MORGANTOWN - Keith Patterson could be the defensive coordinator today at Arizona State or at Auburn. He could be the head coach at Arkansas State or a high school in Texas or Oklahoma.
He could be a professional, an ordinary 9-to-5 type making the most of a business degree and the well-intended wishes of his mother.
That he's West Virginia's defensive coordinator is perhaps the most unlikely outcome of all.
Patterson joined the Mountaineers staff in February and was named the co-coordinator the same time Coach Dana Holgorsen named Joe DeForest the defensive coordinator.
Holgorsen had hired DeForest a month earlier and based his faith in the future on the 2010 season he spent on the Oklahoma State staff with DeForest.
It's Patterson, though, who will run the defense during and after WVU plays Syracuse in Saturday's Pinstripe Bowl. Holgorsen last week confirmed the move he said he made the morning after the regular season ended with a Dec. 1 home win against Kansas.
"There was no sense in wasting time with it," Holgorsen said. "It gives Coach Patterson two-and-a-half weeks sitting here coaching and teaching. There was no sense pushing the pause button when you know you're going to do something at the end of the season. It just gave us an opportunity to move forward.
"I feel good about it. Is every single problem going to be fixed? Of course not, but we're going to make progress."
Patterson grew up in Oklahoma, where his father was a high school coach who inspired Keith to follow in the family trade. His mother wanted a calmer, more stable life for her son and she suggested he get his degree from East Central University in Oklahoma and pursue his MBA.
He couldn't shake the itch to coach, and though he was a Division II player who didn't have many contacts in the college coaching business, Patterson pressed onward. He built a career as head coach and assistant coach in high schools in Oklahoma and Texas.
He nearly took a job at WVU working for Todd Graham on Rich Rodriguez's staff, but was at Tulsa with Coach Steve Kragthorpe in 2003 and the co-coordinator three years later.
He joined Graham when he took the Pitt job in 2011 and impressed Holgorsen with the way the Panthers defended the Mountaineers in WVU's win in the Backyard Brawl. Others took notice, too. Graham wanted Patterson to move to Arizona State when Graham took that job. Patterson declined and eventually took Gus Malzahn's offer to be the defensive coordinator at Arkansas State.