HUBBARD - A state with just less than 2 million people sits just over two hours away from Trumbull County. It's a landlocked state in the heart of Appalachia famous for its rolling hills, outdoor recreation, pepperoni rolls and coal mining.
In West Virginia, though, football is the king pastime. And WVU football is a way of life.
Hubbard lineman Matt Jones can't wait to be a part of it.
A 6-foot-4, 300-pound, four-star recruit, Jones made his commitment to WVU as part of a junior day event on Saturday.
"West Virginia just has the Mountaineers," Jones said. "There's just the university; no pro teams. When I committed, everyone down there knew about it. The fans make you feel special. You can tell they treat the players very well."
A fair share of Mahoning Valley football players have been recruited by the Mountaineers in recent years. The most recent to wear the blue and gold were Youngstown Chaney products Keilen Dykes, who spent some time with the Arizona Cardinals, and Thandi Smith from 2004-08. Liberty High grad Lewis Daniels played defensive back for West Virginia in 1999 and 2000.
"I'm surprised there haven't been more guys from the area playing there," Jones said. "It's so close, it's big-time football and it's a great football town."
Jones chose WVU over Kentucky, Indiana and Toledo. A talk with regional recruiter Tony Gibson and offensive line coach Ron Crook helped seal the deal.
"They told me what other coaches didn't tell me," Jones said. "Coach Crook was being straight up with me. He told me to do what's best for me and not do what's best for other guys. This was my decision and my future. That really helped and helped seal it.
"They told me they needed some big linemen. They haven't really had any big lineman in a while."
It's also been two years since the Mountaineers' last bowl win, a 70-33 beatdown of Clemson in the 2012 Orange Bowl. They failed to become bowl eligible in 2013.
Jones plans to major in criminal justice. He is one of six players already signed for the 2015 class.
Hubbard running back L.J. Scott also visited the Morgantown campus this past Saturday. He has a WVU offer, among a dozen others.
"The coaches said he'd be a big part down there," Jones said. "He likes it. I'm not going to try and persuade him, though. I'll support him no matter what. I'm not going to push him because he wouldn't have done that to me."