The age-old belief amongst West Virginia University students and alumni alike, is that once you become a Mountaineer, you will always be a Mountaineer.

Which is why four years ago, Dr. Elizabeth Oppe, professor at the WVU Reed College of Media, created the “Once A Mountaineer, Always A Mountaineer” campaign, a community event designed to inspire active and healthy lifestyle choices for young children in the Mountain State.

The fourth annual “Day of Play” took place Sunday afternoon at Morgantown High School, and ran for more than two hours as children ages 6-12 exercised and completed drills instructed by Dr. Oppe’s capstone students, members of the WVU women’s volleyball team as well as some current and former Mountaineer football players.

There were a few familiar faces of WVU football – past and present – that showed up in support, including: former New York Giant Will Johnson, former Cincinnati Bengal Quincy Wilson, former San Francisco 49er Rasheed Marshall, current Tampa Bay Buccaneer Keith Tandy, as well current Mountaineers Jarrod Harper, Daikiel Shorts and NFL draft prospects Tyler Orlosky and Rasul Douglas.


Tandy, a regular attendee and instructor of the Once A Mountaineer event, gladly returned to Morgantown for a chance to give back to local kids.

Fearsome football faces by Keith Tandy and company.

“I just love this city, this state, this community, this university. It all was so good to me my five years here. I came here not really knowing much at 18 years old and it really molded me into the person I am now. And I’m real proud of that,” said Tandy. “So anytime I get a chance to come back and share my experience, to talk to the kids and put a smile on their face – I’m always willing to do it,” he said.

That same enthusiasm was shared by Jake Byrne, a senior public relations major and account executive for Once A Mountaineer.

“I love instilling the idea in kids of healthy motivation. West Virginia ranks number 1 in obesity, so it’s important getting to kids early and really showcasing how fun it is to be active and involved,” said Byrne.

With the ominous health rankings of children and West Virginia in mind, the Once A Mountaineer team prepared tips and guidelines for kids to utilize beyond the event in hopes that they’ll practice healthy behaviors on a more regular basis.

“It’s not only about just today, but every day. This fun, active lifestyle you can literally do every day,” said Byrne

In all, the tips, experience and advice seemed to be well-received by the near 150 children in attendance, which was more than triple the amount of kids that attended the first annual Day of Play four years ago.

Quincy Wilson, who’s been present all four years of Once A Mountaineer, gleamed over the progress made since its inception. “This is awesome. The first year we had about 45 kids and today we had well over a few times that.” said Wilson.

He went on to applaud the passion and purpose behind of the Day of Play because of its impact on and availability to the Morgantown community.

Wilson is hopeful that the memories made and lessons learned will last the young boys and girls a lifetime.

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