Napoleon follows father’s footsteps to West Virginia
Published: Wednesday, February 1, 2012
Updated: Thursday, February 2, 2012 02:02
Brandon Napoleon always wanted to be like his dad Eugene.
Growing up, he got to hear stories from his grandmother about his dad's playing days as a running back with the West Virginia football team in the late '80s – and that's when he knew what he was going to do.
When Brandon signed his National Letter of Intent Wednesday and officially became a member of next year's Mountaineer team, it was one of the best days of his life.
"This was definitely a bonding moment for us. To make this decision on my terms, with him standing by my side through everything was great," Brandon said. "I'll be getting to play college ball at the same place he got to play, and it goes to show that hard work can really pay off.
"It was great to have my mom and dad right there next to me the whole time. It got a little emotional at times."
But when they look back on this time, they won't just get to say that playing in a WVU uniform was the only thing they shared.
Much like the situation Brandon went through in the last few weeks, when David Lockwood left with two other defensive coaches for Arizona, Eugene had to deal with the coach who recruited him leaving before he went to play his freshman season at Pittsburgh before transferring to WVU for his last three years.
Oftentimes, a situation like that could cause a player to change his mind and follow the coach to his new school, but that wasn't going to be the case for Brandon.
"I didn't commit to the school just because of the coaches. I want to go there because of the school and how good the program is," he said. "Everybody has to do what they have to do. I was lucky that I knew all along what I wanted to do and I knew, in the end, West Virginia is the place I want to play."
The news of Lockwood's
departure wasn't just disappointing for Brandon but his father as well.
The elder Napoleon and Lockwood played together for two seasons at WVU.
"You're talking about a 30-year relationship," Eugene said. "I don't begrudge anybody for doing what they need to do to better the situation for them and their family though."
And when that situation came about, and Brandon could have chosen to follow the coaches west to Arizona, the Napoleon family sat down and had a talk.
"I believe commitment means what it means for a reason," Eugene said. "That's something that we've always tried to instill in Brandon.
"If he tells somebody he's going to do something, he's going to do it."
Regardless of whether or not the coaches stayed in Morgantown, Brandon's mind was already made up. He wasn't planning on going anywhere.
"Throughout this whole process, (my dad) always told me to just go with my heart," he said. "He never wanted me to choose WVU just because he went there; he never pressured me. He always just wanted me to do my own thing.
"Whenever I've been to West Virginia, I've just always felt like I was at home."