Senior Day: Short Term Loss, Long Term Memories
MORGANTOWN, W.V. – In a perfect world — and that left us long ago — all college senior football players would win their Senior Day game, the final time they play on the home field before the home fans.
It’s a day of nostalgia, a day parents and relatives won’t miss. It’s a day of tears before the game, but it isn’t supposed to end in tears after.
Yet often it does and you live with it.
Before West Virginia’s Senior Day home finale was ruined by Oklahoma State, 20-13, on Saturday, senior tackle Colton McKivitz thought ahead to what it might be.
“There are always emotions with football, whether it’s good, bad or whatever, there are emotions,” McKivitz said. “Every game is special, but obviously this one is going to be a little more — just the meaning behind it of having five years here and how fast it has gone.
“It’s going to mean a little more, a little extra. I’m sure the parents will be a little more emotional than me during the game, but I’m sure after I’ll feel a little … I mean, it’s the last one.”
He wasn’t far off. As it ended, he looked back and was amazed at how it had gone, this thing they call a college football career.
In McKivitz’s case there were ups and downs, a twisting ride through the rapids of the game.
“I didn’t expect to play college football,” he admitted.
But West Virginia offered and he came on board and next week, when he plays his final game it will mark his 47th start.
There wasn’t as much success as he would have hoped, no championships, bowl frustrations, but overall he accomplished much that he set out to accomplish.
“My reason for coming back this year was to part of something and leaving West Virginia football better than when I found it,” he said.
He had a partner through it all, a defensive lineman who may have produced the most memorable moment of any through the five years they were here.
That was senior defensive end Reese Donahue, who a year ago got down on one knee at midfield following a game against Kansas and proposed to his girlfriend, now fiance, Sarah Moore, a former WVU gymnast.
That is a memory no one can take from him.
His second top memory isn’t even close but it’s still one he cherishes.
“Playing my first time here,” Donahue said. “[It was against] Mizzou in 2016 and running out onto the field for the first time to a sold-out house. That was a good one. Lots of memories on Mountaineer Field.
“A lot of people, fans at least, they see what happens on game day and the memories you make on game day, but a lot of the memories that surround aren’t really what happens on the field during those 60 minutes you play. It’s about the grind in the offseason with your brothers and your teammates. So I think the primary portion of my memories are going to be from that.”
That is what a team is about. It is a brotherhood that aches through torturous moments in the weight room, stressing runs up Law School Hill, big wins and tough losses. But it is more than that, too. It is a connection with the fans around you, the Man Walk into the stadium before games, visits to lift the spirits of sick children at WVU Children’s Hospital.
And before this one, some of the players said thank you to fans on social media and fans said thank you to players the same way.
Here’s a sampling:
“It’s not the Wins and Losses it’s the People and the Times. Thank you to @WVUfootball and @WestVirginiaU for taking in a skinny Japanese kid from Bay Village and accepting me as one of your own! You will always be my home away from home! West Virginia I love you.” — Long snapper Rex Sunahara.
”Thank you @Reese_Donahue46 for everything you’ve done for us on and off the field. You have been a great leader and a fantastic player. Mountaineer nation will miss you but the good thing is Once a Mountaineer Always a Mountaineer. God bless you.” — Terry Lyons
”Been following you since midget league. Been hiding in section 129 at MPS for 4 years watching you! Great job big guy. I’m proud of the guy you’ve become. A great mountaineer. A great person representing the state. Milton pride. “ — Charles Broce
And now the games at Milan Puskar Stadium are over. Life moves on and there will be many great moments in and out of football … but it as they look back the seniors will know that what they had at West Virginia will not be easy to recreate.