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February 3, 2014

Been through it before

Signing day is a day of both many joys and stresses as high school seniors across the country fax their letters of intent to their respective schools. But don't just take it from me, how about from someone that's been through the experience of being recruited?

Jason Colson signed with West Virginia February 6, 2002 as a high school senior at Edison in Rochester, New York, and over a decade later the former Mountaineers running back still vividly remembers his thoughts and feelings associated with that day.

"For me it was one of the biggest moments of my life. You work hard on and off the field and knowing one of the biggest things was the opportunity to go to college outside of football," he said. "I remember thinking I'm going to college and I'm going to play big time football."

But Colson knows all about the stresses that come to leading to that one moment of clarity when your fax is sent to the place that you will spend the next four to five years of your life. After rushing for over 3,100 yards and 31 touchdowns over this final two years, his recruitment started to blow up with schools trying to get in late in the process.

"I don't know if a lot of people realize the stress. It's a very exciting time but it can be very stressful," he said. "You're a 17-18 year old kid making these decisions on where we're going to spend the next four to give years of your life. It's not just an athletic decision but academically, too."

That's because early into his senior year he had offered a verbal commitment to Syracuse, one of his favorite schools growing up and a school that he had long dreamed of playing at. The Orange offered Colson the opportunity to play either safety or linebacker but he had always wanted try his hand at running back.

"It's just a lot going through your mind. You start to hear from schools you've never heard from," he said. "But I definitely thought I was going to Syracuse."

In came West Virginia and assistant coach Herb Hand into his recruitment in October of his senior season and the Mountaineers were offering Colson the one thing he had coveted since he began the process: an opportunity to carry the football. Hand, along with running backs coach Calvin Magee, saw the potential of Colson as a ball carrier and gave him a lot to think about as his recruitment moved forward.

So that left Colson was in the tough position that so many recruits find themselves in either stay true to his commitment or look at his options to determine the best fit for him on and off the field.

"It's a very difficult decision. I truly believe when a kid commits they truly want to commit to that school. I think for me it fell in line that I wanted to be happy," he said. "I didn't think I was going to be happy playing defense."

Colson had already made his mind up prior to his official visit to West Virginia, but the trip only solidified his decision to ink with the Mountaineers and begin the quest to prove those wrong that said he would never carry the football in college.

The fan base also played a crucial role to help him determine his future after observing the support that the Mountaineers received on his official visit.

"The people were so nice. I knew about the history of West Virginia and I knew they had just came off a 3-8 season but the one thing that stood out to me was that coach (Rich) Rodriguez said those that stay will be champions. That won me over," he said. "He told me we were going to build this program up and we were champions. We won a couple Big East championships, a Sugar Bowl and a Gator Bowl."

However once he got on campus he quickly realized that those coaches that had been recruiting him weren't going to be so nice on the practice field.

"That guy that was sitting in your living room with your parents not going to be the same guy on the practice field. Who is that guy?" he said.

Colson would go on to rush for 1,101 yards and ten touchdowns over his four-year career with the Mountaineers including having the opportunity to carry the football against the school he was once committed to Syracuse, rushing for 55 yards in a half during his freshman year and over 100 yards in a start during his sophomore season.

"I was always excited about playing Syracuse. It was a little more personal," he said. "I had things I wanted to prove to myself and I wanted to be the best team player."

Colson now serves as the project specialist at Crothall Healthcare where he manages the implementation of the engineering programs and travels across the country. He also has remained close to the program attending around three games a season, including last year's Oklahoma State game.

And while his playing days are behind him, Colson still is very active in following the recruitments of prospective West Virginia athletes and is one of many former athletes that post on WVSports.com from time to time. And with each passing signing day he can't help but get a little nostalgic about his experiences on that magical day and where signing that letter of intent led him.

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