Eugene, who was a career 1,000-yard rusher at WVU, was overcome with emotion when Brandon Napoleon committed to his alma mater on Sunday.
“Having your son follow in your footsteps, that is just a great honor,” he stated emphatically. “It was very emotional for me. To be honest, it brought a tear to my eye. To know that he'll benefit from West Virginia in the same way that I did, it's just a great feeling. Words can't express what I'm feeling.”
Eugene's heartfelt love for WVU is evident in just about every statement he makes about the school, and it's clear that he believes both the university and the football program are the best places for Brandon. Befitting a parent's interest in the overall well-being of his child, he didn't speak about Brandon's suitability for a particular offensive position or style – in fact, he didn't mention the on-field aspect much at all. While that's certainly one of the considerations for choosing a school, Eugene was more focused on the entire experience his son will have.
“I had a great time at West Virginia. It was one of the best periods of my life,” Eugene said. “I know that he'll get to share that now. The first thing that his mom and I wanted for him is to be happy, and I know he will be happy here.”
Eugene began indoctrinating his son in the WVU way from the very beginning, speaking about his time and experiences on campus. However, in the end, he didn't push Brandon toward WVU, and let him make up his own mind. That didn't mean, though, that he wasn't privately pulling for that decision.
“He had opportunities to go a lot of other places, but I knew that when the West Virginia offer came, that he would commit. When he told me, it was just very emotional.”
Napoleon stays in close contact with his alma mater, and keept an eye on the recent coaching situation, but said that did not play a part in his son's decision – and that he believes in the current administration.
“We did want to see how it all worked out, but I have full confidence in the athletic director and the president of WVU, that they will do what is best for the school. And no matter how you cut it, that's what is the most important – what's best for the school. For me, it's also what is in the best interest of my son, and I am confident that he will be in the best place for him.”
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West Virginia wasn't Eugene's first choice for college – he attended Pitt before transferring to West Virginia for his final three seasons. Along with running back A.B. Brown, who also came with him from the Panthers, he helped power the Mountaineers to three consecutive bowl games and an undefeated 1988 regular season. Given today's transfer rules, it's highly unlikely that any player will transfer from West Virginia to Pitt (or vice versa) again, so he has a view of the Backyard Brawl that almost no one else does – and one that he's sure to pass on to Eugene.
“You can believe that,” he said with a laugh when asked if he'll be sharing stories of the Brawl with his son. “He knows how important it is.”
Even though Napoleon and Brown came in for a lot of teasing from friends when they switched sides, he said that neither was targeted in games.
“Being a running back, you are already a target,” he said. “And Pitt was a hard hitting defense, they would really smack you in the mouth. But for A.B. and me, it really brought out the best in us. We were competitors. Being at Pitt, then coming to West Virginia, that just added to it. We definitely got a different perspective on the whole thing, but it was a great experience.”
Ones that, we're sure, Brandon will be hearing more about over his career -- especially during Brawl Week.