MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Ron Crook's circuitous and somewhat unconventional route through college football started on country roads.
West Virginia University's first-year offensive line coach returned to his home state after coaching stops in the Mountain State (West Liberty, Glenville State and West Virginia Tech), Cincinnati, Clarion (Pa.) College, Illinois, Harvard and Stanford. The Parkersburg native, who graduated from Parkersburg South, played college football at West Liberty before his coach, Larry Shank, offered Crook and his ailing back a job as a student assistant. His playing days finished, he found a way to stay close to the game he loved.
Crook was retained the next season (1990) when Bob Eaton took over the West Liberty program. Crook said he was paid about $5,000.
"I was loving life," he said. "Thought I was on top of the world."
Twenty-four years later, all of one in which he coached offensive linemen or tight ends, and Crook feels the same way. He is, after all, a Mountaineer.
It's a position he's coveted since his two stints at alma mater West Liberty, Glenville State and West Virginia Tech.
He never aspired to be the man in charge.
At a press conference inside the Puskar Center earlier this month, Crook watched as WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen fielded questions from the media.
"I could never do that," Crook said.
Instead, he's spent his 24year career honing his skills as an assistant.
That education started inside the state's borders, and he said he carried those lessons with him in the 11 years since he left.
After one season at Illinois he spent eight seasons at Harvard (2003-2010) and the last two at Stanford, where he watched the son of WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck, Andrew, operate behind his tackles and throw to his tight ends.
"The biggest thing I learned through all those stops was it doesn't matter where you're coaching or on what level," Crook said. "You're coaching the same things.
"You are coaching linemen or you are coaching tight ends to do the things you believe in. When I see people I knew back at West Liberty, they'll tell me that I'm doing the same things at Stanford that I did back then.