Know The Name: James Gmiter Making Mark After Position Change
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – He’s heard them all, so it didn’t bother him to learn that ABC butchered the pronunciation of his last name during the TV broadcast of West Virginia’s game with Texas this past week.
West Virginia offensive lineman James Gmiter (he pronounces it Guh-midder), has listened to various pronunciations of his name over the years. He even shares the story of defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, who saw a family split that resulted in two different phonetic usages of his surname.
“On the north side of Pittsburgh, they usually say ‘Guh-mighter’,” the Bethel Park, Pennsylvania native said. On the south side, where I’m from, it’s ‘Guh-midder’. It’s not a big deal, though.”
At least, not as big of a deal as it was to Koenning’s ancestors, two of which got into an argument so fierce that weapons were drawn and one changed the pronunciation of the last name, creating a split for future generations.
“Nothing like that,” Gmiter said with a laugh, who noted that it’s a common name in the Steel City. “There are so many that there are some relatives of mine I don’t know.”
Even though ABC eliminated the “G” from his name altogether in their attempt at pronouncing it, there’s been enough notice for his play for everyone to learn how to say his name correctly. After a high school career in which he played both offensive and defensive line, he got recruiting interest on both sides of the ball, but West Virginia, his eventual destination, wanted him for defense. He played there through his redshirt year of 2018 before making a flip to the offensive side – one that his coaches had in the works but that he saw coming.
“There had been some talk in the locker room about it, so I went to the coaches to ask about it and tell them I was for it,” said Gmiter, displaying a team-first attitude that is in short supply in some corners of the athletic world today. “Coach (Matt) Moore said they wanted to do it, so we made the move. I wasn’t worried about it. I was accepting the role. I just put my head down and kept working.”
So what made Gmiter willing to make the team-first decision in these days of skipping bowl games and disappearing into the transfer portal when immediate results aren’t forthcoming? Unsurprisingly, it was the influence of an old-school relative.
“That comes from my grandfather,” said Gmiter of his forebear who worked in steel mills and was also a police dispatcher. “He was all about doing what was best for the family and for the team.”
So Gmiter, who could not recall the opponent the last time he played an offensive snap, made the move. As might be expected, the learning curve was steep. However, he progressed from the position of depth chart afterthought in the spring to starter three games into his redshirt freshman season. That’s a huge achievement for any lineman, let alone one who practiced during his first year on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage.
“I was excited, but at the same time I was very nervous, since I hadn’t played offensive line live against another team since high school,” he said of his thoughts when he made the flip. “‘How am I going to do? How am I going to react?'”
Helping in that regard was the presence of Briason Mays, another redshirt freshman who moved into the center spot alongside Gmiter. Both have admitted to nerves in the days leading up to their first start.
“We talked about it Friday night at the hotel, how nervous we were,” Gmiter said with a laugh. “Friday night at the hotel it didn’t really hit us, but Saturday morning at the pre-game meal we both kind of looked at each other and said ‘Oh boy. Here it is.'”
And there it has been in the games since. There have certainly been some ups and downs, but Gmiter is getting invaluable game experience. Just think of where he and the other young offensive linemen will be with 10-15 starts under their belts in a couple of years. Then, they’ll look back on these days as the foundation of their playing careers.
“It has been harder mentally than physically,” the 6-foot-3, 300-pounder said. “You come over to the offensive line, and you have to understand who to go to, where to go to, and how to get to [blitzes]. Then they switch fronts, and you have to understand each front. That differs your block.”
While Gmiter’s improvement curve has been much more vertical than horizontal to date, by no means does he think he has arrived. His path to offensive line starter is one that any player should take pride in. However, he is a tough critic of his play, giving himself a barely passing grade to date. That, given his background, heritage and the influence of his grandfather, ins’t surprising.
“It would be like a 60 maybe less,” he said of the grade he would give himself. “There’s still a lot I have to learn. I have to perform better, and I have to live up to the standards of Josh Sills, Mike Brown, and all the other offensive linemen who have been through here. I have to understand a lot more and experience a lot more to be a higher graded player.”
It would not be wise to bet against him achieving that goal – and maybe then he’ll get the compliment of the sound of his name being pronounced correctly.