WVU football: Myers juggles hobbies to trick out game
MORGANTOWN -- This is not what K.J. Myers hopes fans take away from Saturday's Gold-Blue Game, but the truth is he's never been fast.
"But that's why I work on my hands, why I run precise routes, why I play with physicality," said the 6-foot-2, 200-pound receiver from Jacksonville, Fla. "When the cornerback is up on you, give him an elbow, give him some hands to get open. I'll do anything I can to get open."
It's worked well enough during West Virginia's spring football to snatch a first-string spot at one of the team's two outside positions. He figures to start at the X spot and edit the label of possession receiver that he's grown to dislike.
"I love a challenge," he said. "I don't limit myself."
That approach stands out at a position with hardly any returning productivity and on an offense that could use an infusion of skill, but also toughness in the absence of Geno Smith, Shawne Alston, Joey Madsen, Jeff Braun, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin.
It's earned Myers a spot as a backside tight end on kickoff returns, too, playing the blocking position on the left side of the field that 6-3, 250-pound tight end Cody Clay plays on the right side. In between them is Garrett Hope, a 6-3, 245-pound middle linebacker. It's not exactly where one would expect to find Myers, but that's exactly the kind of place where Myers is most comfortable.
"You know how people are judged or stereotyped often due to physicality or somebody's ethnicity or something like that with them?" Myers said. "Growing up, I always wanted to break that. I wanted to be with this group of people and be able to do this and be with that group of friends and be able to do that. I never wanted to limit myself to anything."
It can be a lot to juggle, but that's fine. Myers likes to juggle. And draw. And sing. He is a curious, self-cultured sophomore with hobbies based on an array of interests and inspired by interactions with a range of people.
"I'm fairly different," he said.
He is someone who taught himself to play chess when he was in high school because he'd heard it was hard and he wanted to test his intelligence, someone who played a drum set and carried the quads for the band at pep rallies and during basketball games when he was in middle school, someone who has an interesting adoration.
"I grew up skate boarding," he said. "That was my passion. I just loved it. I still love it. Skate boarding is fun. It's free. You can go out every day and just skate and free your mind."
Every activity brought Myers into a different crowd. The experiences prepared him for his life on a multicultural campus and a game played with teammates from different backgrounds and with roots in many states and countries.
"That's how it is in life," Myers said. "That's why I'm glad I didn't limit myself growing up. I have to hang out with this group of guys and be cool with this group of guys, but I like to be cool with everybody."
His dad ran over his skateboard a while ago and Myers said "my mom would probably kill me if I hurt myself now." He put the drums down when high school football became serious. He can't find many people to play chess with at WVU.
But those hobbies haven't left him. They made him the person he is, but understand Myers believes they made him the player he is. It begins in practice, which he says is a lot like teaching himself skateboard tricks.
"You go out every day and you try to get that new trick down," he said. "It might take you 20 times a day before you get this trick. You might not get it. But you still keep practicing to get it right. That's just like how practice is.
"If you mess one thing up, maybe you're not good at this route or that route, but in your off time you have to keep working at that and focus on that. You focus on any weaknesses you have in your game until you get it."
Then the games come and Myers lines up across from defenders. He scans the field and his mind goes to work. This is chess. He looks at the defender covering him. He spots the safety and wonders if he'll come over to assist the cornerback. Is it Cover 2? Cover 3? Is the cornerback opening his hips to move? Is he going to stay put and cover that space?
The field has become the board, the opponents the pieces.
"I'm so serious about that," Myers said. "That's what goes through my head before a snap."
Then the pieces move and the board changes.
"You don't know your opponent's move, you don't know your move until it's time for it to happen," Myers said. "You have to react. You have to think fast. You don't want to put yourself in a bad situation. It's like when a (defensive back) is in your face and he comes at you and throws his hands at you, you have to react."
The receivers are all taught ways to beat a jam and to get off the line. If a receiver can't find green space in WVU's offense, he's in trouble. Myers follows those rules, but knows there are individual tweaks that can be added. He reverts to some of those skateboard tricks "to put my flavor on it."
Then he's in a route, being as precise as he has to be when he's sliding his board down a rail, before he's making a catch, one aided by the juggling that sharpens hand-eye coordination.
The defense conquered, the ball secured, Myers is on the move and, literally, marching to the beat of his own drum.
"You've got to have rhythm when you're on the field, when you're making a move on somebody after you make the catch," he said. "You've got to have moves. You can't be stiff or they're just going to tackle you. You don't get (yards after the catch) that way. You need that rhythm."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.