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Mountaineers in the Pros

Colton McKivitz’s Journey from Small Town Kid to NFL Hopeful

Cody Nespor

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INDIANAPOLIS – The only former Mountaineer at this year’s NFL Combine, Colton McKivitz is just trying to take the process of being an NFL prospect one experience at a time.

McKivitz does not stand out much among the crowd of NFL hopefuls, he wears no flashy jewelry, his hair is cut as short as can be. The most remarkable about him is his size at 6-foot-7, 312 lbs. but even that is somewhat unremarkable among the nation’s top college football players.

While his former Big 12 rivals like Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts, TCU’s Jalen Reagor and Baylor’s Denzel Mims have individual press conferences to speak with media members, McKivitz does not. He sits at a table with a little name card in front of him. Reporters can come up and talk to him if they want, but not all do.

For a small-town kid from Ohio, just being here is an experience in it of itself.

“I wasn’t even planning on playing college football,” McKivitz said. “For me it was, I went to two camps (in high school) and that’s how I got introduced to recruiting. It was how I learned football and it’s completely different than what you expect.”

McKivitz said he thought he would be a baseball pitcher growing up, not even playing organized football until he was a sophomore at Union Local High School.

“Football wasn’t (big in my life),” McKivitz said. “Originally I thought I was going to be a baseball player, I could throw heat. That’s what I thought was going to be it and then I got into football and it was a way for me to get a scholarship so I kind of turned and ran with it and now it’s turned into this.”

McKivitz grew up in Jacobsburg, Ohio and he now has a chance to be only the second person from the area to make it to the NFL. The other went to McKivitz’s rival high school, St. Clairsville but he was only in the league a couple of years and that was “a while ago.”

When he finally started playing football McKivitz said he was told to play offensive line just because he was the biggest kid in the school.

“I was by far the tallest kid in my high school so they were like, ‘hey, we need big guys’,” McKivitz said. “I was bigger than everyone so it was alright. I mean we didn’t have any great seasons, I think my best season was 4-6 so we were usually on the losing end of it.”

McKivitz said it was his offensive line coach that made him think he could eventually earn a scholarship through football.

“It was actually my first day, we had summer drills,” McKivitz said. “He kind of put in the back of our minds that ‘you’ve got the frame for it, if you get a scholarship then the college will put the diesel motor in it’. That was kind of the moment where I was like, ‘okay, I can make offensive line work’ and that’s who I was going to be.”

He was not heavily recruited out of high school but had a connection at West Virginia that made him a Mountaineer. After redshirting in 2015, McKivitz saw starting time almost immediately as a redshirt freshman. After an injury to one of WVU’s tackles, McKivitz was inserted into the starting lineup and never left it for the rest of his career. He finished this past season having started 47 consecutive games.

“I didn’t really expect to play that often early,” McKivitz said. “I thought I was going to get some reps here and there and then sophomore year was going to be the year that I took off. Unfortunately, we had an injury at left tackle and I got thrown in there. Where I really got good was probably end of my sophomore year into my junior year.”

McKivitz was named the Big 12 Co-Offensive Lineman of the Year following his junior season in 2018. He was generating some draft interest at the time but decided to return to WVU for his senior season, specifically to work on getting stronger.

“For me, I kind of knew I was coming back but you kind of flirt with the idea of maybe leaving,” McKivitz said. “In the long run I think I made the right decision by far.”

McKivitz excelled as a senior, being named to the All-Big 12 First Team and repeating as the Big 12 Co-Offensive Lineman of the Year.

Since leaving Morgantown, McKivitz said he has spent most of his time training in Arizona, really only leaving to participate in the Reese’s Senior Bowl in January.

When draft day finally comes around in April, McKivitz said he will spend the day with his family, or maybe fishing, anything to keep his mind off of it. Until then, McKivitz said he is trying to remember where it all started.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” McKivitz said. “You try and think back on how it all started and where you came from, but everything’s going so fast. The whole journey’s just been a blessing and everything been great so far…For me, it’s another step in the journey of getting to the ultimate goal.”

Alan Saunders Contributed Reporting from Indianapolis.

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Cody is currently a second-year graduate student at West Virginia University studying journalism. His graduate research focuses on the effects newspaper closures have on local communities. He graduated from Slippery Rock University in 2018 with a degree in digital media production. He was born and raised in Mercer, Pennsylvania.

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