MORGANTOWN - As West Virginia linebacker Josh Francis spoke after a practice, perspiration poured from his body.
"Man," he said. "I can't stop sweating. I've never sweated like this."
Truth be told, however, Francis has been sweating figuratively since he hit WVU's campus as a first-team NJCAA (junior college) All-America selection.
Francis, a 6-foot-1, 221-pound senior, was expected to make an immediate impact on the Mountaineers' 2011 3-3-5 odd stack defense. Yet he finished last season with just nine tackles, seven unassisted, in eight games played. Most of those tackles were via special-teams play.
Basically, it was a lost season for the transfer. Because he was lost.
"Just confusing," he said of last season. "Stressful."
It was frustrating and stressful for the coaches as well. They all saw the player's raw skills. They witnessed his speed. But Francis would move to the wrong spots on the field. He wasn't making plays. So his junior year was basically a wipeout.
It took a toll on the player under the gear.
"Last year I found myself with a lot of stress, taking it home with me," Francis said. "I found myself staying up late, trying to put things together. But I could never put anything together. As a result, it affected my personal life with people, things like that. Instead of letting things flow, letting football come to me ..."
"That's all I've done all my life," he said of football. "I'd never been in that position. I'd never sat out [from starting for] a year. I'd never gone through the mental things I did. I've learned from that and have been able to move on and not look back."
"The Lord," he said.
One could tell by the look on the linebacker's face he was pained by the experience.
"Sometimes last year, like at midseason, I found myself with no direction," Francis said. "I couldn't really focus until, what they say, I shut my locker. Everything settled down. I was able to take a step back and was able to look at it that way."