Wellman heading to WVU
SPRING VALLEY -- Spring Valley High School football standout Elijah Wellman has always had a huge sense of pride for his home.
Growing up on Buffalo Creek in Wayne County, it was instilled in him at an early age to take care of that which meant the most to him. The things he cared about most were friends in the community, football and baseball.
Now, that sense of hometown pride through sports is going to expand for Wellman just a bit.
On Wednesday, the 2012 Huff Award winner as the defensive player of the year in West Virginia and Class AAA all-state first team defensive captain at linebacker signed a National Letter of Intent to play college football for head coach Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia University.
"As a kid, I've always wanted to grow up and stay in West Virginia, so I figured I'd take the opportunity to stay through college," Wellman said.
"Then that would help me stay in West Virginia and get a nice job when I get out of college and represent this state."
After starring on both sides of the ball during his high school career, Wellman will focus on playing fullback for the Mountaineers.
Even though West Virginia's offense is much different than it used to be, Wellman still said it excited him to try and carry on the tradition of successful Mountaineer fullbacks like Wes Ours and Owen Schmitt.
Spring Valley head coach Brad Dingess said with West Virginia getting a talent like Wellman at fullback, the Mountaineers will have no choice but to put in plays for the versatile offensive weapon, who can play a hybrid H-Back or even be a straight-ahead fullback because of his strength.
"Holgorsen said when he visited that we don't use a fullback much, and one of the reasons why is because they didn't have one," Dingess said. "When you have a kid like him, you're going to have to do that. They're going to use him. He (Holgorsen) said he's not going to redshirt him, he doesn't think."
While Wellman signed his name and started a new chapter Wednesday, Dingess still reflected on the chapter that the 6-foot-3, 235-pound standout left behind with the Timberwolves.
He is the school's first statewide award winner in football after claiming the Huff in 2012, but Dingess said his biggest accomplishments were those not seen in statistics.
Coming into 2012, there was something Spring Valley's football had never done. The school had never won a playoff game.
After starting the year 0-2, things didn't look too promising for the Timberwolves.
That's when Wellman took over.
Despite breaking two ribs against Huntington High, Wellman took charge of his team and led the Timberwolves to wins in eight of their next nine games before the team fell 28-26 to rival Cabell Midland, who advanced to the state championship.
That streak included the school's first-ever playoff win -- a 31-7 win over Wheeling Park in which Wellman led the Timberwolves with 147 yards on 26 carries.
"For us to start 0-2, he and these other seniors had that refuse-to-lose attitude," Dingess said. "They never let our team lose focus of what we wanted to do -- get the school's first playoff win in history. We were banged up and he put our team on his back and played with two broken ribs to get us there. His leadership quality and just the way he plays the game, you don't see much of it now."
Wellman left some parting words for his teammates and friends who shared in the day.
"To all my friends and teammates, there's no way that I'd be here without all of you," Wellman said. "I loved playing Friday nights with you guys and as years go by, we'll forget the plays, the points, the hits. But I'll never forget my teammates -- my best friends sitting here in this room."
It's what has come to be expected from the guy who takes great pride in being involved with family and community and treats the game of football as a culmination of both.
And now that he's signed with West Virginia, he can expand that love to the entire state.
For Wellman, that's Almost Heaven.