MORGANTOWN — The journey to Nick Malone’s first collegiate begin had loads of twists and turns.
From committing to his favourite crew’s largest rival to strolling on and incomes a scholarship at WVU, the Morgantown native went by means of lots earlier than making the primary begin of his faculty profession at Houston final week.
Malone has been a Mountaineer fan from beginning. He thinks he mainly grew up in Milan Puskar Stadium.
“In all probability as quickly as I used to be born, the subsequent week I used to be (at a WVU recreation),” Malone stated Monday. “So far as I can keep in mind, the final time I used to be within the Blue Lot was my senior 12 months (of highschool). After that, I’ve been taking part in, however I’ve been coming to video games each weekend.”
Rising up rooting for the Mountaineers, Malone developed right into a three-star prospect at Morgantown Excessive, however a scholarship supply to affix his hometown crew by no means got here from former WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen.
As a substitute, Malone was provided by Pitt and dedicated to the Panthers previous to his senior 12 months of highschool. He decommitted from Pitt following a training change and began speaking to new WVU head coach Neal Brown, who changed Holgorsen that offseason.
He finally joined WVU as a most popular walk-on.
“I didn’t get the supply, however I needed to return in and work,” Malone stated. “I believed a proposal may come down the street, however my purpose was to play.”
Malone redshirted and didn’t play in 2019, however nonetheless acquired to expertise being on the sphere at Milan Puskar Stadium, the place he had watched so many video games earlier than.
“The very first time working out on the sphere was some of the loopy instances of my life,” he stated. Going from sitting (within the stands) to working out.”
Following the 2020 COVID season, Malone appeared in all 13 video games in 2021. Coming in undersized at 260 kilos, Malone stated he did every thing the coaches requested and continued to get greater and stronger. Together with his elevated measurement and energy, Malone stated he actually began to imagine he may play at this degree.
“You get greater, you’re feeling greater and it clicks in your head,” he stated. “The very first play while you seize someone, .”
As he continued to work arduous and develop, a particular second got here for Malone within the 2022 Gold-Blue Spring Sport. Malone was named the Tommy Nickolich Award winner because the crew’s prime walk-on and his lifelong teammate, fellow Morgantown native Preston Fox, was placed on scholarship.
“I grew up with him taking part in Little League, taking part in at Evansdale to Sunjcrest Center College to Morgantown Excessive to now,” Malone stated. “It’s loopy to play with him. When you concentrate on going from Little League to now, it’s loopy to consider.”
Malone once more appeared in each recreation in the course of the 2022 season, totally on particular groups, and was lastly awarded the scholarship he had needed for therefore lengthy previous to the crew’s Thanksgiving recreation towards Oklahoma State.
“It’s only a nice story,” Malone stated. “Being from right here, working arduous, working my manner up. My story type of proves that when you maintain working, you’ll get to the highest finally.”
Now a redshirt junior, Malone entered this season because the crew’s prime backup at offensive deal with and when starter Wyatt Milum was dominated out previous to Thursday’s recreation at Houston, he was set to make the primary begin of his profession.
“It was a surreal second,” Malone stated. “Getting my first profession begin at deal with was one thing I’ve been working in direction of this entire 12 months and the previous few years.”
Malone performed nicely in his first profession begin, grading out because the Mountaineers’ prime lineman within the recreation.
“He’s made great strides since he’s been right here,” offensive coordinator Chad Scott stated. “He’s completed a fantastic job of getting ready. He stepped proper in as a result of he practices that manner, he practices as if he’s the starter. I’m pleased with the best way he’s come alongside and developed. He did some actually good things final week.”
Milum is on observe to return this week towards Oklahoma State, so Malone could discover himself out of the beginning lineup as soon as once more, however the story of his first profession starter will undoubtedly be a story he tells for the remainder of his life. Though, he may pass over how the entire thing ended.
“We will skip that half,” he stated with a smile. “These final 30 seconds have been among the most emotional 30 seconds, however stuff occurs and also you’ve acquired to maintain going.”