Whites Big Part Of Roster Rife With Family Ties
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The goal of any coach is to mold his football team into a family, which is part of the process that began Sunday as West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen welcomed his seventh team to begin practice for the 2017 season.
He doesn’t really have to spend much time explaining what he means by being a family, for WVU’s roster is rife with family ties … ties that may even expand in the near future.
Leading the way, of course, is the White family of Macungie, Penn., with starting wide receiver Ka’Raun and starting spur safety Kyzir each having the potential to earn spots on the All-Big 12 team, just as did the brother, Kevin, who proceeded them and went into the NFL as a first-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears.
But they are not alone with family ties, for this year the Mountaineers have a pair of cornerbacks in Jacquez and Jordan Adams from Reistertown, Md., and backup quarterback Chris and wide receiver brother Mitch Chugunov of Skillman, N.J.
Then there is freshman defensive lineman Darius Stills from Fairmont, son of the all-time great WVU linebacker Gary Stills, who went on to a long NFL career in Kansas City, and, they are hoping, his brother Dante Stills, who is deep into recruitment now and considered a top prospect.
Then, of course, there is a family connection that might rival any in the world of sports in brothers Maverick and Stone Wolfley out of Morgantown High, who come from a regal football family.
Father Dale was a starter at offensive line on the WVU 1988 undefeated team, uncle Craig played at Syracuse and played 10 years with the Pittsburgh Steelers while grandfather Ray Mansfield played at Washington and was an All-NFL player during his 13 years with the Steelers.
You can move on to Oliver Luck, who was the WVU quarterback when Don Nehlen came to town and went on to an NFL career and then one as a sports executive while son Andrew became has become a premier NFL quarterback.
And, of course, there were the Bulgers with Marc setting most of WVU’s passing records before Geno Smith came along and broke them, and sisters Meg and Katie being among the schools top women’s basketball players.
We don’t normally think about it, but natural talent that is inherited has given us any number of family ties in all of our sports.
Think about it for a moment.
Would you put the Mannings — Archie, Peyton and Eli — at the top of the list of sports families, certainly of quarterback families, but where then do the Williams sisters — Serena and Venus — fit?
And what of the Bonds — Bobby and Barry — and the Griffeys — Ken and Ken Jr.; or Reggie and Cheryl Miller or Muhammad and daughter Laila Ali.
If you have the Bonds and the Griffeys on the list as outfielders, then what do you do with the DiMaggios who put an entire outfield of brothers into the major leagues with Joe, Dom and Vince, and on ice you had six Sutter brothers play in the NHL and, of course, Bobby, Brett and Dennis Hull.
And for the trivia minded, it isn’t well known but Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color line and was among the greatest athletes ever, had an older brother Mack, who also has a footnote in the history of blacks in sports as he won the silver medal behind Jesse Owens during the 1936 Berlin Olympics in the 200 meters.
This fall in Morgantown, we will be focusing on the sons of Kevin and Tammy White — Kevin Jr. for his play with the Bears but of more immediacy around here brothers Kyzir and Ka’Raun.
One can only imagine what it was like as those three, plus younger sister, Kiyae, a 6-foot-1-inch forward who signed to play at Auburn, were competing with each other as they grew up.
Rest assured if you check in with all those other families who have raised successful athletes, as important as their natural ability is the competitive juices which pitted them one against one another and the family spirit that had them rooting for one another.
Even now, Kyzir admits that Kevin has a leg up on the other two because he’s been through what they are going through now and reached the top.
“Because he got drafted seventh, you have to give it to him, but I’m always going to say I’m better and Ka’Raun is going to say he’s better,” Kyzir White said.
Kyzir comes into this season with a chance to really make a mark in Tony Gibson’s defense. He was highly sought after coming from Lackawanna and the only thing that held him back last year was that he wasn’t completely comfortable in the new defense he was playing.
“This is a lot different than at Lackawanna,” he said. “Here I am in the box and guarding slots. At Lackawanna I was on the roof. At first it was weird, not hard. I wasn’t in my comfort zone.”
Now, though, he knows he belongs at spur, which is a key position in Gibson’s defense for he is up close and does a lot of blitzing and is expected to make big plays.
“I like being in the box. I like how we get after it. Coach Gibby likes to blitz a lot. I like going after the quarterback. At Lackawanna we didn’t do a lot of that.”
Looking back on Kevin’s career at WVU, he had an adjustment year, too. His first season at WVU, he caught 35 passes for 507 yards and five touchdowns then followed that up his senior year with 109 receptions for 1,447 yards and 10 TDs.
Ka’Raun, too, looks as though he will fit that mold. His first season at WVU, 2015, he caught 15 passes for 275 yards and no scores, followed that up last year with 48 catches for 583 yards and five scores and now just may be sitting on a big year.
This is especially true considering that WVU figures to throw the ball more this season with Will Grier at quarterback.