With a win against Pittsburgh this Saturday, the West Virginia ountaineers punch their ticket to New Orleans for the Bowl Championship Series Title Game. I am pulling for a Mountaineers victory for a few reasons. One: A Pitt loss would be further proof that Panthers head coach Dave Wannstedt – who has failed as a head coach three times now – should be fired and reassigned to coach a six-man team in Siberia. Two: Because bringing either LSU or Ohio State fans (the two teams that would likely leapfrog their way into the championship should WVU lose) to the Big Easy within a week of New Year’s Eve would obliterate any progress that has been made in rebuilding the city since Katrina. Three: Because it’s time the nation got to meet the monster.

That would be Owen Schmitt, the Mountaineers’ mutant fullback. Remember the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Well, Schmitt is a cross between Bebop and Rocksteady.

At 6-foot-3, 260 pounds and with a bulldozing blocking form that could topple the Great Wall of China, Schmitt is a terror with his helmet on. He’s even more alarming with it off, wearing his hair in a ratty Mohawk. He is covered in cuts and scars, none more prominent than the jagged valley that splits his upper lip. The guy looks like he’s a half-chromosome away from Sloth from The Gooneys. And he’s everything that is right about college football.

Schmitt has plowed through setbacks and obstacles all his life. In an interview with USA Today in 2006, Schmitt described himself as “the fat kid with glasses.” He had multiple surgeries to repair his cleft palate, including a gruesome procedure when he was in fourth grade in which doctors extracted part of his hip bone and fused it with his jaw. He has bounced across the country all his life, spending the first part of his childhood in Gilman, Wis. with his grandparents before moving to Fairfax, Va., where he went to two different high schools and became an all-conference fullback. No one gave him a scholarship, so he ventured back to Wisconsin to play for the Division III Wisconsin-River Falls. After an all-American freshman season, he drove all the way back to Morgantown to personally deliver his highlight tape to Moutaineers’ head coach Rich Rodriguez. Rodriguez, a former Mountaineer walk-on himself, fell in love.

Since then, Schmitt has become the Paul Bunyan of NCAA football. Legend has it that he has never lost yardage in his 155 career carries. He has never fumbled. He has power cleaned 500 pounds and squatted 600. He played the Mountaineers’ bowl game last January with a rib disjointed from his vertebrae. He has taken years off the lives of countless linebackers who dare to step in his path. And he’s mangled eight face masks in three seasons.

Yes, the guy hits so hard that he goes through face masks – which are made of steel, mind you – faster than most players can put theirs on.

But the most incredible chapter in the folklore of Owen Schmitt came on Nov. 8 against Louisville. In an attempt to catch the Cardinals off guard, Rodriguez called on his fullback for a pooch punt on fourth down, which Schmitt proceeded to shank off the side of his foot. Disgusted with himself, Schmitt stalked back to the sideline, took off his helmet, and proceeded to bludgeon himself three times with his headgear.

It’s true – you can check it out on YouTube and listen as Chris Fowler, Craig James and Doug Flutie comment in stunned disbelief:

James: “Oooh!”

Flutie: “Oww! Did you say this guy has a steel forehead?”

Fowler: “Dude … that’s a helmet….”

James: “Man…. We have to watch that again….”

Then the three watch it all again on replay – in slow motion. (The only thing better than watching a 260-pound man with a ohawk concuss himself is listening to a Heisman Trophy winner, a former NFL Offensive Player of the Year and ESPN’s most trusted play-by-play man talk like they’re in Half Baked.)

Schmitt’s blunt-force playing style is all the more beautiful in contrast to his two graceful backfield mates, running back Steve Slaton and quarterback Pat White, who glide down the field and elude contact with ease. When the three of them line up in the shotgun split together, it looks like two swans and a buzzard dressed in blue and yellow.

Saturday is the last opportunity to sit on the couch and watch college football for nearly three weeks. Spend it staring in awe at the marvelous feats of Owen Schmitt, the toughest thing to hit West Virginia since, well, statehood.

Harlan Goode is a senior in the College. He can be reached at goodethehoya.com. THE GOODE WORDE appears every other Friday in HOYA SPORTS.

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