By Tom Bone
For The Register-Herald
Justice was selected as one of two offensive tackles on the All-Decade Team of West Virginia University football, selected recently by MSN Sports Net, media partner of WVU sports.
“In my mind’s eye, I’m (no more) deserving than a lot of other guys who played that position. I mean, that’s just a couple of people’s opinion. I don’t even know if I would have named myself to that list, actually.”
“I think a lot of it was just the fact that we had a lot of success when I played. With success comes rewards. Coach (Rick) Trickett was a great O-line coach. He pushed us to the limit while we were there.
“I think it’s a combination of coach Rod (Rich Rodriguez), the success he had in the program and the success we had with coach Trickett. The hard work paid off.”
During his time as a starting offensive lineman for the Mountaineers, Justice, a native of Gilbert, was named All-Big East and earned the Big East Scholar-Athlete of the Year award. He was a second-team All-America selection by The Sporting News in his senior year, 2005.
He and his fellow blockers helped West Virginia finish seventh and then fourth in the nation in rushing offense in 2004 and 2005. The Mountaineers were first in that category in the Big East in both of those years.
In his years as a starter, from 2003-05, Justice was part of teams that went 27-10 and beat Georgia in the Nokia Sugar Bowl. In that span, West Virginia also won three Big East titles, going 17-3 in the league. The Mountaineers finished 11-1 in 2005.
It wasn’t always easy. Justice said when Rodriguez put in his no-huddle, “spot-the-ball” offensive scheme, he struggled. “Actually, the system didn’t fit my talents, coming in,” he said.
He said the all-decade honor “takes you back, because I was there for seven of those years, so I know the players who went through there.”
Because of the talent level represented, some names of noteworthy players are not to be found. Justice mentioned Quincy Wilson as an example.
“He was a great tailback, and wasn’t even mentioned, because he was behind backs like Avon Cobourne and Steve Slaton,” Justice said. “Noel Devine wasn’t even on the list, and Noel Devine is probably going to the NFL this spring, or the next year.”
“That just shows you the caliber of players that you did have go through the program.”
One of his jobs now is to mold an offensive line for Concord that will reach a high caliber.
He was hired by Concord in December 2008, and held together a unit that was extremely thin in depth. That line helped the Mountain Lions to a 6-5 record, and opened holes for Brian Kennedy, who won the conference rushing title, and other teammates. Concord rushed for 227 yards per game and averaged 33.2 points.
Justice said that lessons he learned in Morgantown helped his coaching efforts.
He said, “I think the main thing (was that) we took guys who were not your highest recruits or considered your best players, but instilled in them a work ethic and a pride in the program, and what you do. I think that’s the biggest thing.
“If we can get our players to start to fight for us, which I felt we did, to believe in what we’re doing, and know that they deserve to win — then you will win.”
He learned that as a player, and feels fortunate to have been in on something special.
“You have to look back on this decade of West Virginia football as being the best in the history of the program,” Justice said.
“Don Nehlen had a couple of years here and there; he had one great year in the ’90s and one great year in the ’80s. But never before was there two BCS (Bowl Championship Series) wins. …
“With two BCS wins, and winning the Big East Conference four or five times in those 10 years — it’s hard to compare it with any other decade in the history of West Virginia football.”
He said West Virginia head coach Bill Stewart “seems to be doing a nice job.” But he leaves no question about his allegiance to the coach he played for.
“I’m always going to be a fan of coach Rodriguez. I think he gets a bad rap for some things in the state,” Justice said. “People also can’t deny the great success Rich Rodriguez had when he was here.”
Here I am with my REALLY TALL cousin at our 2005 Family Renion!
Michelle, Pam, Garin