The students are all moved back in. There is more traffic than you would think this small town could handle. The grocery shelves are bare. And classes start tomorrow.
In less than two weeks, a new freshman class will get their first glimpse of Mountaineer Football. And there's nothing quite like it. I loved growing up here, but I have a twinge of jealousy of those out-of-town freshman attending their first game. Waking up earlier to tailgate than you ever would for a class; that first sound of the Mountaineer shooting his musket; hearing the band play Simple Gifts - all for the first time. I have no memory of my first Mountaineer game, I was too young. It is just something that has always been. But what it must be like to experience it all as an adult for the first time.
I attended the University of Southern California for graduate school. In fact, I was there the year that Troy Palamalu's roommate, Carson Palmer, won the Heisman Trophy. I went to one game and was so disappointed in the atmosphere. I had such high hopes. USC has such a storied program; the Trojans play in the Olympic Coliseum; it had to be good, right? There was just something missing. Maybe it was me, because while I'm a proud USC Alumni, I will always be a Mountaineer first and foremost. It just didn't have the energy of a Mountaineer game.
I'm ready to feel that energy again. The butterflies that fill my stomach the week leading up to a game; the goosebumps I get when the band takes the field for the pre-game show; the tears that roll down my cheeks when the Alma Mater plays; the pride the fills my heart when the Team takes the field. Yes, I am a bit jealous that the incoming Freshman get to have the memory of a first Mountaineer game. But I wouldn't trade the feeling that Mountaineer football is a part of me for anything and I expect that feeling only comes with growing up with it.