Donahue Feels ‘Pride, Passion’ to Play for West Virginia
After growing up in West Virginia, sophomore defensive end Reese Donahue understands how important his role can be for the team and for the fans.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When Reese Donahue straps on his pads and slips his West Virginia gear on, he’s reminded of a passionate speech given by a former Mountaineer.
“I love this state,” the all-time great said with tears streaming down his face after the 2008 Fiesta Bowl. “I love that I got a chance to play here. And this is awesome. This is the way I pictured it. I asked the guys yesterday in our team meeting. I said, ‘Boys I ain’t leaving without that 1.3 million dollar trophy,’ and they promised me. I can’t thank these guys enough. After what happened, I’m just. … this is awesome.”
Those words came from the mouth of Owen Schmitt, who wasn’t even born in West Virginia but instantly became a member of the state the moment he donned a WVU jersey. He was a tremendous athlete — earning starting time at fullback after walking on — but he exhibited a passion for the school and the state like no other.
Growing up, Schmitt was Donahue’s favorite Mountaineer. Now, 10 years later the Ona, W.Va., native is getting the opportunity to be some 10-year-olds’ Owen Schmitt.
“I think one thing is, people who aren’t from the state don’t realize the effect they have throughout the state, so it’s special when you’re an in-state guy and get to represent your state,” Donahue said as camp came into full swing last week. “Some of the guys who aren’t from the area don’t understand the impact that they have not only with the fans but the kids. There are a lot of things you can do. They really look up to them.”
The 6-foot-4, 264-pound defensive end is entering his sophomore season at WVU and has secured a starting spot on the defensive line.
Last season Donahue got his feet wet by adding depth to the line. He saw action in 12 games and finished with 12 tackles, including six unassisted tackles.
And the first time he put on the Mountaineer jersey was a juncture Donahue won’t ever forget. His childhood dreams had come true.
“I don’t think my feet touched the turf the entire time until about the second quarter,” Donahue said. “I was floating the whole time. It was special. It’s special every time you take the field. It’s not just the first time, it’s every time, but I think it was extra special. I’ve watched games since I could remember, and I think the first time I actually got to wear that jersey and step on the field and really open my eyes. It was amazing.”
With the loss of three of last season’s starters, the time now belongs to the Cabell Midland High School alum.
“He’s doing well. (He’s a) very conscientious young man, works hard and has been real dialed in,” WVU defensive line coach Bruce Tall said. “I think he’s learning how to play with his balance better and being able to transfer his strength from the weight room to the field.”
While Donahue has worked hard in the weight room to become leaner, stronger and faster this season, he still needs to become more of a voice in the locker room.
“I feel like that personally I need to help develop a leadership role,” he said. “I feel like I’m working on it, but it’s not anywhere it needs to be because I see a lot of the guys around me leading a whole lot better than I am. So I would like to catch up to them eventually. If everything would work out the way that I hope it does, this will be my first year of playing a significant amount of snaps, and so I really need to make sure that I understand that I’m not a guy for breaks. I want to be somebody that everybody can lean on.”
When opening day rolls around, one thing is for certain: Donahue is going to represent his school with pride and leave it all on the field because being a Mountaineer means everything to him.
“It means the world to me,” he said. “If you guys look at the 2008 Owen Schmitt speech after the Fiesta Bowl, he could not have said it better. That’s just the start of it. I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s a feeling. It’s pride. It’s passion. It’s something that can’t be described unless you have been in that situation. It’s amazing.”