McKivitz Provides Feathers Or Anything Else WVU’s Offense Needs
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Who do the Mountaineer football players turn to when they need a particular piece of fish or fowl? It makes sense to start with the wildlife and fisheries resources major.
Last year to have a little fun, West Virginia receiver Gary Jennings started weaving a feather through the vents of his helmet before each practice and game. This year instead of picking up any old random feather he found on the field left behind by a stray pigeon, he sought out the help of an expert.
“Well, the story last year was during ball drills (in practice), a bird swooped down twice,” said Jennings in retelling the tale for the bazillionth time. “The first time it was like, ‘What was that?’ The second time, I just so happened to hit it. The bird got away safely, but some feathers were left behind. So I put a feather in my helmet, and I started doing that every day. The feathers for this year, I asked (junior offensive lineman) Colton McKivitz – he goes hunting a lot – so I asked him to pick me up some cool-looking feathers.”
An avid outdoorsman who hopes to make his hobby a career some day working in wildlife management, McKivitz was happy to oblige.
“That was from a turkey I shot this year,” said McKivitz when asked about the plumes he provided to Jennings. “He had asked if I could get him a couple feathers, so I looked around the yard and on a couple of mounts I have in my apartment.
“I gave him a bag of different feathers; I collect a lot of them. The turkey feathers are more colorful, so that’s why he chose them. He wears them, which is pretty sweet.
“He likes the turkey ones the best because they have some cool colors in them,” said McKivitz, who showed his outdoorsiness with a camo hat he brought with him into the team room. “It’s a cool thing to share with Gary.”
Fashion accessorization may be a full-time job for McKivitz in the future. For now, though, he’s concentrating on behind a college student-athlete. The athlete side is as West Virginia’s starting right offensive tackle.
The 6-foot-7, 300-pound junior emerged as a starter early in his redshirt freshman season and has pretty much been on the field every since. He’s started the past 22 games for WVU at right tackle, and is a fixture with the first team at that spot again this season. But despite playing over 1,500 snaps the past two years, he still says there’s plenty of room to get better, both for himself and West Virginia’s line as a whole.
“We are concentrating on our physicality,” said the Jacobsburg, Ohio, native. “The coaches, Spav’(Jake Spavital, WVU’s offensive coordinator) and (offensive line coach Joe) Wickline and everyone, talk about that physical presence up front. They want us to protect Will (Grier, West Virginia quarterback) and create running lanes. I think last year we did OK pass blocking, but you always want to improve. We want to protect (Grier), because we want him to be a Heisman candidate. And for that to happen, we have to do our job.”
McKivitz is one of four starting offensive linemen returning to this year’s squad, joined again by left tackle Yodny Cajuste, guard Josh Sills and center Matt Jones. Kelby Wickline and Isaiah Hardy are other returning linemen who lettered for West Virginia last year, and Jacob Buccigrossi, a sophomore who is finally healthy after two seasons of injuries, has the current edge Jones for the starting center spot. The Mountaineers have some others young linemen working their way through the ranks like Chase Behrndt, Tyler Thurmond and Zach Davis, but they also added in a pair of junior college players with the hope that each could help right away – Joe and Michael Brown, who are working as guards.
When talking about the Brown brothers, the first word out of everyone’s mouth is massive. Joe, who started his career at Miami (Fla.), is listed at 6-foot-4 and 369 pounds. His baby brother, Michael, is 6-foot-3 and 366 pounds.
“I hosted them when they came down for their official (visit), so I got to meet them and their family,” McKivitz recalled. “I got to see how much they eat. They’re definitely a different breed of big guy. It’s fun having them next to me and practicing with them.”
While the Browns most recently attended Eastern Arizona Community College, they grew up amidst the Los Angeles sprawl in Paramount, Calif. Meanwhile McKivitz was raised in a rural area of eastern Ohio, where it tokes almost a half hour to drive to the closest fast food joint. The backgrounds may be completely opposite, but they’re all Mountaineers now.
“We always joke about where each of us is from, but it’s all in fun,” noted McKivitz. “We’re developing a close bound. Like all of us, they’re working hard. They’re good guys, and we’re glad they’re here.”
Be it feathers, sealing down recruits or providing a steadying force at right tackle, McKivitz always seems to provide the Mountaineers with whatever they need.