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MORGANTOWN — We are a star nation.

So much so that being a star is no longer enough. You have to be a superstar, whether it’s an athlete who excites us, an artist who entertains us, a politician who espouses the values ​​we believe in.

We, the media, feed this. Sports heroes, celebrities, politicians dominate the news not of the day but of every day. They do good, they do harm, we write about them, talk about them, publish them and discuss them, but they dominate our waking hours.

Yet there are far more gripping, far more entertaining, far more soul-satisfying stories.

We’re just not looking for it. Talking media, yes, but also the public.

In a career that dates back to bell bottoms; a psychedelic world where Dr Timothy Leary, Janis Joplin and a country divided over a war in a land far, far away known as Viet Nam, the lesson learned at home that the best stories are not in those who are at the top but in those trying to get there.

And, on Veterans Day, the point is brought home again, right here in Morgantown and West Virginia and in a football locker room at Puskar Stadium in Milan that involves one of our own, a player celebrating his time in the army.

It was a detour on his road to realizing his dream, an adventure he had to find himself in before he could find his way to achieving his lifelong goal of being a University of Virginia football player. -Western.

His name is Wil Schoonover and he is a former three-sport star from Moorefield High.

You won’t find his name on the depth chart published by WVU, but you will find his name on a locker in the locker room. Take a quick look and you might see him in the kick-off return team or on the sideline, signaling defensive calls.

On Veterans’ Week Tuesday, he told his story to the public, of a kid lost out of high school, marginalized in the U.S. military where he could grow and learn on his own, a constantly foiled child. in his attempts to live his dream, a kid who reached his home here, former WVU linebacker Reed Williams, who guided him through the maze until one day he could come down the tunnel and run on Mountaineer Field as a mountaineer.

“Speechless,” he said when asked to describe the moment. “It was a dream come true. I was starting to live out a childhood dream. I worked to get here.

In effect. He did.

At Moorefield, he was a running back and safety guard in football, a catcher and center back in baseball, a wrestler and he was good enough to get offers in all three sports.

He finally decided to accept an offer from Glenville.

Suddenly, it became an obstacle course as difficult to overcome as any other he could have countered in the army.

He was playing safety at fall camp, but learned he was having trouble with the NCAA clearinghouse.

“They said I had a red flag. I knew I had a problem, that I failed that class. They said I didn’t qualify in high school, so I couldn’t play that class. fall there.

Rather than sit still, he joined the army.

“I contacted several schools, but for me, I wanted to serve my country,” he explained. “I was all patriotic growing up, so I joined up. My mum wasn’t happy about that.

He was sent to Fort Benning for basic training and attended jump school.

“Then in September I went to Alaska and just before Christmas I was deployed to Afghanistan,” he said.

It’s not nearly heaven.

In June 2018, he returned home.

“I grew up really fast, especially when you have six or eight drill sergeants yelling at you,” Schoonover said of the military experience. “It was a great experience and the structure and organization of the US military made me the man I am today.

“It gave me a great perspective on life, how to lead people, how to treat people and just life in general.”

He has always enjoyed training, but in the military the goals are different than in sports like football.

“It’s long distance in the army. It’s how far can you go and how much can you carry, especially as a grunt. You carry a lot of basic stuff, radios, batteries,” he said.

He asked about carrying a 30-pound backpack and quickly offered a correction, putting it at 120 pounds.

“Here in football, what is a game last? About 8 seconds? There’s a lot of power in this world.

I tell people that we assess people here. We follow their sleep. There is a nutrition team. Players are properly hydrated, properly fed, monitored. Then they rate you.

“In the army, they take your food, your water, your sleep…. then they see what you are doing. That’s the big difference.

They put pressure on you because when you go to Afghanistan, you are under pressure every day. And that carries over to football in its own way.

These are not games.

“Here you lose a football game, everyone wakes up the next day, you get ready, you eat,” Schoonover said. “In the army, if someone dies, it’s serious. Kill someone and send them back across the ocean in a box. It’s awful. I hate to think about that.

“I had friends who died. I had friends who committed suicide after coming back after facing what had happened.

He went home and tried to play Glenville again but didn’t qualify nor was he qualified to go to WVU.

It was 2020, the year of COVID.

“I worked for the Region 7 workforce. I was a supervisor of the youth development group,” he said. “I had children from 14 to 24 years old. Some were good kids looking for a good work environment for their first time. Some weren’t as good, maybe didn’t go to school, had a bad home life, had drug problems.

“I have to teach these children professional skills. We would go to rivers, wildlife management areas and pick up trash. I would give them PowerPoint presentations on things like saving money, the difference between what you want and what you need.

“I’m really proud of that. They probably learned a lot from me, but I learned a lot from that and taught those kids their role model and their boss.

Throughout this time, he stayed in touch with his role model, Reed Williams.

“He was like a big brother to me, a mentor. ‘What are you going to do next?’ Mainly about education and that it’s just a stepping stone in my life and my journey to what’s next.

“I probably couldn’t have done it without him.”

Schoonover knew he had to move on with his life.

“I was a bit bored with my life. I was just working and looking forward to playing football and I couldn’t do it,” he said.

He was told by his Region 7 boss that he might be able to play baseball for Doug Little at Potomac State, so he called and joined the team.

He now thought he would be able to meet the requirements and continue at WVU, but was told he needed one more thing, science course credit, so he took biology and was ready to go to fall camp.

But permission didn’t come until the first day of class.

It took him a year to get back into football form, but it wasn’t much of a challenge with what lay ahead. It wasn’t football that was the real goal.

“It wasn’t that I was just trying to get back to playing football. It was football at WVU,” he said. “Growing up, I watched Reed Williams play. I wanted to play here. I wouldn’t play anywhere else except old gold and blue.

Now he is nearing the end of his career. He knows where he is going.

“This is my last season. I’ll be interning under Mike Joseph and then I’ll be working for the Department of

Defense at Fort Bragg or Fort Campbell training military personnel. It doesn’t matter what branch,” he said. “I want to give back. I love training. I love the science side of sports and the human body and how far can you take it.



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