2nd Annual West Virginia Specialist Combine held at Robert C Byrd High School

Combine showcases talent of West Virginia special teams athletes
Published: Jul. 30, 2022 at 5:58 PM EDT
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CLARKSBURG, W.Va (WDTV) - The 2nd annual West Virginia Specialist Combine was held today at Robert C Byrd high school. The combine is a chance for long snappers, punters and other special teams athletes to come together and showcase their skills for college recruitment. Oak Hill’s Ethan Vargo-Thomas won the annual competition and was named the #1 specialist in West Virginia.

Punting the football is a play older than the game itself. Despite its impact on the game, the first kicker wasn’t drafted to the NFL until 1973. To be a specialist, you might have to do a little more work to get noticed.

“As a specialist, you almost have to market yourself to college coaches,” said Coach Matt McCullough, organizer of the combine and owner of Coach Mac Special Teams LLC. “If you’re at a bigger school, where coaches are used to paying attention to you, college coaches might notice a kicker. If you’re at a school where colleges are not normally at, then this is an opportunity for you to compete with your peers and get some of that exposure.”

With that in mind, it’s safe to say that the special teams unit often goes unnoticed in high school football. Most schools only have one or two specialists on the roster each year. Some even trot out an offensive player to do the task on fourth down. It’s stories like these that show why the West Virginia Specialist Camp is so important. It’s a chance for unnoticed players to find a path to the next level of their playing careers.

“A lot of times, to do Summer camps, they have to go out of state, travel multiple hours away,” said McCullough. “If they go to a combine that has multiple position groups - kickers and punters don’t get seen.”

The difference between a top five and bottom five punt unit in the NFL in 2020 was that of an entire touchdown - seven points every single game. In a high school setting, a great punt unit can be the difference between a good team and a State Championship. It’s arguably the most important unit on the field.

“These are some of the best kickers and punters in the state,” said Ethan Vargo-Thomas, an Oak Hill senior. “I feel like West Virginia doesn’t get as much exposure as it should because there’s a lot of really good kickers and punters here.”

“It’s a blessing to be able to get up and do what I love to do,” said Vargo-Thomas. “I’ve worked really hard to get to this point, and to be able to come out here and compete with some of my friends and people I’ve kicked against for three years. It’s a good experience.”

With opportunities like these in West Virginia, players are able to come together from any place in the state and have a chance to showcase their skills at the biggest stage in the Mountain State.

“Everybody looks forward to this. We all have it on our calendars. We all want to compete,” said Woodrow Wilson’s Connor Mollohan. “It’s a fun day when you get to come out here and compete, but it’s even better when you get to do it with your friends. Even if we’re playing against each other, we’re still cheering on the sidelines. It’s just a brotherhood we have.”

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