Sure, it would be easy to put your feet up on the upholstery as you wait for those planes to taxi into their gates at Pittsburgh International Airport.
Such is life of an airport limo driver, but thats not how WVU senior Phil Furman rolls. The student who graduates this month with a bachelors in athletic coaching education takes well advantage of the lulls in the job he needs to support himself while in school.
No pulling zzzs in the front seat here. Whats down time for some is a productive blitz for the former high school and small college football star. Usually he plows through the next days lesson plans for the student-athletes he tutors at the WVU Coliseum. More often than not, thats with his cell phone at his ear. Hes twice divorced and lives apart from his four school-age children, but that doesnt mean he cant check on them daily, just because.
No, you wont find him with his chin on his chest and his eyes closed, but if you time it right, you just might spy him staring into the gold of his WVU class ringspecifically, the three-word inscription etched on the inside:To Coach Furman.
Thats for his chief aspiration: A head coaching job in football.
Thats whats keeping me going, to be honest,the 46-year-old said recently during a rare bit of down time at the Coliseum, the basketball arena that also houses the School of Physical Education, his home base.
The days get pretty long and I get pretty tired,he said of the 80-mile hop up Interstate 79 to the airport in western Pennsylvania.But I have to do this for my kids and my career.
Coaching as a career is a natural choice for him, said Furman, who currently calls Morgantown home.
I think I can help young people,he said.I made a lot of mistakes in my youth, and Im not shy talking about it.
Back in the day, he was PhilRabbitFurman, a big, friendly kid from Kingwood, right next to Morgantown in the high hills of Preston County. He earned that nickname on the gridiron at Central Preston High, where the running backs darting movements and daunting takeoff speed were good enough to set school records and garner a full scholarship to Fairmont State University, around 40 miles from home.
It was just far enough for a kid whod never been much of anywhere to lose his way. Football and the classroom soon became secondary as the Rabbit hopped into a different life.
I got in with a rougher crowd,he said.It happens. I didnt do as much as some of the other guys did, but I was still guilty by association. And �€~guiltymeans guilty.
He got married in the middle of it all and fathered a son. Then he got a divorce. Then he walked down the aisle a second time, with that marriage resulting in three daughters.
All of a sudden Im a dad and a college dropout,he said.
The family moved to northern Virginia for job opportunities, and even with his second marriage unraveling, Furman was forging the rough shape of a new life, one that might actually have possibilities.
He became a volunteer coach for his sons junior league football teams. He was good at it, and he parlayed his personality into a part-time position at Yorktown High in Alexandria, Va.
When the head coach retired, Yorktowns administrators immediately offered Furman the job.
And it was mine,he said,right up until, �€~Now tell us about your degree.
With that door closed, he had no choice but to tear into the classifieds and take anything he could getretail sales, restaurantsand the Rabbit caught himself once again making friends with people who werent strangers to rap sheets.
This crowd played rougher than the ones back homewith consequences. One night on a street corner in the District of Columbia, Furman unwittingly found himself standing next to a target.
Tires squealed and gunfire crackled.
The guy standing next to me just dropped,he recalled.His face was gone. There was blood all over my arms and my jacket. Right there, I said, �€~You know what? Im a guy from Kingwood, W.Va., and Im going home.
He enrolled at WVU , and with the Yorktown High disappointment as vivid as that driveby shooting, he zeroed in on earning a coaching degree. He hedged his bet by adding history as a minor and surprised himself with good grades as he worked three jobs simultaneously at a video rental store, a major retail store and a Morgantown restaurant. The limo-driving gig would follow.
The first time around in school, I spent more time with a football under my arm than the books,he said ruefully.I didnt know computers, I didnt know word processing, I didnt know e-mail. I didnt know how to study.
Structurally speaking, the WVU Coliseum is a big circle, and thats appropriate for Furman, whose life has gone full circle. A strict, academic regimen now holds the slot once reserved for rough crowds. The limo driver no longer wastes energy looking into the rearview mirror of his own life.
Every day I learn something new,he marvels.I mean every day, counting weekends. Dont dwell on what was. Move on to whats going to be. Im blessed to be here.
His faculty mentor, Dan Zietz, says in turn that its a blessing to know Furman.
Phils a bright, engaging guy,the professor said.The students he tutors really respect him because hes honest about the things that havent worked out in his life. Hes going to be a heck of a coach because hes turning into a heck of an educator, and hes already a heck of a human being.
Commencement Weekend is May 16-18 at WVU . For more information, visithttp://commencement.wvu.edu/.