By Grant TraylorHerald-Dispatch
HUNTINGTON -- Once Spring Valley two-way standout Elijah Wellman committed to play running back at West Virginia University, he knew he had to get in the hits at linebacker while he could.In the 2012 season, he made the most of his final opportunities on the defensive side of the football.
Wellman finished with 124 tackles with 11 for loss, including two sacks. He also added three forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and an interception that he returned for a touchdown to lead the Timberwolves to an 8-4 record and berth in the Class AAA quarterfinals.The totals also landed him the Huff Award, given to the state's top defensive player, as voted on by the members of the West Virginia Sports Writers Association."Coming out with a defensive award, that's big for me," Wellman said. "I'm going to WVU to play running back, but to also go up there as the best defensive linebacker in the state, that says a lot. I'm very proud to win the award and take that honor up to Morgantown with me, also."Wellman was a two-way standout this season for Spring Valley. In addition to the numbers he put up defensively, the 6-3, 230-pound senior also rushed for 1,676 yards and 18 touchdowns.He said his mindset as a running back aided him the most to be the state's most feared linebacker.It also enabled him to still track plays even though teams tried their best to take him out of the defensive equation."Being a running back, you know the holes and you know the plays," Wellman said. "Especially in this state, most everything is somewhat based off the wing-T, so the plays you run on offense, they look similar to what you face as a defense."Even though teams were trying to run away from me, I was able to beat them to the spot because I could recognize where the play was going by the formations they were running."While Wellman was proud of the individual accomplishment, there was something he was a bit happier about than getting the Huff Award.That was leading Spring Valley to its first playoff win in program history - a sound 31-7 win over Wheeling Park. Given the start of his senior season, it wasn't easy to accomplish."I'm most proud of leading the team the right way," Wellman said. "It's hard to come back from 0-2 at the beginning of the season and get the wins we did. We finally got that playoff win and were a couple of plays from beating Midland in the playoffs."
As Wellman takes his talents to Morgantown for use on the offensive side of the ball as a big back for Dana Holgorsen's offense, he's excited for his future.However, if the Mountaineers run into defensive issues during Wellman's stay, he has the credentials to back up a move to the opposite side of the ball.Other finalists for the Huff Award included Morgantown's Jalen Thomas, Robert C. Byrd's Jermodd Garrett and George Washington's Dustin Crouser.Past winnersHuff AwardDefensive player of the year
2012-Elijah Wellman, Spring Valley, LB2011-Logan Jenkins, Martinsburg, LB2010-Ryan Lazear, Brooke, SS-LB2009-Alex Sutton, Bridgeport, LB-RB2008-Aaron Slusher, South Charleston, LB-RB2007-Rodney Hudson, George Washington, DL2006-Xavier Peters, Martinsburg, DB2005-Adam Parkulo, Woodrow Wilson, LB2004-Zac Cooper, Weir, LB2003-Ben Gum, Parkersburg South, LB2002-Will Albin, Princeton, LB2001-Joey Spano, George Washington, LB2000-Ashley McNeely, Wyoming East, LB1999-Al Hammell, Parkersburg, LB1998-Eric Grimm, Parkersburg, DB1997-Ben Collins, North Marion, LB1996-Yubrenal Isabelle, Bluefield, LB1995-Nathan Kirby, Parkersburg, LB1994-Bobbie Howard, DuPont, LB