburg University in 1992, Heck's career as an athletic trainer took him to Amsterdam where he had a two year stint as head trainer for the Admirals of the World League of American Football (now NFL Europe) and would eventually lead him to a gig in San Antonio with the International Hockey League's Dragons.
It was in San Antonio that Heck found himself in the right place at the right time.
''The WWS, as it was called at the time, was contracting people locally,'' Heck recalled.
The company soon found out about Heck and offered him to help out with one of its shows.
''Then they asked me to go to Austin, Texas and cover a couple more events for them,'' he said. ''Shortly after that, they offered me a full time job.''
That was 12 years ago.
Now, Heck has been all over the world with WWE from New York to China and everywhere in between.
''It might be easier to say where I haven't been.''
He's even spent time in Iraq helping put on events for U.S. soldiers.
''That was probably the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Those four days interacting with the troops ... it was quite special.''
Heck said he was enjoying himself so much he almost forgot there was a war going on.
''We were in Baghdad putting on a show in one of Saddam's palaces when a mortar hit about 100 yards from where we were. You don't realize that you're in a war zone until it happens.''
Although Heck has traveled everywhere -''I'll never forget golfing with the Undertaker in Australia ...'' - his heart still lies in The Friendly City.
''Wheeling still is one of my favorite places. Every time I go back to Wheeling, it's special.
''I'm still a small town guy. I haven't forgotten where my roots are. I'm just lucky I get to travel.''
Work does occasionally bring Heck back to the Northern Panhandle and in May he got the chance to give back to a man who to this day has made an impact on his life.
''Coach (Dave) Cisar instilled in me a work ethic that I still have today,'' the four-year Blue Eagle linebacker said. ''Cisar and (Magnolia Athletic Director) Brain Castilow really had an influence on my life.''
Cisar, an avid WWE fan, was ''like a kid in a candy shop'' according to Heck when he brought the veteran coach backstage after a show at WesBanco Arena.
But that, along with his first show with Vince McMahon and becoming friends with The Rock - ''I knew The Rock before he was The Rock'' - are just a few of the many memories that Heck has collected over the years.
''(WWE) is a fantastic company to work for,'' he said. ''My job is to treat injuries and get guys back in action, but with these guys, they all want to get out there as quick as possible, so it makes my job easy. There's no nagging injuries. Each one of my talent wants to be out there every night.
''I can't say enough about our super stars. Top notch from top to bottom. They're by far the best athletes I've ever worked with. Everyone is equal backstage. There's no primadonnas.''
Heck currently resides in Greensboro, N.C., but tires to get home ''every couple months'' to see his parents, who still live in New Martinsville, and, of course, to catch a Magnolia football game.