MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Like three of his teammates on the offensive line, tackle Nick Malone hails from West Virginia. A product of Morgantown High School, he played high school football just 2.4 miles away from Milan Puskar Stadium.

Unlike his fellow Mountain State offensive lineman, Malone wasn’t immediately playing meaningful snaps on game day. It took him time to get to where he is now.

“Really proud of how he’d developing, and excited of how he’s going to be able to help us,” offensive line coach Matt Moore said.

Three years of hard work paid off for Malone last spring. Entering his redshirt sophomore season, the Morgantown native was named the Tommy Nickolich Memorial Award recipient. The award is handed out annually to the WVU football program’s top walk-on player.

Exactly seven months later, Malone was rewarded with a scholarship after practice on Thanksgiving Day.

Malone has appeared in every game over the last two years and is expected to provide critical depth on both sides of the offensive line entering this season.

“The good thing is, I’ve got Malone over there,” said Moore. “Wyatt (Milum) caught a cramp today. Malone jumped in, finished practice with the first group, and we didn’t miss a beat at left tackle.”

The veteran offensive line coach praised the leadership of his three main in-state players — Milum, Zach Frazier, and Doug Nester. He said they set the tone for the expectations of the offensive line, and have kept the unit together over the past few offseasons.

Malone is part of that group, too, and is a testament to how hard work can take an overlooked three-star player to one of the main contributors of an offensive line that expects to be among the best in the country.

“Malone’s from here, from Morgantown, so really, I got four guys. And Malone’s developed himself into a really good player,” said Moore.