Colton McKivitz: Path to the NFL Draft
When the NFL Combine kicks off at the end of February, West Virginia’s Colton McKivitz will be the lone Mountaineer at the event. From a small township in Ohio, through the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference, to multiple honours playing in the BIG 12, and now on to the NFL Draft, “mountaineer” would be the perfect metaphor to describe Colton’s journey to the NFL. He’s started from the bottom, conquered the ascent, and the summit is within sight.
It’s a journey that may never have happened. Football wasn’t a consideration for a young Colton McKivitz.
“I didn’t really start playing football until my sophomore year at high school. Originally, I was going to be a baseball player. I grew up playing first base and pitcher, and I thought that was going to be the direction. Maybe if I was a left-hander I’d be playing baseball.”
He also played basketball once arriving at Union Local High School, but quickly became aware that wasn’t going to be the career choice for him.
“Heck no! We had a good team, so whatever I could do to help. It helped with footwork, so basketball was a good thing.”
In the beginning football was just for fun, but as it became obvious that it could provide scholarship opportunities, Colton McKivitz found inspiration from two players to help shape the player that he would become in the future.
“Joe Thomas was obviously one, he’s an all-time great. Someone who I’ve looked forward to in the past couple of years is Taylor Lewan with the Titans. The way he plays, and his physical presence, is something that I try to simulate in my play.”
Football begins at Union Local High School
Physical presence was certainly something that Colton McKivitz achieved at Union Local. When you look at his high school tape, you immediately notice number 53 dominating other players. He played both sides of the ball, but as a “typical 6’6 white dude with average speed” knew that a career as a defensive tackle wasn’t likely.
Instead he excelled at the offensive tackle position. McKivitz played for three years with two as captain, a leadership role that will stand him in good stead as he heads to the next level.
“It was an experience that’s for sure. Having guys look up to you, trying to teach guys the right way to play the game, how to be a good teammate, be a good friend in the locker room but also being a leader on the field.”
Colton McKivitz left a lasting impression on Union Local. Last year, they bestowed an honour on him that very few players in the game of football ever get to experience. The Union Local Football Jets #53 will forever belong to him.
“It was huge. At the time I didn’t really understand the meaning of it. But now, once you look back on it, that number will never see the field again, for an honour like that, to get your number retired, that doesn’t happen to a lot of players. It’s a pretty big honour for me.”
Colton McKivitz hits the recruiting trail
McKivitz left Union Local as a 3* offensive tackle prospect. Being from a small school, without the media attention that some high schools receive, and without a big recruiting history, there weren’t many offers from Power 5 schools.
“That whole process was insane. Started small with the MAC. Teams like Toledo, Bowling Green, Miami (OH), most of the MAC was there. I was super close with West Virginia staff. After they saw my junior year film, they offered. Virginia was my other Power 5 offer. Originally, I was committed to Miami (OH), I was going to be a Redhawk, communication wasn’t great and I kept in contact with West Virginia, took a visit again towards the end, and made it official with West Virginia. That’s the history of it now, it’s been a great career, a crazy experience, and something you get to tell the kids about.”
The start of something special at West Virginia
It certainly has been a great career for Colton McKivitz at West Virginia. His 47 starts across the offensive line is the third most in programme history. However, he started his career in 2015 with a redshirt season, not playing competitive football for the first time in four years.
“That redshirt year man, that was a grind. You’re kind of a part of the team, but not a part of the team. But it really helps you mature as a player, to realise your role, and builds that respect for being a starter.”
“I didn’t expect to play a whole lot until my sophomore or even junior year. I wasn’t really mature as a player, body wise or maybe football knowledge wise. Because of injuries I got thrown in my red-shirt freshman season and the rest is history.”
The history is three consecutive winning seasons between 2016 and 2018, with three bowl game appearances for West Virigina.
“It was a blast, I know that. We had our best season my redshirt freshman season  with 10 wins. Being able to play with guys like Will Grier, David Sills, Gary Jennings. It makes your job easier when you’ve got a quarterback getting rid of the ball in two seconds. It was a pleasure to be able to play with those guys.”
From Big 12 Freshman to an All-American
It’s also a collection of honours both in conference and nationally for Colton McKivitz. They started with selection to the All Big 12 Freshman First Team in 2016 and culminated in several honours in his final season in 2019.
“This year, with the First Team [Big 12] and Co-Offensive [Lineman Big 12], those were accolades that I set out to achieve. I wasn’t happy with the honour roll in my junior year, so I set out this year with the goal of achieving first team and offensive lineman of the year. The one that really surprised me was the Second Team All-American. That was a huge surprise, because we didn’t really have the team we’ve had in the past. I guess they liked my play enough to be named to that, that was a huge award.”
A character building 2019 for Colton McKivitz and West Virginia Football
2019 was undeniably a difficult year for West Virginia. They started the season with a new head coach for the first time since 2010 and had lost several key players to the 2019 NFL Draft. Colton McKivitz could have been one of those players but decided to return for his senior season, bucking the recent trend for players forgoing their final year of eligibility.
“It was difficult for sure. Really, I knew I needed to come back for another year, get in the weight room and get stronger and all those things. Another year at the level couldn’t hurt, I knew I needed more experience at left tackle. Looking back, I know it was the correct decision.”
2019 allowed McKivitz to get stronger both physically and mentally.
“It made me a whole player. Trying to be a leader. Trying to get guys to compete and play hard even though we weren’t going to go to a bowl game, or even have the year we were hoping for. There are still games to be won. Every game’s tough in College Football and for us to win five of them is impressive in my opinion. It teaches guys to fight when there’s nothing really to fight for. Just being able to be a leader was a pretty cool experience.”
His College Football career ended on a high with a 20-17 win over TCU, and one last rendition of Country Roads.
“I can’t turn on a TV without hearing Country Roads” he laughs “just being able to sing it after a win is wild…It was a hard-fought game. Not only was it something for all us seniors to remember, it was something to propel the team in to 2020. For the seniors, it was nice to enjoy a win in our last game.”
Colton McKivitz at the Senior Bowl
Colton’s play in 2019, described as the “best football of his career” by head coach Neal Brown, earned him a call up to the 2020 Reece’s Senior Bowl. The game, and the week of practice, has become pivotal for prospects looking to elevate their NFL Draft stock.
“It was a ride, that’s for sure! The thrill of being down there, with all 32 NFL teams, just the whole experience of getting to play and practice in front of GMs and coaches was a great experience. It was intense, they try and wear you out through all the meetings and practices. It’s a week of grind coming from not playing since Thanksgiving, but the overall experience was amazing.”
“It was a cool experience being coached by NFL coaches, that’s who you play for now. To put your name in their mind early on in the process, and have them vouch for you, is a huge upside to the draft process.”
Having played both left and right tackle in college, Colton McKivitz showcased his adaptability at the Senior Bowl, practicing and playing in spots across the offensive line for the victorious North Team. More so now than ever, versatility is a valuable commodity in the NFL.
“The more versatile you can be is something NFL teams drool over. You can be the swing guy, if you’re not the starter. You can go in at guard. It helps even more just because they know you’re versatile and can play multiple positions. If a guy can only play one side then the guy with more versatility is going to get the job over him.”
The sole Mountaineer at the NFL Scouting Combine
The next stage on the Path to the Draft for Colton McKivitz is the NFL Combine, and he talked about his preparation for the event more commonly referred to as the “underwear Olympics”.
“I’m trying to lean up, lose some of that college fat. The past couple of weeks have been great, just the change in body comp has been wild so far. I’ve been happy with how training’s going and now it’s a case of putting up some good numbers at the combine. The biggest thing for offensive lineman is that unless you’re a genetic freak then the tale is in the tape.”
If he could pick just one game as “the tale of the tape” to showcase to NFL scouts, GMs, and head coaches what Colton McKivitz is all about, which would it be?
“By far it would be 2018 versus Texas in Austin. The game was not only a thriller, but personally played great. Run blocking, pass blocking, just the whole thing. It was an amazing game to be a part of and look back on. It was a great moment and the play was just as good.”
The NFL Draft is just the start as Colton McKivitz looks to leave his mark
In less than three months, the Cincinnati Bengals will be on the clock to open the 2020 NFL Draft. That will mark the final stage on the Path to the Draft for Colton McKivitz. He’s gotten this far with a little gentle push from one family member in particular.
“My mum is the one who pushed me to do camps, she’s the one who’s big into the whole process and being a part of it. Mum’s the football guru in the family. Just having that is pretty awesome.”
Feature image credit: WVUSports.com
The ascent from Ohio to the NFL is almost complete, and the summit is in sight. He’s not content with just reaching the summit, however, and has his eyes set on leaving his mark.
“My goal is within year one to be a starter, and by year four be a Pro-Bowler.”
OLIVER HODGKINSON IS A COLLEGE FOOTBALL WRITER FOR THE TOUCHDOWN AND SATURDAY BLITZ. HE ALSO WRITES ON THE NFL FOR THE PRO FOOTBALL NETWORK. YOU CAN HEAR HIS OPINIONS ON ALL THINGS COLLEGE FOOTBALL AS ONE THIRD OF THE COLLEGE CHAPS PODCAST.
Thanks to Colton McKivitz for taking the time to speak to us, and to Case Donahue at Team IFA for helping to connect him to us.