Lee Kpogba’s college football career has been far from a straightforward journey.

He started with a Division I scholarship at Syracuse in the ACC. After two seasons with the Orange, he transferred to “Last Chance U,” playing one season at East Mississippi Community College. Following a standout season there, the physically imposing linebacker transferred back to the D-I level and joined the Mountaineers.

It was a full-circle decision for Kpogba, who had originally committed to West Virginia as a high schooler in 2017 before winding up at Syracuse.

The 6-foot-1, 230-pound linebacker wrapped up his first season with the Mountaineers Saturday. Despite WVU not being bowl-eligible, Kpogba had no trouble finding motivation for the regular-season finale.

“I feel like it really shouldn’t be that difficult, especially if you love the game of football like these guys do,” Kpogba said after West Virginia’s 24-19 victory over Oklahoma State. “This whole week, I just wanted to send the seniors out on a good note, because we already didn’t make a bowl game the least we could do is send them out with some sense of accomplishment, you know, winning the last game.”

Kpogba began impressing West Virginia’s coaching staff practically from the moment he stepped on campus. Jordan Lesly’s story of seeing Kpogba “talking trash to a tire” sounded like flok lore, but might as well have been gospel the way coaches and players spoke of his drive.

“I just love the game so much, and just so grateful for the opportunity whenever I’m out there,” said Kpogba. “I just let my emotions flow, and they just go. They take control.”

While his first season in Morgantown didn’t go as planned from a wins and losses standpoint, Kpogba was nothing short of productive.

The Winston-Salem, North Carolina native finished the year with 92 total tackles. That was not only the best mark on the team but the seventh-best in the Big 12 Conference. He finished the season with back-to-back games of double-digit tackles and had a monster performance versus the Cowboys: 13 total tackles, two tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks.

“I was just going hard, you know, and trying to get home [to the quarterback],” said Kpogba. “And it worked out.”