MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - That Clint Trickett is playing football at West Virginia these days is not as surprising to him as this:
That he wasn't playing here before now.
After all, that was apparently the plan he had for most of his young life. Morgantown was his home, WVU was his school and football was his game. Eventually the three would intersect, right?
He just never thought it would take this long.
"I wanted to come here out of high school,'' Trickett said Tuesday. "It didn't really work out. I really wasn't recruited. It was a different offense then.''
Three years later, Trickett seems to feel he's where he belongs. He's well into his first week of practice with the Mountaineers, in a battle with Paul Millard and Ford Childress for the starting quarterback job. And the offense of Dana Holgorsen is decidedly different than it was when Bill Stewart was the coach and Jeff Mullen his offensive coordinator. Those are the two who passed on Trickett when he was a senior in high school in Tallahassee, Fla., in 2009.
If Trickett is bitter about that, he doesn't say. But it's not hard to tell where his heart is.
"I was [disappointed],'' he said. "I came to camp here and really tried. It just didn't work out. They were in a different offense, so I understood why. But I always wanted to play here, in this stadium and for these fans.''
Of course, it's not as if Trickett was left out in the cold. He was, after all, a top-10 quarterback in Florida as a high school senior, and Florida State - where his father, Rick, was and is the offensive line coach since leaving WVU in 2006 - happily took him. He redshirted there in 2010, then was the backup to E.J. Manuel for two years, playing in 17 games and making two starts.
Yet even while carving out playing time at Florida State, West Virginia wasn't far from his mind.
"I was gone seven years and I visited twice every year, so I've been back up here all the time,'' Trickett said.
Even while playing at Florida State, he never really lost the thought of playing at West Virginia, apparently for a few reasons.
For starters, there was Manuel, who was entrenched as the starter and then wound up being the first quarterback taken in last May's NFL draft. When Manuel left, Trickett found himself in yet another battle for the starting spot in the spring, a four-way fight he would eventually lose to freshman Jameis Winston. Shortly after the end of spring practice, he announced he would transfer.
But the truth is, he said, thought of a transfer - even specifically one to West Virginia - began long before the spring.
"I wanted to come here after the fall,'' Trickett said. "But I failed a class and didn't have enough credits so I had to go back in the spring.''
Not that Trickett is a classroom liability, mind you. The fact is, he graduated early from high school to get a jump on school and football at Florida State, then graduated in 31/2 years - the half year when he should have still been a senior in high school, his redshirt year at FSU and then two as the backup quarterback. It would have taken just three years and he would have been out after the fall semester last year had it not been for overzealousness in scheduling.
"I tried to take 18 hours during the season. That was a rough fall,'' he said. "I almost did it. I knew what I was in for about Day 2.''
Needing to stick around for that extra semester to graduate - and thus become immediately eligible at a new school - Trickett went through spring practice and battled right down to the final day. Had he won the job, well, things might have been different.
Might have been, he said.