By Sara Wells
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
College football is everything. Big 12 competition is fierce; facing an elite opponent weekly is a way of life for student-athletes in the conference. However, a life separate of Big 12 football is possible. There are those who dedicate themselves to making an impact on the field, as well as those who strive to make an impact off of it.
The West Virginia University football program possesses one of those rare players. He is one who gives his heart and soul not only to his team, but also to his community.
Senior offensive lineman and current center, Pat Eger, admits his biggest challenge over the past five years has been mentally preparing himself weekly for the collegiate football lifestyle. Balancing the demands of his ever-changing role on the offensive line and his commitment to giving back has never been easy, but it is something Eger has consistently achieved.
“It’s not like you’re going to have an easy week in the Big 12,” Eger says. “It’s always going to be a battle. Wherever I need to be for the team and the offensive line to be successful is where I’m going to be, but that’s not all there is to it.”
Eger explains simply, “You have to give back to the community what the community has given you. It’s a big passion of mine along with football- giving back. I’ve been doing it my whole life.”
He’s not exaggerating. The Jefferson Hills, Pa. native began volunteering in kindergarten due to encouragement from his mother, Terrie. Eger would take his dog, Maggie, to the nursing home Terrie was employed at once a week to visit the residents. He continued to volunteer throughout high school.
His senior project involved taking 35 residents of a local nursing home to a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game. Organizing the event alone, Eger made it possible for each resident to have dinner and receive a t-shirt at the game.
“It’s just what he does,” says Eger’s mother, Terrie. “If you don’t take care of people, people won’t take care of you. He takes every opportunity he can find to give back.”
During his time in Morgantown, Eger has been visiting Ruby Memorial Children’s Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House regularly. He takes advantage of his free time and does what he’s been doing for years: gives back to the community. Eger’s mother jokes that he should have been a teacher- he has always been great with kids and shows it with his commitment to visiting them in Morgantown.
“Just to go over for an hour and put a smile on a child’s face, that means so much to me to be able to do that,” Eger explains. “I know it even means more to them for me to be there visiting. There’s no other feeling like that.”
In addition to his volunteerism at WVU, Eger continues to give back to his hometown. When he travels home on bye weeks or breaks, he always stops at the nursing home. As a part of the Heart’s Desire program, Eger fulfilled the desire of a WVU alumni suffering with dementia. She wished to attend a Mountaineer football game, but that being impossible, Eger made the trip to Pennsylvania to fulfill the wish the best way he thought possible.
“Pat came up here and stayed the day with her,” Terrie explains. “He bought some clothes for her and brought posters that he had signed, and they talked all day. The joy that he brought her that day was unbelievable. She still has the posters he signed and gave to her.”
Eger, a part of the Orange Bowl-winning 2011 Mountaineer football team, often brings back his championship ring as a piece of WVU history for nursing home residents to witness. Visiting and getting to know other WVU alumni, Eger has been able to identify more with the university.
“Pat learns as an individual too,” Terrie says. They’re a wealth of information. They’ve taught Pat details about the university that he would have never known.”
Eger has already made plans to continue his volunteerism after his days of Mountaineer football come to an end. He plans to cut his now shoulder-length strawberry blonde hair and donate it to the Pantene Beautiful Lengths campaign after the conclusion of the Mountaineers’ 2013 season.
Offensive line coach Ron Crook describes Eger’s passion on and off the field as being shown each with a similar level of intensity, but in very different ways. His attitude makes him a threat on the field and a best friend off of it.
“He’s very aggressive, and with his position on the offensive line that’s what we’re looking for,” Crook says of the 6’6”, 300 pound center. “Off of the field, he’s very friendly and easy to talk to. He’s a very good, well-rounded person.”
Looking into the future, Eger plans to attain his master’s degree from WVU and head to the NFL combine. While he has high hopes of being drafted, he values his education and has spent the last four-and-a-half years dedicated to academics, along with athletics and volunteerism.
“Hopefully I’ll get a chance to play in the NFL. If that doesn’t work out, I have things to fall back on,” Eger says. “That’s why I studied so much when I was here- to have opportunities when I’m done with football.”
As his mother says, “Pat can’t take a compliment- he readily will give someone else the credit”. Eger attributes every aspect of his success at WVU to his family and fans.
“At the end of the day I wouldn’t trade this for anything,” Eger reveals. “Of course I’ll miss it. I say it all the time- WVU has the best fans in the world. This is the state’s team. Everyone lives and dies for it. Everyone in this state supports me like I’m one of their own, and that, that’s the good stuff.”