Oliver officially signs scholarship with WVU Mountaineers
It’s official now. Following the advice of singer John Denver, DJ Oliver has decided to take the country roads to the place he belongs: “Almost Heaven.”
Oliver, who thrilled Port St. Joe football fans for two seasons on the gridiron, became a Mountaineer when he signed with West Virginia (WVU) on Wednesday, December 21, at a ceremony held at the Port Inn Hall on National Signing Day.
Oliver, who had earlier decommitted from the University of South Florida after they made a coaching change, chose WVU following a “great visit, with amazing people and great coaches” on Saturday, December 17.
In doing so, the senior Tiger Shark, who rushed for nearly 2,700 yards over two years despite missing three games this past season, turned down offers from the Air Force Academy, Army, Central Michigan, Florida Atlantic, Middle Tennessee, Navy, and UAB.
Why West Virginia?
Oliver said that he was “impressed with the overall program, especially the love and support from the coaching staff, and how they take care of players.”
In particular, Oliver lauded running backs coach Chad Scott, giving him most of the credit for the final decision. “Coach Scott told me that if I work hard at practice, I can play (freshman year).”
In addition, the multi-talented running back enjoyed visiting the “amazing campus,” where he intends to study criminal justice.
When asked about transitioning from the beach to the mountains, Oliver said “I’m a big winter person, an outdoor person, so that’s not a problem.”
St. Joe football coach and athletic director Tanner Jones said that “I have never had a kid like DJ before. He makes things happen that aren’t there, and seems to make it effortless.”
In addition to his football accomplishments on both sides of the ball, Oliver “is just a good person, (and) a good human being,” Jones added. “He’s genuine. Not boastful, he lets his pads and legs do his talking.”
“He’s a great competitor in football, weightlifting (DJ can squat more than 500 lb.), and track,” said Jones. “He’s always positive, rarely in a bad mood, and he does what is asked. Teachers talk about what a good kid he is in class.”
Oliver has had several good reasons to be in a bad mood: he broke a bone in his foot during his freshman season, and then in the first game as a sophomore he broke an ankle after a mere six carries against Marianna, causing him to miss the entire season.
But he came back with a vengeance his junior year, rushing for 1,689 yards and 20 touchdowns in 10 games, plus hauling in 20 passes for another 378 yards and five scores.
Hurt during the Bay game this season, DJ returned to gain 983 yards in eight games, and said he is “fully healed, with no effects from the injury.”
Coach Jones is quite familiar with Mountaineer coaches, since “both Neal Brown and Chad Scott were on the Troy staff when I was there” in 2008.
Brown, Mountaineer head coach, “was one of the hardest working coaches I’ve ever been around,” said Jones. “It’s a really good staff.”
Echoing Jones about Oliver, PSJHS Principal Sissy Godwin said that “DJ is a great kid! He is one of the kindest and most respectful student-athletes we have had pass through our halls.”
“Wherever he goes, he will need someone to supply his Blow Pops for him,” she added in jest.
Gulf County School Superintendent Jim Norton added that “DJ is a remarkable young man. He is not only a phenomenal athlete, but he is also an exceptional student.”
“I have no doubt,” Norton said, “DJ will make us all proud at what he achieves at the next levels of competition.”
Oliver’s exploits have also been noticed in the Mountaineer state.
Ryan Decker, who covers West Virginia athletics for WBOY.com, called DJ “a bruising running back.”
Writing for SI.com/Mountaineers Now, Schuyler Callihan and Christopher Hall called DJ “a load coming out of the backfield, bouncing off would-be tacklers before streaking downfield.”
Callihan and Hall added that “the WV coaching staff looks for ‘football players’ and they found one in Oliver. He’s got the size, strength, and makeup to be a contributor immediately.”
Also noting his defensive prowess, Callihan and Hall wrote that “Oliver is a ball hawk on the defensive side of the football, (so we) would not be surprised if defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley doesn’t get in his ear to switch sides.”
Discounting that possibility for now, Oliver said that he will focus on remaining a running back.
Regardless of which position he ends up playing, Port St. Joe fans will be watching for his number when the 2023 season kicks off..
i WATCHED HIM AS A JUNIOR.. i’M FROM KENTUCY IN WAS IN THE AREA TO SEE IF ANYONE WANTED TO TRAVEL 700 MILES TO PLAY AT A NAIA . COLLEGE. WEST VIRGINIA STOLE ONE IN D.J. NEAL BROWN’S DAD COACHED AT CAMPBELLSVILLE WHEN THEY STARTED FOOTBALL IN 87.