McKivitz Soaking It All In
By SETH STASKEY
MORGANTOWN — Colton McKivitz admits there are times when he has to snap himself back into reality.
Who could blame him though for getting caught up in the moment at times?
After all, McKivitz is embarking on his third season as a starting offensive lineman at West Virginia, is on track to graduate with a degree in the spring and hears his name bandied about as a possible future NFL Draft pick.
“Sometimes it’s OK to reflect on how far you’ve come, but eventually you have to pinch yourself and focus again on what is still ahead,” McKivitz said during an interview before training camp opened earlier this month.
Let’s be honest. McKivitz wasn’t the most sought-after recruit the Ohio Valley has produced in recent years. Until WVU came calling, basically he had a list of offers from the Mid-American Conference and had actually committed to Miami of Ohio.
“I’ve actually thought about what might have been had I gone to Miami,” McKivitz said. “I think I’ve surprised some people. I’ve even surprised myself, honestly. Like Coach (Dana) Holgorsen always says, I ‘was a long-haired basketball player’ when I came here.”
He’s much more than that right now. McKivitz was thrusted into the starting lineup as a redshirt freshmen and simply hasn’t looked back since.
“Getting thrown into the starting lineup so early made mature faster,” McKivitz said. “Getting yelled at by the strength staff and seniors helped. It definitely provided a huge stepping stone in my football career because of the baptism by fire. You go from thinking, ‘well, I hopefully will get a few snaps’ to playing a whole game and then the whole season.”
One of the most interesting things to keep in mind about McKivitz is that he wasn’t groomed to be a major college football player his entire life like so many guys that are playing at the Power 5 level.
McKivitz played only three seasons at Union Local. He spent his freshman season at East Richland Christian, playing six-man tackle and some flag football.
“I didn’t even realize what 11-man football was really all about until I got to Union Local,” McKivitz said with a laugh. “Coming from a small school and the Ohio Valley, I didn’t know how football at this level worked. But, it’s awesome when you look back on it and think about the road you take and where it can lead.”
When he arrived in Morristown, he met then head coach Bruce Stiles and offensive line coach Brian Shappa, who didn’t need long to point out the potential that McKivitz owned.
“The first thing Coach Shappa said to me was that I had the body to play Division I football,” McKivitz said. “I really took that to heart and made it my goal. I was able to stay the course and stay on path. I’ve done whatever any coach has asked of me and never questioned anything.”
McKivitz is now entrenched on the line for the Mountaineers, earning mention on several preseason and postseason accolades already for a team that was picked second in the Big 12 during media days in July. Some national rankings had WVU as high as 10th.
“I think we have a team that can be really good,” McKivitz said. “We’ve set the same goals as everyone else. We want to win the Big 12, qualify for a New Year’s Six Bowl and the College Football Playoff. We’re (excited) to see what this team is made of because the maturity level is there for us to be able to play every game as hard as we can.”
The Mountaineers boast a legitimate candidate for the Heisman Trophy in quarterback Will Grier and a returning finalist for the Bilitnikoff Award in David Sills. Throw in Gary Jennings at receiver along with fellow lineman Yodny Cajuste, who is listed among the names to watch for the Outland Trophy and the Mountaineers have the foundation for an impressive offense.
“We have the looks of a very talented offensive team, but with that comes responsibility,” McKivitz said. “Everyone understands their roles on this team and we’ve a great chemistry. I’d say it’s the best it’s been and that definitely helps.”
McKivitz, who is listed as the 18th best NFL Draft eligible tackle by Phil Steele, is not only talented, which is proven by the fact that he led the Mountaineers with 14 “domination blocks” and was second on the team with 10 “knockdown blocks., but he’s also durable. He led the Mountaineers with 986 plays, including 921 on offense.
As for the future, McKivitz, who was named preseason, second team All-Big 12, could have options at the end of the season. He could return to WVU and play his final year of eligibility, declare for the draft or even possibly look at taking advantage of the NCAA’s graduate transfer rule, which would allow him to complete his eligibility at another school, while beginning to work on his master’s.
“I am just enjoying the moment and focusing on the season,” McKivitz said. “I guess (decisions) about what you should do or the possibilities of next year are always in the back of your mind, but my focus is on this season and doing what I can to help this team accomplish its goals.”
McKivitz is one of several former Ohio Valley players on the Mountaineers’ roster. Joining him on the offensive line is Meadowbrook grad Josh Sills, who is expected to start at guard.
St. Clairsville graduate Brendan Ferns is continuing to work his way back after sustaining a second knee injury. Earlier in camp, Holgorsen announced that Ferns may return by the November portion of the schedule. Also in the offensive line room is Martins Ferry graduate Emilio Appolloni, who transferred from Purdue.
“It’s kind of cool to have so many guys from the Ohio Valley,” McKivitz said. “A lot of people talk smack on the OVAC for whatever reason, but a lot of good athletes come from there.”