It’s a new season for a pair of Mountaineer offensive linemen — in more ways than one.
Right guard Mike Brown and left guard James Gmiter are teammates in old gold and blue, but they don’t just support each other during practices and games. When they go home, they also share the common experience of being new fathers.
“We get into conversations about fatherhood every once in a while,” Gmiter said. “It’s nice to have another dad on the o-line, and we both know the struggles that we’re gonna go through, and we can kind of pick each other up if anything’s going bad. I’m glad that he’s in this with me.”
Gmiter’s daughter was the first to arrive over the summer. He and his wife, Quin, welcomed Ryott Jay on July 23. Brown and his wife, Anna, then welcomed their daughter, Alaya Marie, about a month later on Aug. 29.
Brown thinks this major life change has brought him closer to his college football teammate.
“I feel like because we’re both dads, that brought us way together,” Brown said. “We were cool friends at first, but like, both being dads, now we’re just like…”
The 348-pound offensive lineman brought both his hands together, interlocked his fingers and then continued: “You know what I mean? We’re on the same page, and we’re always challenging each other, too.”
Each lineman grew up in different corners of the country and followed much different paths to this shared experience.
Gmiter, a redshirt sophomore, played high school football at Bethel Park in nearby Pennsylvania. His high school field is about a 60-mile drive from Milan Puskar Stadium.
On the other hand, Brown hails from Compton, California, and took a much more windy path to Morgantown. After high school, he participated in a two-year mission trip to Philippines, played junior college ball at Eastern Carolina, then came to WVU alongside his brother, Joe, and recently completed a bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies.
On the field, they want to accomplish the same thing — both athletes want to reach the NFL.
“Our goals are common: make it to the league,” Brown said. “Get money not just for our family, but the whole family.”
But fatherhood has also united them in their outlook on life beyond the gridiron.
“When his baby came — beautiful child by the way, I tell them all the time — when her baby came, I was so psyched for him, it made me more excited for me,” Brown said. “I wanted to be a dad, my wife wanted to be mom, all that, and then once the babies came by and then we finally just came together during football and stuff, that’s all that we would talk about.”
For Gmiter, being a dad means a renewed appreciation for his wife.
“She took it upon herself to really take care of Ryott and really make sure she’s getting everything she needs while I’m gone for 10 hours a day, especially during camp. She did a really, really good job, and I’m really thankful for that,” Gmiter said. “It’s definitely different, but I enjoy it. It’s the best job I’ll ever have.”
For Brown, fatherhood is about learning to be selfless.
“I literally don’t do anything for me anymore. I don’t know how to explain it,” Brown said. “The day I saw my baby come into this world, the more things became clear. I value more things now. I value more human life — not just my baby, but I’m starting to see the perspective of other people, because one day, my daughter is gonna be in that position, and I have to be aware to understand and go about the right way of guiding her and showing her what she needs to do.”