Photo by Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch
By Grant Traylor
SPRING VALLEY – When one thinks of Spring Valley’s football program, the first thing that comes to mind is the offensive line.
The Timberwolves have sent several players to major Division I college football in the last decade behind Brad Dingess and offensive line coach Brent Terry.
Among all of those talented players, though, West Virginia University signee Wyatt Milum may be the best, according to Dingess.
There have been guys with athleticism to go with their size and there have been others who have been “maulers” along the front, too.
But Dingess said Milum’s combination of strength, nastiness, athleticism and size puts him in elite company.
Just as Milum’s talent earned him a scholarship with the Mountaineers, it also earned him the nomination as the 2020 Stydahar Award winner, given to the state’s top interior lineman by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association.
“If you write all of their talents down, I think they all bring something different to the table, but Wyatt might be more of the total package than all of them,” Dingess said. “(Riley) Locklear was so athletic and could do a lot of stuff, (Zach) Williamson was solid and Doug (Nester) is so massive and he’s a road-grater. Wyatt does it all.”
Milum’s start along the offensive line came during his sophomore year with the Timberwolves after he spent his freshman year at Wayne playing with his brother.
The story behind Milum actually shifting down from tight end to offensive line is one that brings a laugh each time the 6-foot-7, 280-pound award-winning lineman tells it.
“They had talked to me about it in 7-on-7, but it was after the Ashland scrimmage,” Milum said of his start up front. “I dropped a ball in the game and it seemed like the next practice, I was down there at tackle. It didn’t take long. It worked out well.”
Milum said much of his success is due to Terry and former Spring Valley teammate Doug Nester, who went on to Virginia Tech and started for the Hokies before entering the transfer portal last week.
With Nester beside him, Milum learned the techniques of the game, as well as what it took to push to the level of becoming a Division I-caliber athlete.
“Having Doug there helped me out tremendously with my game,” Milum said. “It was probably the best time to move to tackle when I did.”
Since that time, Milum has been dominant in his play along the offensive front for the Timberwolves.
Milum graded out to a 95 percent this season and a 93 percent for his Spring Valley career. In 1,480 plays during his time with the Timberwolves, Milum never allowed a sack and registered 198 knockdowns.
“I just tried to protect my quarterback the best I could,” Milum said.
“That’s some really good production, considering some of the talent he’s gone against,” Dingess said. “I know for what we asked Wyatt to do, he did it really, really well.”
One of those most talented pieces that Milum met over the years was South Charleston’s Zeiqui Lawton, who was also a finalist for the Stydahar Award.
Lawton was part of a major resurgence for the Black Eagles, who were the 2020 Class AAA champions.
Dingess spoke of Lawton – a Cincinnati signee – and the developing growth of Division I caliber athletes within the state.
“You’re getting enough talent that you can evaluate these kids better on film,” Dingess said. “You’ve got Lawton at South Charleston going against Milum and you can see what each one of them has. In years past, that might not have been available and it was hard to evaluate.”
Dingess said Lawton was a handful because of his skill set.
“He’s got a motor,” Dingess said. “He’s so strong in his upper body and he’s quick with his hands with the way he moves. He was always prepared and was a smart football player. He wasn’t one of those kids that just showed up. He studied the game and had instincts that you can’t teach.”
Both Milum and Lawton have been names that were recognizable for four years. While Lawton will head to Cincinnati, fans in the state of West Virginia will see Milum for the next four years after he signed with the Mountaineers last week.
Much like what Milum has pride in his work as an offensive lineman, Dingess said that same pride is there for his home state, too.
“I think it’s a pride thing,” Dingess said. “These kids are very proud to be from our state and want to represent our state. That’s a big thing for him. I’m happy he stayed home.”
Milum said the prospects of the offensive line for West Virginia are exciting as he joins a group that already has in-state product Zach Frazier and could potentially add Nester, who is in the NCAA’s transfer portal.
“That, honestly, would be special,” Milum said. “Hopefully, I could work hard enough and do well and start for them, too. It would be cool to see home-grown players starting there.”
Milum will be honored at the Victory Awards Dinner on May 23 at Embassy Suites in Charleston.