Winding path led German tackle to WVU
By Bob Hertzel
Published: Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, 10:42 p.m.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Last month's trip to Maryland, which resulted in 37-0 loss, was not exactly what Curtis Feigt thought he was getting himself into a decade ago when he began his football journey.
No, film study was not what the senior tackle at West Virginia had imagined as an 11-year-old German youth.
“It was very tense, obviously. Nobody likes to come in and watch film when you lose to someone 37-0. It was not a good situation for us,” Feigt said. “On the positive end, everyone saw if you don't hold up your own end of the bargain, things are not going to work out.
“It showed us we have to rely on each other and work as a group. That was the one thing positive about it.”
The other positive? He was starting for a major college football team coming off an upset victory over then-No. 11 Oklahoma State and preparing to visit No. 17 Baylor on Saturday, as his strange journey continues.
Oddly, it was Heinz ketchup and the Steelers that got him into the sport.
“It's kind of a funny story,” Feigt said. “Obviously, I tried soccer and a couple of other sports that didn't work out for me. I was sitting at home watching TV, and Heinz ketchup put up a commercial with a couple of Steelers football players. I thought that might be something I might want to do.”
And so it was that this preteen German — bigger than most of his friends but not yet the 6-foot-7, 314 pounds he would grow into — went looking with his parents for a club team on which he could play.
“My cousin was a cheerleader at this club and they would practice simultaneously with the football team, so she took me to one of her practices and I went to watch the football team. The next time I tried out and it was fun, so I stuck with it,” Feigt said.
He knew nothing about the sport, so he was a project. Feigt was hooked, and five years later, at 16, he came to America to play at Mercersburg Academy.
“The NFL Europe recruited me, together with USA football. They told me if I registered on their web page I might get the chance to come to the USA. I did that, and I got picked to go here. They sent me a list of schools I could come to,” Feigt said.
Oliver Luck, who would become athletic director at WVU, was president of NFL Europe. “Most kids at 16 don't think about leaving their parent's home and traveling across a huge ocean to go play football and attend school in a foreign country,” he said.
West Virginia recruited Feigt out of high school as a defensive lineman, brought him along slowly with a redshirt season and then a freshman year when he seldom played. The Mountaineers moved him to tackle, and he became a starter the final six games of his junior year.
Now he's here, one of the few married men on the team, speaking flawless English and thinking about the future.
“At first it wasn't that tough, really, but the older I get the tougher it gets because I realize my mom and dad are not going to be here forever. It's kind of setting in, and I want them to be a part of my life again,” he said.
“I'm pretty sure I'll stay here three or four years (if the NFL doesn't give him a shot) and get a job and save money, but it depends what my wife, Katelyn, wants to do. If she wants to move to Germany with me, we'll go back. If not, we'll do something else.”
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