By TONY VIOLA
MORGANTOWN - As soon as Ford Childress walked into the Milan Puskar Center, he was swarmed by members of the media.
Everyone wanted to know what the new leader of the Mountaineers offense had to say about his debut.
He didn't seem to mind it, though.
The 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman sat there in a plain gold t-shirt with blue ball cap on his head that had a black dog pictured on the front, smiled and answered questions.
After all, he already completed the hardest part of his day.
''It felt really good,'' the Houston, Texas native said about his performance. ''Since my senior year of high school, I haven't really taken a snap, so it felt really good to be back out there.''
Not only did Childress lead West Virginia to a 41-7 victory against Georgia State in his first start since high school, his 359 passing yards are the most by a freshman quarterback at WVU since Scott McBrien threw for 257 against Pitt nearly 13 years ago.
He also tossed three touchdowns for good measure.
''Pretty good for the first game he has ever played in college football,'' Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen said. ''I thought his body language was good and that he handled everything well. I thought he did a good job of just being in the game.''
It's that body language, Holgorsen says, that gave Childress the edge this week after the West Virginia coach re-opened the quarterback competition.
It's also something that Childress had been working on since he arrived at WVU.
''The backup quarterback should always have good body language and always try to give positive energy to the sidelines,'' he said. ''That was my job last year pretty much. So the first two games, that's all I was really trying to do. Just have good body language. Just get everyone around me excited and wanting to win.''
Not only did he want the team to win, Childress wanted to be the one that led the Mountaineers to victory. But when Paul Millard's name was called over his to start in Week 1, it didn't discourage the quarterback. He knew his time would come.
''Last year, when I redshirted, I knew I wasn't going to play,'' he said. ''But this year, at first when I got my reps cut, (offensive coordinator) Shannon (Dawson) was like, 'You're going to play this year. You can't goof off. You have to stay focused.' I knew I was going to play this year.''
So when Dawson broke the news to Childress during a meeting on Wednesday, the only surprise was the fact he jumped from third string to first.
Then he called his dad.
''He was really proud of me,'' Childress said. ''I've been working hard and he knows it.''
One thing Childress did point out he needs to work harder on is his communication with his coach.
''It's difficult when Dana gives the signals really quick or when he tries to be cute with his signs. That makes it tricky,'' he said. ''He tries to hide them and stuff. He has really small fingers. It gets kinda confusing.''
Almost as confusing as the hat on Childress' head.
''Southern Proper, man,'' he pointed out. ''It's a southern thing.''
Tony Viola can be reached via email at email@example.com.