When the original list of West Virginia University football players that had agreed to participate in the 17th annual Parkersburg Boys and Girls Club Steak and Burger Dinner was announced, former Parkersburg South standout Michael Molinari's name was not mentioned among the 13 players to display an interest in attending.
But, when the bus left the Morgantown campus to make the trip to the Grand Pointe Conference Center in Vienna, there seated among the six players that were able to make the trip was Molinari, the Mountaineers' starting holder on field goals and PATs and backup punter.
"I really could not see myself not making this trip," Molinari said. "This event has meant so much to the kids in this area and they really enjoy it when our players take the time to spend time with them."
Those who know the soft-spoken Molinari understand how important it is for the three-sport athlete during his playing days at Parkersburg South to return to his 'roots', even if it was for just a couple of hours.
"I remember what it meant to me when I came to one of these dinners as a player at Parkersburg South. These kids look up to us as role models and I want to make sure that every one of them leave here as Mountaineer fans."
Joining the junior-to-be at the annual fundraising event were incoming freshmen Daikiel Shorts, Malik Greaves, and Hodari Christian as well as junior college recruits Dreamius Smith and Kevin White.
"I'm kind of the old guy with this group," laughed Molinari. "We talked a little bit about what this event meant to the kids who were here and about the Boys and Girls Club."
Their willingness to come wasn't the only thing that impressed Molinari.
"They are really working very hard in workouts. Everybody understands that there will be a lot of holes that need to be filled for next season so the competition for jobs has really gotten fierce."
Two of those jobs-punter and placekicker-will be the ones vacated by departing seniors Tyler Bitancurt and Corey Smith.
"I guess I am the most experienced person we have back on special teams. I know that I have been working very hard since the end of last season so that I am ready when spring drills begin in late March."
Molinari, who made his collegiate debut as a redshirt freshman against UConn, punting the ball five times for a 43.0 average, spent the majority of last season as the team's holder on field goals and extra points while Bitancurt and Smith took turns handling the punting duties. His one-and-only punt during the 2012 campaign traveled 31 yards.
He is expected to be in the mix for both jobs, however, when spring drills begin under third-year head coach Dana Holgorsen.
"I feel like I have prepared myself for the challenges that I will face in the spring," Molinari said. "Now, it is just a matter of going out there and doing the things that I have been taught to do."
Contact Jim Butta at firstname.lastname@example.org