The Tri-State’s TRUSTED news source.

Click here to stay informed and subscribe to Herald-Dispatch.

Click #isupportlocal for more information on supporting our local journalists.


Learn more about HD Media

WVU football committed to European investment

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s European experiment is showing positive early signs, though it still needs more incubation before it can be declared a definite success.

Over the past two years the Mountaineer football program has signed three players who each came directly to WVU from various European countries. No prep school, no junior college stops. One moment in Finland, Sweden or the Netherlands and the next in Morgantown.

The first to make the journey was Jairo Faverus, a native of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, who enrolled at WVU in January of 2020. This past January, West Virginia added two more Europeans in tight end Victor Wikstrom from Uppsala, Sweden, and defensive lineman Edward Vesterinen from Helsinki, Finland.

All three are currently participating in the Mountaineers’ spring practice, though Faverus was recently sidelined by a knee injury. He came to West Virginia as a defensive back, but now at 6-feet and 215 pounds, was switched to linebacker this spring.

“Jai, we moved him down to will (weak-side linebacker), but unfortunately he got hurt, which slowed down the evaluation process on him,” noted WVU head coach Neal Brown.

Faverus played in four games last season, mostly on special teams, and was credited with two tackles. He’s now transitioning to linebacker, though his learning curve to his new position has been elongated by his recent injury.

Vesterinen and Wikstrom are each getting plenty of practice reps this spring. Both played American-style football on teams back in their home countries — Vesterinen with the Helsinki Roosters and also with the Finnish National Team, and Wikstrom with the Taby Flyers as well as RIG Celsiusskolan High — but they have only been Mountaineers for a few months.

“Eddie V. and Victor understand football at a high rate, which is credit to the programs they’re coming from,” stated Brown.

At 6-foot-3 and 278 pounds, Vesterinen is attempting to secure a spot in WVU’s interior defensive line rotation.

“Eddie V., I love how he plays. He’s full throttle all the time,” noted Brown.

“He’s a little older, which helps. He’s been one of the surprises of the spring. I think he might even have a chance to help us this year.”

Besides playing football in Finland, Vesterinen also participated in tennis and in track & field, where he ran the 400-meter and threw the shot put. He also did a mandatory stint in Finland’s military service, which makes him a little older than most other college freshmen.

Wikstrom, who is 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, was also a multi-sport athlete in Sweden, where he participated in soccer and team handball as well as American football. His speed was verified when he was clocked at 4.4 in the 40.

“Victor, I love his athleticism,” stated Brown. “He’s learning how to play. The game is really fast for him right now, but you do see the signs athletically that he has some unique abilities.”

Faverus, Vesterinen and Wikstrom all caught the eyes of the Mountaineer coaches when they made summer camp stops at WVU as part of the DreamChasers Tour. The tour, which featured dozens of European prospects, is organized by former UMass defensive lineman Brandon Collier, who now lives in Germany. In recent years, he’s annually placed nearly a dozen recruits at various U.S. colleges, including the trio at West Virginia.

After having to cancel last summer’s tour because of the global pandemic, Collier is putting together another DreamChasers Tour for the summer of 2021. WVU is again slated to be a tour stop, where Brown and his Mountaineers will get an up-close look at another batch of European prospects.

WVU has already offered offensive lineman Lucas Simmons (6-7, 290 lbs.) of Uppsala, Sweden, who has played for the National Swedish Football Academy. This year he will attend Clearwater Academy in Florida.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

Recommended for you