Lageman earns his spot at West Virginia
Published: Thursday, August 30, 2012
Updated: Thursday, August 30, 2012 23:08
"It was hard; I’m not going to lie about that," Lageman said. "There were times I really thought about hanging it up. It seemed like I was never going to see the light at the end of the tunnel."
But after those four years, the redshirt senior finally saw that light he had been waiting so long to reach. Near the end of spring practice in April, he received word from Director of Football Operations Alex Hammond that he would be on scholarship for his final season as a Mountaineer.
With the news, Lageman joined a long list of West Virginia football players who came into the program as walk-ons before earning a scholarship. And a lot of those players have been in-state players, including former WVU head coach Rich Rodriguez.
It just made Lageman believe the chance he took when he decided to turn down offers from Division II schools in the state and other walk-on invitations from schools like Marshall and Akron was the right one.
"Everybody told me that they thought I could do it before I decided to come here, but you never really know until you get here, because I had obviously never played at this level before," he said. "I figured I could at least get a couple years of training here, and then, if it didn’t work out, I could maybe go down somewhere else.
"Then once we got going and got into the mix of things, after I took all my bumps and my beatings, I was able to prove that I could do it."
Being a walk-on, the 6-foot-3, 273-pound senior had a lot more work ahead of him. He was never promised playing time like a lot of the players who came in boasting several offers from other major BCS schools. He could never let up.
But he listened to former defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich and other leaders on the defensive line like Scooter Berry and Chris Neild, and it made him better.
That has helped him become the leader he is now, as he is looked up to by the younger players.
"I can get a little mouthy with them here and there, and I’m sure some of them don’t always appreciate when I jump on them sometimes, but you have to be a little tough on them, because that’s how we were brought up with guys like Scooter and Neild," Lageman said.
"It’s only going to make them better in the end. It’s how we were taught, and it’s what I try to do with them because eventually we’re going to be gone, and they’re going to be the older guys who have to lead the young guys."
Lageman said Kirelawich, who left West Virginia after last season to join Rodriguez at Arizona, was the person who taught him almost everything he learned throughout his first four seasons at WVU. He admitted it was tough seeing him leave, but current defensive line coach Erik Slaughter has been able to pick up right where they left off.
"Everything I’ve learned as far as toughness and that old school mentality of really pounding on people has been from (Kirelawich). Being someone who really prides himself on being a tough player, having him here for those four years was great for me," Lageman said. "Coach Slaughter is a lot like Kirelav, though. He teaches a lot of those same principles, and I can use a great combination of what they’ve taught me to help me continue to improve as a player."
So, after all the hard work he had to put in to get where he is and everything he had to go through, would Lageman do anything differently?
He didn’t even have to hesitate before answering that question.
"I wouldn’t trade this journey for anything in the world. I’m really proud to represent this state as a walk-on who worked his way to getting a scholarship," Lageman said. "I don’t like to toot my own horn, but I’d love to be an inspiration to even just one person who sees what I’ve done and says, ‘Maybe I can do it, too.’
"It’s great to finally get to a point where I see my hard work pay off the way it has so far. Now I’m just
looking to do what I can to help the team out on the field."