Jonathan Kimble — you know him as college football's best mascot, West Virginia's Mountaineer — stood next to the tunnel at Boone Pickens Stadium, chatting a few moments after OSU's victory last Saturday.
Someone from West Virginia poked their head around the corner and hollered for Kimble to come on, lest he be left behind.
Yeah, right. The Mountaineer team jet would take off without Dana Holgorsen or Geno Smith before it would leave behind The Mountaineer.
Lots of things to like about West Virginia joining the Big 12. Exposure to a different part of America. Good basketball and good football (the Mountaineer defense not withstanding). Rabid fan base. The chance to hear the West Virginia band play “Country Roads,” which probably doesn't make up for the loss of the Aggie War Hymn but gives it the ol' college try.
But the best thing about West Virginia's addition is its mascot. And it doesn't hurt one bit that the current Mountaineer has a world-class smile and enough charm to fill the Shenandoah River.
We met in July, at the cement pond in Dallas' Westin Galleria, during Big 12 football media days, a show which Kimble absolutely stole.
We chatted again last week, and now Kimble has promised me a tour of Morgantown on Friday, before the OU game, complete with deer jerky.
Kimble has embraced the Big 12, and the Big 12 has embraced his Mountaineer.
“The Big 12's been great,” Kimble said, even accounting for West Virginia's four-game losing streak.
“Everyone down in Texas was very welcoming to us. Welcomed us to Austin, welcomed us to Lubbock.
“Down in Austin, great atmosphere, great game. Loved the warmer weather.”
Meanwhile, Lubbock “was really flat and dry and dusty. Austin was definitely the better of the two trips for sure.”
Kimble, ever the charmer, said he liked Oklahoma better than Texas. The drive from Tulsa to Stillwater afforded some hills that reminded him a little more of home.
“The people in Stillwater are really welcoming,” Kimble said. “The fans right on top of you. Beautiful stadium.”
The Mountaineer mascot goes back to 1934 — almost as old a tradition as OSU's Pistol Pete. Kimble sports a James Harden-worthy beard, which is not required but most certainly is appreciated.
Kimble gets to keep his tailor-fitted buckskin but must pass the rifle to his eventually successor.
Speaking of which, Kimble feels a little more at home in the Big 12 with his muzzleloader. The Big East was not a conference of firearms.
The Big 12 most certainly is. Pistol Pete has his six-shooters. OU's Ruf-Neks have their shotguns. Texas U. fires off a cannon after touchdowns.
Not exactly Syracuse's Otto the Orange.
“I kind of feel at home with all this ammunition,” Kimble said.
The Mountaineer's visibility has increased in the Big 12. Back when the Mountaineers were unbeaten and ranked in the top 10, Kimble's pushups for every West Virginia point became a TV staple.
“Baylor, I think I did 385 pushups that game,” Kimble said. “Loved every minute.”
ESPN took notice. Kimble flew to Los Angeles in September to film a GameDay commercial, in which he stares down Lee Corso, with rifle at the ready.
“Just walk away, Coach,” Kirk Herbstreit tells Corso.
Easier said than done to walk away from a smile that wide, a beard that thick and a charm that inviting. See you in Morgantown, Jonathan.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.