When good high school football players are being recruited to colleges, they can expect to hear recruiting pitches from all sorts of different places.
Certainly, from college coaches they talk to and also from fans on social media, but hearing a recruiting pitch from their middle school math teacher might come as a bit of a surprise. For one of the newest Mountaineers, however, that is what happened.
Ja’Quay Hubbard announced his transfer to West Virginia via Twitter on July 27 and officially joined the team about a month later. Hubbard was a four-star offensive line recruit coming out of Sharpsville High School in Sharpsville, Pennsylvania in 2018 and originally committed to Virginia. After just one season with the Cavaliers, however, Hubbard entered his name into the transfer portal and eventually landed with the Mountaineers.
WVU fans were happy to get Hubbard, a 6-foot-5, 335-pound tackle, but one fan in particular was very excited.
“I always tried to talk him into going to WVU so it’s kind of crazy that now he’s going there after all,” said Lance Nimmo, a math teacher at Sharpsville Area Middle School. “I haven’t spoke to him about what went into his decision to go there, I was just glad to see when I saw it on Facebook.”
Nimmo never actually had Hubbard in class, but would often pull him into his classroom to talk about WVU.
“I just told him how great of an experience it was there,” Nimmo said. “I just was trying to impress upon him how great of a time he would have there, the kind of support he would have there.”
When Nimmo told Hubbard about how much fun he would have and the great the support he would get from fans, he was talking from first-hand experience. Nimmo was a first-team All-Big East left tackle for the Mountaineers in 2002. He was a member of the Mountaineers from 1998-2002 and then was drafted in the fourth round of the of the 2003 NFL by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Nimmo said his five years in Morgantown were the best of his life.
“The football part was awesome, I’m still great friends with my teammates today,” Nimmo said. “The overall experience… was the best time of my life, there’s not even a close second. I like farming and I like being a family man and taking care of everything, but from a pure enjoyment, just having a great time standpoint, there’s nothing better than WVU.”
Nimmo said he pushed Hubbard to go to WVU because he was positive he could succeed there.
“I don’t think anybody’s going to be surprised, I know I’m not going to be surprised if he goes there and has a great time,” Nimmo said.
It was no sure thing that Hubbard would get the opportunity to be a Division-I player. Mercer County, where Sharpsville is located, does not produce very much elite football talent. Despite this, Nimmo said every one kind of assumed Hubbard could play at a big school, because of his size.
“He’s a monster, he’s always been a monster,” Nimmo said of Hubbard. “Ever since he was in middle school he was 6-3-plus. I think (going to a Division I school) was one of those things that people were kind of expecting…because they’ve never seen size like that before.”
The opportunity to play for head coach Neal Brown was another positive about going to WVU, according to Nimmo.
“I was excited to see him come as the head coach…of all the people I was hoping would come, he’s the one I was really hoping for,” Nimmo said.
Nimmo said he views Brown as an Urban Meyer-type coach in that he can transfer success at a smaller school into success at a larger one.
“All great coaches usually start out somewhere small and have signature wins or at least a number of wins that put them on the map to go on somewhere else,” Nimmo said. “(Brown) kind of reminded me of (Meyer) in that he had that kind of pedigree but just needed a launching pad, like when he was at Troy. I was hoping and thinking (Troy) would be like Urban Myer’s Utah…and West Virginia would then become like Neal Brown’s Florida.”
West Virginia is scheduled to open the 2020 season next Saturday at home against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels. Kickoff is scheduled for noon and the game will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1.