WVU’s Al Pogue Brings Fun To The Field

West Virginia outside linebacker coach Al Pogue watches a drill

WVU’s Al Pogue Brings Fun To The Field


MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Sometimes, when his players are awaiting his arrival in the outside linebackers’ meeting room, assistant coach Al Pogue’s smile arrives a minute or two before he does.

It’s that big. It’s that infectious.

West Virginia safety Derrek Pitts (1) works in a practice drill with Mountaineer assistant coach Al Pogue.

If I didn’t know better, I’d say he invented Eat ‘N Park’s Smile cookies.

And his laugh! If that can’t brighten your day, nothing can.

The image of a football coach is of a man wed to his job, 24 hours a day, serious in his approach, trying to build a tough, physical team.

Pogue doesn’t adhere to that philosophy.

“This is something I was born with, man,” he explained on Thursday. “I was that kid the teacher used to say, ‘He’s a little hyper today, Ms. Pogue.’ My mom used to say it, my teachers used to say it, my wife says it, my kids say it.”

He doesn’t mind.

“It’s just me, man,” he said.

See, he has the nerve to believe you can work and have fun, too

So it is, you look in on practice and see him doing push-ups while receiver T.J. Simmons, a player who has his own hyperative tendencies, standing over him and giving it to him.

“See, what you guys didn’t see was the day before, I was talking trash to him,” Pogue said when it was brought up. “It was a big pay back.”

He is almost a player with a whistle.

At Troy they are still talking about the Scoreboard Karaoke session during practice.

This is how the Montgomery Advertiser reported it.

“Pogue’s chosen words came from Run-DMC’s ‘It’s Tricky’. After hearing it, well, the Trojans just wanted to run.

“We’re going to talk about that after we get back in the film room,” defensive back Marcus Jones said in (playful) disgust. “He’s going to have to do a little bit better. I’m going to coach him up a little. He needs to add some more swagger to his dance moves.”

“(Head coach Neal) Brown, while ruling out his own participation — gave a few pointers to Pogue, too.

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“He has to get a little louder, but the dance moves were a plus,” Brown said. “That was probably the hit of the routine. He knew the lyrics, and he’s been watching a lot of ‘American Idol.’ I think he has the performing skills. He needs to work on his pitch.”

“Pogue said he’s “willing to learn” from Jones, though he’s not sure his advanced age will allow him to do “the moves these young guys are doing.” As far as his voice, he wondered if the sound system might be to blame.

“When they showed me it was Run-DMC, I said, ‘I got this. That’s what I grew up on,’” Pogue said. ‘I wanted to do the entire song, but we would have been there all day.”

Pogue’s presence changes the whole atmosphere from what it is at a normal football camp.

“People don’t know this, but I used to be a teacher. I love working with kids,” he said. “(I was a) special-ed teacher, I love working with kids and just having the opportunity to get out there and be around the game and still have some involvement in it.

“I tell the kids all the time, they need to enjoy this journey, and it’s an honor for me to help connect them to the next point in whatever they’re doing. We are going to work hard, so why not have fun when you work hard? And if they see that in me, hopefully it will transfer to them.”

The proper word for Pogue’s style is “enthusiastic.”

“Enthusiasm is just that. We want to be a positive influence on the guys. We want the others to look over and say, ‘Man, they’re having fun, doing what they’re doing.’ Especially defensively, where we keep saying let’s have some fun and cause havoc.

“We had fun in our classroom. People say if you are having fun, you can’t be working. I disagree with that. I don’t know how made that rule. Why can’t you enjoy the work?” he concluded.

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