By Sara Wells
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
You’ve heard it a million times. A student-athlete’s life is non-stop. From early morning treatments and weight-lifting programs, to being a full-time student and not leaving Milan Puskar Stadium until after sunset, long days are not unfamiliar.
So, when a student-athlete’s major requires them to complete an internship before graduation, where do they find time for what seems to be an impossible feat?
Ask West Virginia University redshirt senior Michael Molinari. One of the Mountaineers’ kicker/punters, Molinari has seen success on and off the field, even before graduating with his bachelor’s degree. The sport management major averaged 63.2 yards on kickoffs last year, and has been named the Special Teams Offensive Champion on many occasions.
But success isn’t new to Molinari. A successful athlete and scholar at Parkersburg South High School in his hometown of Parkersburg, West Virginia, he graduated in 2010 with a 4.0 grade point average and lettered in basketball, football and baseball. With all of this going on, the Promise Scholar didn’t have time to pursue football seriously until his senior year, when he realized he was “pretty good” at playing the sport. He attended kicking camps hundreds of miles away, but knew that he’d always been a Mountaineer at heart.
“We would come to all of the home Mountaineer games in high school,” Molinari said. “I grew to love Morgantown. It started to feel like home. I loved the atmosphere of game day, and dreamed about being part of that.”
Molinari tried out for the team, with what he called a “horrible performance”. But his work ethic proved to be more valuable than a three-hour tryout, and he now starts for the Mountaineer special teams’ unit. Often, his name is the first you hear.
WVU special teams coach Joe DeForest detailed just how far Molinari will go to be the best.
“He’s consistent and someone you can count on,” DeForest said. “He can have a good time, but he works at what we want him to do until he’s great at it. He’s resilient with everything until he’s perfect at it.”
WVU long snapper John DePalma, one of Molinari’s closest friends, described Molinari’s lifestyle as one that should be imitated. He knows his friend will succeed in the future as a result of what he’s doing today.
“Mike strives for more in every aspect of his life: athletically, academically and spiritually,” said DePalma. “He leads by example, and his passion for everything he is involved in makes you want to be around him.”
After meeting his athletic goals, he focused on what really matters in your last two years of your undergraduate education: experience.
Molinari knew he had to find an internship. The clock was ticking. So where would he find one? He hadn’t been looking for long when an opportunity literally sat down beside him.
Sitting in first class for the first time, Molinari made himself comfortable after playing a game against Big 12 opponent Kansas in 2013. When WVU Director of Athletics Oliver Luck got on the flight, the only seat open was beside Molinari.
The two got to know one another on the flight back to the Mountain State, and the student-athlete shared his career goals with Luck. In just a few short hours, Molinari had landed an internship with the Mountaineer Athletic Club (MAC). From January to June of this year, he interned with the MAC, doing everything from organizing parts of sporting events, to managing every day operations of the organization.
“I enjoyed my time with the MAC,” said Molinari. “I’m so thankful for the opportunity. Not only the experience, but the connections I made. It will help me all throughout my career, wherever it may take me.”
Molinari also took advantage of his friendships at the MAC, and got to know the coach of the new WVU golf program, Sean Covich. Golf always has been one of his passions, and he even interned for the annual Greenbrier Classic in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, this past summer. While he would love to work in the sport of golf, he’d like to get his start in Morgantown, possibly becoming a graduate assistant for the WVU golf program and beginning graduate school in January.
“I love golf,” said Molinari. “It’s something that has always really interested me, and I think I could make a career out of working and getting involved in it. If I could work with a professional or an athletic department, that would be great, but I need to finish graduate school first.”
DeForest knows that wherever Molinari ends up, he will succeed.
“Whatever Mike wants to do, he’ll be the best at it,” said DeForest. “I may work for him one day. He’s that good of a leader, and he’s got that much vision.”
Molinari says that he doesn’t know where he will end up, but he’s not worried. It’s all up to God, who has played a huge role in his life, but especially in the past few years, helping him to keep working toward his life goals.
“He’s the epitome of a student-athlete,” DeForest said. “He does everything right in the classroom, he’s a great teammate, and he’s a man of God. Not to mention, he’s the best holder I’ve had in 25 years.”
While he has had to put his all into everything he’s accomplished, he couldn’t have done it if he wasn’t given an opportunity to be a Mountaineer student-athlete.
“You can build a platform by playing a sport at a big school like WVU,” Molinari explained. “Obviously, you have a lot more access than regular students. I wish more of the football players would take advantage of it. They see me doing internships and working all the time, and I don’t think they see how they could do it too, and set themselves up for down the road. Not everyone can go to the NFL, and most of us won’t. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity here.”