By Mark Robinson
Troy Clemons, a 21-year-old native of Maxwelton, was at West Virginia’s Blue/Gold game last Saturday, held at The Greenbrier. After the game, he took a few minutes to talk about new role. He was selected in early spring to be the next West Virginia University Mountaineer. The Mountaineer is the person who wears the buckskins and fires the gun when the football team makes a touchdown.
“They take all the applications,” says Clemons, “and from them they choose the Top 10. Then those 10 interview with the selection committee – (there are) about 15 people on the committee – they choose four from the 10. Those four dress up in buckskins and go to half of a basketball game, and mix with the people. The 15 people on the application committee are in the crowd watching to see how you do. The last basketball game of the season, they announce the winner.”
The committee, says Clemons, is looking for someone who is a good representative for the university, and for the state of West Virginia. As he describes it, they want someone who is passionate about West Virginia.
“This is my first day,” says Clemons. “We had the rifle passing ceremony April 21, and this Blue/Gold game is the first event for me.
Clemons tried out last year to be the Mountaineer, and made it to the final four, but didn’t make the last cut. This year, the result was different.
The gun he carries is a percussion cap muzzle loader. He pours black powder down in it. When he pulls the trigger, the hammer hits the cap, creating a spark that ignites the powder. There is no bullet, just smoke. A craftsman in Morgantown has made all of the guns for the University since the 1970s.
“I enjoyed guns before I got this one,” says Clemons. “I’m not so much a hunter. I like shooting. I shoot cans and stuff. I do pretty well.”
Troy is the son of Doug and Paula Clemons of Maxwelton. He graduated from Greenbrier East High School in 2013.
He describes the day’s events: “Today was great. I got to be back home for my first event. I couldn’t have scripted it better. Now I get to go see as many things in this state that I can. It’s an honor to do this, to meet the people of West Virginia.”
Clemons doesn’t have to go to practices, like the football players and the cheerleaders do. He just shows up for games. His beard adds to the look of authenticity, but he notes he didn’t grow it just for this role. He already wore the beard. It isn’t required to have a beard in order to be the Mountaineer, but it is a tradition.
The coonskin cap is made by someone in North Carolina. The buckskin outfit is made by someone in Indiana, who makes it to custom fit for each Mountaineer. Tailor made.
Clemons says he has gotten to meet a lot of the players. But most of his time will be spent with the cheerleading team, made up of young women and men who encourage the crowd to make noise. That’s what Clemons does too. He will travel with the cheerleading team.
However, he didn’t travel with the team this trip. “I came early because I was coming home.”