First came the 3,500 yards rushing and 34 touchdowns in two seasons. The national television feature and countless newspaper and magazine articles followed. Then he won the Kennedy Award as the best high school football player in West Virginia. And last spring he was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds.

John Koontz was big news. And popular, too. He said yes to West Virginia University and, on Aug. 11, became the first Kennedy Award winner in five years to show up in Morgantown for a preseason football camp.

And the first to leave -- the very next day.

There were no injuries, no academic problems, no homesickness. He just left. For good.

"It ain't no good if you don't have your heart in it," said Koontz. "The school was great, but I just wasn't happy there, as far as football."

Fame, fleeting as it sometimes is, had stayed around Koontz long enough to make him "not enjoy" football. He will begin attending Fairmont (W. Va.) College next week and play no sports -- not even baseball, which, he said, he likes more than football.

"The media (attention) ruined the poor kid," said Don Nehlen, West Virginia's football coach. "He couldn't handle the pressure. The people from his town expected him to come here and win the Heisman Trophy. He told me he wouldn't have even come here if it weren't for the people back home who wanted him to play."

Back home for Koontz is Petersburg, W. Va., a town of 2,500. It is the place where Koontz has retreated "to be normal for a while," he said.

"A lot of that stuff (publicity) definitely took some of the fun out of it for me," he said.

Unfortunately, such "stuff" is almost mandatory. In today's always-looking-for-a-star sports world, the good looks, good numbers and good nature of Koontz could not have remained hidden for long.

They didn't. Last November, the CBS "Sunday Morning" show aired a segment on Koontz.

"He's a small-town boy at heart," said Harold Garber, principal at Petersburg High School. "He has great, great natural abilities and I thought he would give it more of a shot. Everyone here had high hopes for him."

Garber said that being from an area that "doesn't really have too much media," Koontz found it hard to adjust to his new status.

"The pressure had to be intense," Garber said. "He had been made out to be bigger than life."

"I just had no desire to play right now," said Koontz. "The coach (Nehlen) was real nice; he said to go home if I wanted and come back in a week or so if I felt like it."

Koontz accumulated more than 6,000 yards in high school, and was recruited by such schools as Penn State, Pittsburgh, Kentucky, Tennessee and UCLA. He was the leading scorer on the basketball team and all-state in baseball.

But sports no longer figure in Koontz's plans. He chose Fairmont because, he said, he wants a good education and has a few friends there.

"I was kind of surprised, like everybody else," said Ron Stephens, his high school football coach. "But he's had some problems dealing with everything. He'll come through, though. He's a super kid."

Nehlen said he did not even know what position Koontz would have played at WVU. "It was the first day. I didn't even see him run at all. I was just trying to teach him where to stand and where to get in a huddle.

"It happens to a lot of kids. He said that every time he turned around, people were telling him he was the greatest." Asked if Koontz was the greatest, Nehlen replied, "Heavens, no."

Koontz once put off a recruiting trip to Morgantown so he could go for a ride on his horse, saying he had had enough football for one week. Unhappiness with the pressure was apparent even then.

"We had high expectations of seeing the local boy do good at the state university," said Garber. "I was sorry to see him come home. I wish he would have made it."

In that, Garber is not alone. Recruiting coups are not yet commonplace at West Virginia, so when one does an about-face it hurts.

But Koontz, although unsure of his athletic future, is very sure about his academic future.

"I even sold my horse," he said. "I figured I wouldn't need him in college."