Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

August 19, 2011

WVU’s Rowell earned his way

MORGANTOWN — There was a time when Shaq Rowell thought Division I football players were spoiled.

Now that’s he reached that summit with West Virginia, he’s changed his tune.

“I like it now, I earned my way up here,” said Rowell, a defensive lineman in his first season with the Mountaineers. “I don’t think they are spoiled at all, it is just the point of view of being at a junior college versus being here.

“These guys earned their way up here. I had to go to junior college in order for me to get where I am at. I don’t think these guys are spoiled, that was just my perspective while I was there.”

Who could blame him? Life wasn’t easy at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs.

“In junior college you could be hurting every day because there are pretty much no rules,” said the soft-spoken 6-foot-4, 308-pound junior. “We did two-a-days almost every day. It was two-a-days, lift weights, practice.

“It was pretty gruesome on your body, you have to mentally tough to get through junior college. It is you either want to do it or you don’t.”

He did.

A product of Maple Heights near Cleveland in Ohio, Rowell was part of a junior college program that produced 23 college signees last year, including 10 Division I prospects, including fellow defensive linemen Jared Ebert (Oregon) and Lenard Williams (Washington State).

All earned their scholarships under difficult circumstances meant to prepare them for the next level. All will need experience at the Division I level, and Rowell will be learning from current standouts Josh Taylor and Jorge Wright.

“The best thing I can say about those guys is they have a lot of experience and that is what I will have to get is experience,” Rowell said. “Josh just comes off the ball low every time and plays free, Jorge is the same way, he comes off the ball and he gets some hits.

“That is the thing I am working on is trying to how to get better every day.”

He did the same at Iowa Western, helping the Reivers to a 9-2 record in 2010, recording 32 tackles, eight tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble in 10 games. He helped Iowa Western to the national JUCO semifinals and a final ranking of 11th in the nation.

All that without the luxuries — or even necessities — of being a football player.

“To me, junior colleges makes you want to play football, either you want to play football or you don’t,” Rowell said. “In junior college, just a smaller thing like cleats and gloves.

“We had to provide for ourselves, they provide all that stuff to us here like cleats and gloves so we can just focus on football.”

Rowell knew that before arriving at West Virginia, and he’s certainly enjoying it.

“I was very appreciative of it, that stuff people take for granted,” Rowell said. “Before I got here I thought Division I guys were spoiled because of the things we had to go through in junior college.”

Rowell is expected to see playing time on the defensive line, especially inside where the Mountaineers lost current NFL campers Scooter Berry and Chris Neild.

Nose guard could be his eventual home, although he has been working some at defensive end.

“When I first got here I really didn’t know what the nose was about,” Rowell said. “As practice went on I learned that the nose has to control both ‘A’ gaps. Every day I am learning more about the nose and what we have to do to be more successful coming off the ball.

“If you don’t come off the ball at nose you are going to end up five yards down the field. Nose is probably the most important position on this defense.”

Few positions are more physical than playing over the center, but after what he experienced in junior college, it won’t bother him.

“You have to be mentally tough to play nose and that is what they are trying to teach me is to be more mentally tough, more than just physically,” said Rowell, who is adjusting to an 3-3-5 alignment, having never played before in anything other than a 4-3.

Unlike in junior college, Rowell is able to heal up from his pain and bruises with the help of a staff committed to player safety.  

“My time off every day, I usually go get treatment. I catch a nap every now and then, but I get a lot of treatment on my body,” Rowell said. “Even if I am not sore I just try to do what I can to prevent me from getting sore...

“We probably have one of the best training staffs in the country here and every day if you have got a nick or a pain — everybody is sore after practice —  they are able to heal you faster, while in JUCO you have limited resources there. Here we have got everything we need.”

That includes coaching. Rowell has enjoyed how structured practice is.

“Here everything is more up-tempo, but at the same time it is almost the same to me,” Rowell said. “At practice, the coaches are more on you here as far as technically wise, while in junior college you are pretty much playing off your own strength, just balling up.

“Here they coach you up and tell you exactly what they want you to do and how you have to execute the play. In junior college they might tell you a couple of things and the rest of it is just going on your own.”

While practice typically isn’t a favorite pastime of any football player, Rowell actually enjoys it compared to his days with the Reivers.

“The way coach (Dana) Holgorsen has us set up, he wants us to be fresh for the season versus doing two-a-days and just keep beating up our bodies and not just keep doing the same things over and over,” Rowell said. “It is almost like when you come out you want to practice because you are not really doing anything.

“You have two-a-day practices, but the morning practices are more of a walk through and the second practice we go out there and get after it.”

No wonder Rowell might feel a little spoiled himself now. He just won’t allow that to happen.

“It is not hard, you just keep yourself humble and you are really not spoiled,” Rowell said. “You just stay humble and appreciate everything you get and just keep it moving.”

—Contact Brian Woodson

at bwoodson@bdtonline.com

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