Versatile Casey Minor wins Howley Award as the state’s top linebacker

FAIRMONT — While he made his name as the quarterback for his team’s offense, North Marion High’s Casey Minor made an even more important impact on defense as a linebacker.

It was because of his play in the front seven that the West Virginia Sports Writers Association named him the recipient of the 2023 Howley Award for the best linebacker in the state.

“Being in the top linebackers in the state, that’s a really good accomplishment for me,” Minor said. “We didn’t get what we wanted. We wanted to win the state championship, but this definitely means a lot. That’s big.”

The namesake of the award, Chuck Howley, played football at Warwood School in Wheeling and West Virginia University. The Chicago Bears first-round draft pick in 1958, Howley played most of his career with the Dallas Cowboys. He’s the only Super Bowl MVP from the losing team and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2023.

Minor, a senior, led the Huskies to the top seed in the Class AA playoffs. After wins over Lincoln, Herbert Hoover and Weir, Minor and North Marion played Fairmont Senior in a record title game at Wheeling Island, a failed two-point conversion short of the state title 49-48.

At the end of a 13-game season, Minor compiled 52.5 solo tackles and 59 assisted tackles for a combined 111.5 total tackles. According to his head coach, Daran Hays, Minor didn’t play as a linebacker for three games, meaning in 10 games he averaged 11.2 tackles per game.

“The Sports Writers Association was still knowledgeable enough to see him play and understand how good he is without necessarily the statistical backing because of those three missed games, I think that speaks volumes to the people that pick the awards as well,” Hays said. “I’m very grateful they were able to view it on the eye test as opposed to sheerly strictly on numbers.”

Hays called Minor a player who can do anything and everything he’s asked to, whether it be playing quarterback, linebacker, run blocker, return coverage or even long snapper, a testament to the great player he is.

As a linebacker specifically, Hays said Minor has a great understanding of how to play the position. According to Hays, some may be afraid to have the starting quarterback play linebacker, but Hays believes Minor’s experience playing quarterback made him a better linebacker.

“He’s done a great job of understanding his keys and being in the right spot, understanding where he’s supposed to fit, understanding when he’s supposed to blitz from distance or blitz from up on the line,” Hays said. “He’s just got a great understanding of what other offenses are trying to do, and I think a lot of it stems from playing quarterback.

“I think this (award) is really good for him because there are times that he got lost in terms of how good of a linebacker he was because he was probably for our team more important to play quarterback.”

Minor recognizes the importance of playing linebacker on defense, and he believes it prepares him for playing football at the college level.

“I think that was most important for me,” Minor said. “I’m going to play in college, and I’ll probably play defense in college. I think that’s good and shows people what I can do on defense as well, not just on offense.”

Minor’s impact on the team goes further than just the playing field. He helped first-year linebackers coach Grant Elliott coach the position group when practices began to know what drills to run and how to coach through words.

Elliott also coached the middle school team Minor played on and knows the veteran linebacker well. To him, Minor is very deserving of the award, and it shows in his leadership.

“He’s one of the best practice players I’ve ever seen in my short experience coaching,” Elliott said. “He sprints down to that side of the field for defense, he’s the first guy online, he’s ready to go. He’s helping coach up these other kids, he’s a verbal leader and also leading by example. He focuses on every little detail and always tries to get it right.”

Perhaps most important to Minor’s success and North Marion’s success this season was the team itself. Minor credits his teammates for helping him reach the level needed to win the award.

“I couldn’t have done it without my team,” Minor said. “They’re great guys to be with. Everybody builds off of each other, and that’s how I feel.”

Minor will be recognized at the 77th annual Victory Awards Dinner on May 5, 2024 at River City in Wheeling.

Other players who received votes for the Howley Award include Fairmont Senior’s Dylan Ours, Greenbrier West’s Ethan Holliday, Cabell Midland’s Cannon Lewis, Morgantown’s Jaylon Hill, Chapmanville Regional’s Elijah Pridemore and Williamstown’s Lynken Joy.

By Colin Rhodes/For the WVSWA

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