Parenting, Coaching, Cross Paths For WVU’s Wickline
The hardest job, the most demanding job, the most rewarding job in the world is to be a parent.
Anyone who has had a child understands that.
They’ve put everything they have within them trying to shape them into the best person they can, enjoying the high moments and accomplishments, suffering through the low moments when they made a mistake, to trying to guide them through the troubled waters.
Books have been written on parenting, so complicated is the subject, yet it is something most people share.
But sometimes there is a twist that comes with it, an athletic twist, for there often comes the time when the parent becomes the coach, tossing a whole different set of circumstances into the relationship.
It’s common in the lower levels of competition and is even something that often happens on the high school level, but there isn’t much of it that goes on at the highest levels, be it professional or Division 1 college football.
Yet here at West Virginia we have just such a situation as veteran line coach Joe Wickline has among his group his son, Kelby, a 6-5, 295-pound redshirt sophomore offensive lineman who may have been born in Stillwater, Oklahoma, but has West Virginia running through his veins.
His grandfather played at both WVU and Marshall and his father is from West Virginia, even if he did play his college ball at Florida.
Certainly it’s a tricky proposition coaching your son at any level and, to be honest, it’s maybe almost as tricky to play for your father.
“You got two hats on,” Wickline the elder began. “You got your dad hat on and your coach hat on. You play both ends. It’s the best of all worlds here, he’s an older guy, he kind of gets it. If he were young and didn’t understand it may be different, but he gets the whole picture and that makes it easier for me.”
Indeed, but anyone who has seen an offensive line coach work team understands that they are hard driving types who seldom resemble the TV sitcom Dad’s of the ‘50s that showed in “Father Knows Best” or “Leave it to Beaver.”
Joe Wickline understands this.
“It’s hard for anyone to work under me, whether he’s my son or not,” he said. “I hope nobody likes me. I tell them if they get mad, you signed on for this. You knew what it would be like when you signed on. No surprises here, fellas.”
And so it is with Kelby Wickline.
“I lean on him hard,” Wickline said.
That, at least, is the football coach doing it.
“There’s times when you are on the field, inside the fence, in the facility, in the meeting room … and there are times you are off. You have to have a balance,” Wickline said.
Kelby Wickline got a late start as a football player, not taking up the game until his sophomore year in high school.
It wasn’t, though, to avoid coming under the scrutiny of his father.
Head coach Dana Holgorsen, who worked with Wickline one year at Oklahoma State, remembers Kelby as always having a baseball in his hands and being a pretty good baseball player.
“He was a good baseball player and he liked it,” Wickline admitted. “I would go watch him play but sit out in right field, as far away from the other parents as I could, pulling out a folding chair, eating sunflower seeds and watching him play.”
But soon it became evident that Kelby was going to be too big to play baseball.
“All of a sudden, he got bigger. He got to liking football, but it wouldn’t have mattered to me which path he took,” Wickline said.
Like any father, he just wanted to see his son was happy and successful.
He became a big-time high school player, giving up only one sack in his career, and got a scholarship at San Antonio State, where he redshirted.
That brought him to a turning point in his career. He could have come to WVU then, but opted instead for a year at Jones County Junior College.
“It was either come here and be on the scout team. He would have gotten better here but he wanted to improve at a junior college. I know the guy who coached him. He played for me,” Wickline said.
He trusted Steve Buckley to mold his son into a Division 1 player.
“He went down there and graduated. He played one semester. It gave him a lot of game reps, which he hadn’t had. I’m proud of him for that,” Wickline said. “He had a chance to go other places, so we had to recruit him. I’m glad we got him.”
But Wickline said had he decided to go elsewhere, that would have been all right.
“Just so long as it was best for Kelby Wickline,” he said. I’d of been proud of him. When it was all said and done, West Virginia is a hard place to turn down. Academically, he was set with the business curriculum, football-wise we had a big time need, what coach Holgorsen has done here, the strength staff, what these people stand for, West Virginia is what won over Kelby.”
Now he has work his way into playing time and show what he can do.
There is little doubt he will be able to help this year and in the future, but what does the distant future hold.
Will there be another coaching Wickline, this his father and grandfather before him?
“If he does coach, I hope he does a helluva lot better than I did,” Wickline said, laughing at his joke. “He will do in his life what’s best for him. If he takes up coaching, great. If not, whatever makes him happy will be great.”