WVU football: Lingafelter is used to tough calls, will join Mountaineers
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Today is supposed to be about celebration, about accomplishment, about the realization of dreams formed in backyards, sculpted in weight rooms and made real on football fields.
It's National Signing Day, when college football teams reveal recruiting classes, fans and pundits chip in their two cents and prospects and their families take a moment to comprehend what really happened when the signed letter-of-intent disappeared into the fax machine.
Grant Lingafelter is no different.
He'll sign his papers at a ceremony at Chagrin Falls High, just outside of Cleveland, and thus receive a scholarship to play on the offensive line for West Virginia University, one of four linemen and perhaps a full allotment of 25 players expected to join the 2013 recruiting class.
Lingafelter has been obsessing about this since his school days had recess, but he'll be a little dejected, at least for a while. While he knows what his decision did for WVU, he also knows what it did for Miami (Ohio).
He'd been committed there until last Tuesday, when he told WVU offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh he was going to join the Mountaineers.
It led him to the hardest thing he'd ever done in his life. Lingafelter had to tell the RedHawks he was ready to try something bigger and better and accept WVU's sudden scholarship offer.
"I can't even put words to it except to say that it was incredibly hard," he said. "It came down to me wanting to keep goals, goals that have been with me forever. I'm 17 years old and I've had the dream since I was in third grade, ever since I picked up a football, that I wanted to play at the highest level if I ever got a chance to play college football."
Yet if one thing can be said about Lingafelter, it's that he's used to tough calls. They've actually come to define him.
"I got picked on a lot this year by the referees because of my size and because they knew who I was," Lingafelter said. "They threw some flags on me that I don't think were flags."
Lingafelter has the mean streak that belongs inside a 6-foot-5, 280-pound left tackle and there are times it can come out very vividly on the field.
"He had this one personal foul where he just beat the tar out of a kid and kept on blocking him and driving him farther and farther away from the play," Chagrin Falls Coach Mark Iammarino said. "An official threw a flag because I think he felt bad for the defensive end."
Lingafelter is not a bully. What happened that game, which Iammarino didn't condemn, is not what happens in the hallways at Lingafelter's high school, where he's an honors student. But it was funny.
"My dad still gives me a hard time about it," Lingafelter said. "We were in pass protection and I kicked back and got under his pads. He was probably 6-2 and 200 pounds and I just picked him up and threw him into the end zone. He got up and I hit him again. He got up again and I pile-drived him into the end zone. That's when they threw the flag on me. But it was inside the whistle."
Later in the season, Chagrin Falls called a running play to the right side that asked for Lingafelter to pull across the line and clear a hole in front of the running back. He did, with authority.
"I was going through the hole and a linebacker came up to me and I flipped him on his back and got a penalty for unnecessary roughness," Lingafelter said. "I got underneath his chin and I'm tall enough that since I was under his chin, once I shot up, he went straight back and sort of landed on his neck."
Both plays are included on Lingafelter's online highlight reel, an eight-and-a-half minute explanation for why Lingafelter became so popular so late in the recruiting cycle.
"They just show my aggressiveness and that I'm not going to give up, no matter what," he said.
Even after Lingafelter was committed to Miami, Iammarino said coaches from WVU, Boston College, Florida State and Michigan State made late pushes. Tennessee Coach Butch Jones, who had recruited Lingafelter when he was coaching Cincinnati, called Lingafelter after he committed to WVU, but Lingafelter declined.
He thought he'd made up his mind long ago, though. He played junior varsity as a sophomore behind a pair of all-Ohio guards and started to blossom before he ever really got onto the field at Chagrin Falls.
"The winter and the spring of his sophomore year, I saw him take it upon himself to work hard in the weight room and with our trainer to increase his agility and develop his footwork and his speed and those things," Iammarino said. "He went to the camps that summer and the word that came back from the coaches in the area was he was kind of a rising star and someone to keep an eye on.
"He had a big frame and he was going to grow into it some, so he came back his junior year and we went to the state semifinals. He was 6-foot-5, 235, 240 pounds as a junior, and he really started to come on everybody's radar. My phone was pretty busy that spring. A lot of schools and a lot of offers came in."
Lingafelter had offers throughout the Mid-American Conference and from Marshall. Vanderbilt, Duke, Northwestern and Minnesota held back their offers. Lingafelter picked the RedHawks during the season, which was fun for his high school team. Assistant coach John Scott had been a kicker at Miami and wore No. 7 before Ben Roethlisberger. Lingafelter remained curious if there was more out there.
"I had a great relationship with those guys and in the end they respected my decision," Lingafelter said. "I told them my goals from Day One and I said, 'Hey, I'm going to give you a verbal, but I want to play at the highest level and if someone comes in with that opportunity, I'm going to look at it.' "
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.