- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 5, 2009

NEWPORT, R.I. | West Virginia was in the middle of spring practice when coach Bill Stewart ended one session with a simple gesture.

He walked toward Jarrett Brown and wedged a football into the fifth-year senior’s hands, leaving no doubt to the answer of the greatest uncertainty surrounding the Mountaineers’ program.

“It’s my team,” Brown said of the moment’s significance. “It’s officially my team.”

At long last.

Of course, there was a reason Brown was the longtime backup - the presence of a man who galvanized a solid program into a national championship contender.

That would be Pat White, the slippery maestro who led the Mountaineers to four straight postseason triumphs and a skyrocketing national profile that included statement bowl victories against Georgia and Oklahoma.

More than seven months after White’s last game, he still looms. His name was evoked repeatedly at Tuesday’s Big East media day, leaving Brown to answer as many questions about his predecessor’s absence as his own pending opportunity.

“It wouldn’t be my first choice,” Brown said after considering yet another White-related query. “I’ve been hearing it. It won’t be over till we play that first game.”

It arrives Sept. 5 against Liberty, a salve for the barrage of understandable curiosity over whether Brown can maintain the program’s quality.

What it ignores is Brown’s own wait.

He was a vital recruit from West Palm Beach, Fla. - a potent passer with a powerful arm who was also a superb basketball player (on Tuesday, Brown wore his 2008 Sweet 16 ring from his time with Bob Huggins’ first team in Morgantown).

He couldn’t wait to get to college, play on Saturdays and bask in the limelight - and there was every reason to believe Brown would prove a crucial piece for much of his career. There was just one problem.

“How was I going to sit Patrick White down when I was the quarterback coach? I like keeping my job, know what I mean?” said Stewart, who enters his second season. “So how was I going to sit him down? And Jarrett Brown, he’s a guy who probably could have played for a few teams in our league.”

The thought crossed Brown’s mind, too. Some nights, he would return to his apartment and ponder transferring.

How would a new set of teammates be? And new coaches? How about a different environment? Or learning a new offense?

And so he stayed, even as opportunities were limited. He started a game as a freshman for the injured White, rolling up 317 yards total offense against Rutgers. He had another start last year against Syracuse, helping the Mountaineers win despite shoulder and thigh bruises.

All along, his teammates noticed a player as dedicated as anyone else on the roster.

“That’s the guy,” linebacker Reed Williams said. “I think all along we knew he was the guy to replace Pat. To come into a new era like this, it’s never easy to follow a guy such as Pat who’s done so much for the program. J.B. has got the job and waited his turn, and he’s going to do some great things for us.”

With the job comes scrutiny. The Mountaineers (9-4 in 2008) have won 42 games total in the last four seasons and despite some significant losses were picked second in the Big East behind Pittsburgh.

“If there’s a football god - and I know there is - I know he’ll smile down on Jarrett Brown and say, ‘Hey buddy, it’s your time,’ ” Stewart said.

It’s all Brown ever wanted. And after those hard nights of reflection, this fall is the validation of persevering through minimal playing time for far longer than he would have guessed five years ago.

“I was comfortable,” Brown said. “I knew I was going to have one year and it was going to be special to me. It’s going to be real special to me.”

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