Senior Day Spotlight: Departing players reminisce and bid farewell to Mountaineer Nation

West Virginia

Mountaineer football players wave to WVU Medicine Childrens before WVU’s clash with Kansas on Oct. 17, 2020. (Photo: Ben Queen, USA Today)

The senior class is the glue that held West Virginia football together during a unique season. A coaching change, a pandemic, upset victories, and disappointments. This 2020 class has been through it all during their time in Morgantown.

No matter the circumstance, this group stood tall in the face of adversity and led their team through a season filled with unknowns. Regardless of the production on the field, it is everything they have accomplished off the playing surface that has left a lasting impact on the program.

Some of the seniors have been with this team their entire four to five-year career, some have joined for a year or two. It doesn’t matter how long they’ve been in the Gold and Blue. To them, all that matters is giving back to a state and program that has meant so much to them during their time.

The 20 Mountaineer seniors didn’t get their Senior Day ceremony due to the cancellation of the regular-season finale. Get an inside look with a few of the players that have shaped this program for years to come with an exclusive Q and A.

  • Chase Behrndt, redshirt senior offensive lineman, Wildwood, MO

Q: How would you describe the 2020 senior class?

A: “I think we are a versatile group. We can go through a lot of adversity. We are very close, you can tell. I think we have a great group of guys. In a similar set of circumstances, this season could have unfolded the way it did if it wasn’t for this senior class. We took a lot of people along with us and instilled it others that we could get the job done if we do what the coaches said. We kept a lot of people on track and it really helped out team out.”

Q: How have you changed as a player and a person in this program?

A: “Overall mentality. Coming in, I didn’t really know what kind of career I was going to have or what my place was going to be. I think I came together as a person about two years into it and harnessed who I am today. I was just a little kid it seems when I got here.”

Q: Reflecting on your WVU career, what is the one memory that comes to mind first?

A: “Playing in the Tennessee game made me realize the kind of player that I am and that I have the ability to play at this level. Knowing a team like Tennessee and then getting to go out and play an entire game against them was an awesome experience. It gave me the confidence and playing ability to get my career where it is now.”

Q: What is your favorite game day tradition?

A: “I’d say it’s definitely the Man Trip going in to get taped. It’s one of those things where you give back and remember and go into focusing on the game.”’

Q: What has the support of Mountaineer Nation meant to you?

A: “I just feel welcomed everywhere I go. Here, you walk into a restaurant and people know who you are. You are on campus, people know who you are. It’s all positive energy, it’s all embraced by everyone. We love them back.”

Q: What advice would you give to the next generation of Mountaineer football?

A: “It’s a different lifestyle out here. It’s one of those things that definitely takes some getting used to, but it’s very easy to learn. If you get involved in extra stuff and get to know more people in the community, it’s one of those things where the community embraces every football player. You can find your spot. I know it best. I go home twice a year because I don’t care to leave. This place has been my home for five years. The more you stay here, the more you don’t want to leave.”

  • Mike Brown, redshirt senior offensive lineman, Compton, CA

Q: How would you describe the 2020 senior class?

A: Definitely elite. I don’t mean to sound super proud, but it’s definitely unique. Watching how the guys have handled it, I’ve learned from it. I think it is a new experience for all of us and we were learning from each other how to lead while at the same time leading. I think that was the biggest change and hardest part to do.

Q: How have you changed as a player and a person in this program?

A: “I am definitely more mature in my football mindset. I take the game more seriously than I ever have, which is a good thing. I also am a graduate, I have a bachelor’s degree and I was only able to achieve that through football and school. That’s another blessing that came my way, and the amount of friends and people I’ve been able to connect with since I’ve been a Mountaineer.”

Q: Reflecting on your WVU career, what is the one memory that comes to mind first?

A: “The first thing I can think of is how amazing the ride has been. I can’t believe I’ve done everything to get to this point, especially arriving here in Morgantown. The words I would says are rewarding and fun.”

Q: What is your favorite game day tradition?

A: “The hammer. I’ve never done it, but I love the intensity and adrenaline that comes when everyone is together and doing the hammer. That is the best part.”

Q: What has the support of Mountaineer Nation meant to you?

A: “I just want to say thank you. You guys are always hitting us up on Twitter and Instagram and giving us good notes. Sometimes we get in our feeling and put our stuff up there, and then you guys hit back with a ‘hey, I know we can’t be there with you but we are excited for what you guys did’. Those little messages help us out a lot. I want the people of Mountaineers Nation to know that. It really helps us when you say those kinds of things. It makes us happy. It really does.”

Q: What advice would you give to the next generation of Mountaineer football?

A: “First thing I would tell the new guys is always respect your elders. When you get here, it is going to be tough, you know. You are going to learn a new environment and learn a new culture. You are going to see things you never thought you would see, you are going to meet new players and learn how to cope with them because at the end of the day if you learn to love them they are going to respect you back. If they don’t, teach them. You could be the best example in the facility and you may not know it, but people see it. When times get tough, sit back, relax, and think about all the hard work you did to get here. It’s going to get rough, but if you fight through it and live through it, that’s what makes you a champion.”

  • Sean Mahone, redshirt senior safety, Liberty Township, OH

Q: How would you describe the 2020 senior class?

A: “Unique. In the situation that we are in, during this pandemic I feel like every body has grown a lot closer.”

Q: How have you changed as a player and a person in this program?

A: “I’ve grown so much. There’s been highs and lows and great experiences. From coming in as a freshman to now, so much has changed. For me, I’m more of a leader.”

Q: What is your favorite game day tradition?

A: “The fans saying ‘Let’s Go Mountaineers’ and singing Country Roads after the game. I just like the atmosphere.”

Q: What has the support of Mountaineer Nation meant to you?

A: “Beyond blessed. To be able to be a Mountaineer and have the cheering for us, it means a lot. Thank you for the support even in the bad times.”

  • Jeffery Pooler Jr., redshirt senior defensive lineman, Dayton, OH

Q: How would you describe the 2020 senior class?

A: “I would say we are fighters. Some of the guys you think of like me, Chase Behrndt, Sean Mahone, Jake Long, we were the original guys of this class. Then shortly after T.J. Simmons came along, he’s been here almost as long as us. You just how we adopted it from the guys before us. You could tell we were young and immature when we were freshman and sophomores. You can tell we grew up and how different we are now being in that senior role, captain role, leader role.”

Q: How have you changed as a player and a person in this program?

A: “Maturity. I grew up a lot from the first Jeff that arrived in Morgantown.”

Q: Reflecting on your WVU career, what is the one memory that comes to mind first?

A: “I had to grow into a real leadership role, especially on the offense. When David Sills V and them left, I had to grow into that guy on offense that leads not only the receivers but the whole offense in general.”

Q: What is your favorite game day tradition?

A: “Having fans in the stands. Just kidding. It’s just different playing at Milan Puskar. There’s not really a tradition that stands out, home games are just a different feeling.”

Q: What is your message to Mountaineer Nation?

A: “I was told coming out of high school, 1.8 million is behind you. You feel that. You know, we have bad games at times and I feel their frustration as well, but they are always there with us. We definitely love the support they give us and appreciate everything from Mountaineer Nation.”

Q: What advice would you give to the next generation of Mountaineer football?

A: “I don’t have a message, but I’m going to tell them go win the Big 12 Championship. It’s about that time now.”

  • T.J. Simmons, redshirt senior wide receiver, Birmingham, AL

Q: How have you changed as a player and a person in this program?

A: “I had to grow into a real leadership role, especially on the offense. When David Sills V and them left, I had to grow into that guy on offense that leads not only the receivers but the whole offense in general.”

Q: Reflecting on your WVU career, what is the one memory that comes to mind first?

A: “Singing Country Roads. Just all the fans staying after the games and being able to sing. It’s like you are singing with a choir of people and they are all cheering for you. That’s the most memorable for me. I cherish all those Country Roads moments.”

Q: What is your favorite game day tradition?

A: “Touching the coal was my favorite until we started doing the wave to the kids. I think that is a pretty cool tradition that we do. The kids love to see us. Now, they are on FaceTime so we are able to wave and say hello to them before the game.”

Q: What has the support of Mountaineer Nation meant to you?

A: “The fans were one of the reasons I came to West Virginia and it was beyond my expectations. The fans always embrace you. It’s all love. I have 1.8 million family members now that I’ve played at West Virginia.”

Q: What advice would you give to the next generation of Mountaineer football?

A: “Embrace everything and everybody. You might not be from anywhere like West Virginia, you may have never been in the mountains, never seen snow. Just embrace everything and everyone you come in contact with. The people will embrace you if you embrace them and the culture.”

  • Darius Stills, senior defensive lineman, Fairmont, WV

Q: How would you describe the 2020 senior class?

A: Very tough. It takes a lot. Being a senior in general, you are told to lead everybody. At the beginning of the year, we had the accountability teams and that was hard because it’s hard to lead somebody when you aren’t physically with them. I had to lead through zoom calls and sometimes people wouldn’t have the right connection or understand because it isn’t face to face. It was very challenging, but at the same time, we all got it done because we wanted to play. We all actually just want to do it. Some people feel like they have to and we actually want to. That’s how I would describe this class, tough.

Q: How have you changed as a player and a person in this program?

A: In West Virginia football, we preach accountability, discipline and all those things people need to go out into the real world because they know only a small percentage of people go to the NFL out of college. They know it’s more than football. Even for people that go to the NFL, football ends too eventually, so you have to be prepared for a lot of situations. That’s what they preach every day. Just being accountable. That’s helped me become a better man.”

Q: Reflecting on your WVU career, what is the one memory that comes to mind first?

A: “My first play as a freshman vs. TCU. It was more faster than I expected so I kind of like ‘oh okay okay’ and had to pick up speed. It was a good experience. That’s the first thing I remember.

Q: What is your favorite game day tradition?

A: “What I do is, as soon as we walk in, I get a thing of apples and a water. I sit in the hot tub and eat, then as soon I’m done drinking the water bottle I get out. I do that every home game.”

Q: What has the support of Mountaineer Nation meant to you?


A: “Without y’all pushing me and helping me out I wouldn’t be the same Darius I am today. Thank you for believing in me, even when I didn’t do much here. Y’all stayed the course the whole time and I appreciate y’all for that. I’m going to give back to West Virginia I promise you.”

Q: What advice would you give to the next generation of Mountaineer football?

A: “I would tell them we preach excellence here, nothing short of perfection every day. It will help you in the long run, not just with football, but being a man, family man, father, whatever role you may play. We preach family first and football second. We all have things that we play for. Just get ready to work hard.”

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