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WVU great Talley makes College Football Hall of Fame


By Mike Casazza

Charleston Daily Mail, W.Va.


May 17--MORGANTOWN -- When Major Harris was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009, the idea was the former West Virginia quarterback was ahead of his time, the game would have treated him much better and the Hall of Fame would have welcomed him sooner had he come along just a few years later.

Tuesday former Mountaineers linebacker Darryl Talley was named to the same hall of fame.

The 1982 consensus All-American who could make the Pro Football Hall of Fame in one of the coming years, admitted he was in the right place at the right time.

"Lawrence Taylor came out of school two years prior and he was that prototype linebacker," said Talley, who left WVU as the school's all-time leader in tackles (489) and had 19 sacks and 29 tackles for a loss from 1979-82. "Teams were looking for someone who could rush the passer, someone who could cover. I had the ability to do a lot of different things."

Taylor changed the position and ushered in a new type of outside linebacker. Players like Andre Tippett and Dexter Manley, and eventually Talley, were coveted because of their blend of size, speed and skill.

Yet Talley also made the most of the linebackers around him. He played two seasons with Delbert Fowler and played against Penn State's Larry Kubin and Pitt's Hugh Green, Rickey Jackson and Sal Sunseri. Quite often Talley was the one who had the fans talking as they left the stadium.

"Being around those guys and watching them and hanging with Hugh and Rickey and getting to know them from going up to Pitt, I got to learn different philosophies and different ways to play the game," said Talley, who was 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds at WVU. "Everyone wanted that dominant pass-rusher that L.T. was. I had an ability to rush the passer, but also cover people.

"I could cover receivers. I was a little bit of a hybrid people hadn't seen, but I was still mean enough and strong enough to play against linemen yet still fast enough to run with receivers. I was different."

Talley, who held the school's tackle record until Grant Wiley broke it in 2003, was a four-year starter for the Mountaineers. He was drafted in the second round and No. 39 overall by the Buffalo Bills in the 1983 draft. Talley played 12 seasons for the Bills, Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings and made two Pro Bowls. Talley had 38.5 sacks in his career and played in -- and lost -- four Super Bowls.

He's the sixth player and the 12th representative from WVU to make the college hall of fame.

Talley, 13 other players and two coaches will be formally introduced at the National Football Foundation Awards Dinner on Dec. 6, 2011 in New York City. The enshrinement ceremony is July 15-16, 2012.

"Darryl Talley going into the hall of fame is great for Darryl, great for the university and great for the state of West Virginia," said former Coach Don Nehlen, who was inducted in 2005. "He was, in my opinion, a great college football player and a great pro football player.

"I think what set him apart was that he could play up on the line of scrimmage and handle the tight ends or he could play in space because of his great speed. We even played him off the line sometimes, almost as a corner."

It wasn't always so clear. Talley grew up in East Cleveland and went to Shaw High, which wasn't near the top shelf of Ohio's football programs.

"He was overlooked," said WVU athletic director Oliver Luck, who was a quarterback at Cleveland's St. Ignatius powerhouse and a freshman with Talley at WVU in 1978.

"As I started to think about this when I got the news about Darryl, but my recollection is that of the class we were in in high school, Darryl didn't show up.

"I don't know if it was because his high school didn't promote him or what, but there was some pretty good high school football at that point in Cleveland. Yet he wasn't one of the 10, 15, 20 guys who showed up when you started talking about the best players in the city at that time."

Talley redshirted his first year and was a starter by his third game. In his third start, he made 11 solo tackles in a win against Virginia Tech -- a career-high. He finished with 83 tackles as a freshman and had 127, 139 and 140 in his final three years.

"You didn't have that many guys coming off the corner as quick as he did at that time," Luck said. "It was hard on offensive tackles to respond to that. And Darryl was a great athlete, too. Not just as a football player. I remember playing pickup basketball and he was so strong. He just had a natural strength.

"Once he got in the weight room and put on some weight, he became something else. I had a pretty good sense by the time I was a senior and he was a redshirt junior that he had a chance to play in the NFL."

Talley would not let himself be so easily convinced. He constantly compared himself to peers at his position. Talley not only tracked what other linebackers and great defensive players did from week to week, but he challenged himself to be better.

"I looked at them and said, 'I'm not going to compare myself to you. I'm going to outplay all of you. I'm going to show you and prove it to you by outplaying you,'" he said. "I looked at the stat lines and I tried to outplay Delbert and Hugh Green and Rickey Jackson. If I could outplay those guys, then I knew I was doing something good."

Talley was a premier player by his senior season. In 1982 he had 93 solo tackles, two interceptions and seven sacks, all career highs. He made 15 tackles and three tackles for a loss against Boston College in one game and harassed Maryland quarterback Boomer Esiason on a potential game-winning two-point conversion play to force an incomplete pass and preserve another win.

That came a game after WVU opened its season with the historic win at No. 9 Oklahoma. The Mountaineers later lost 16-13 to Pitt, which was then No. 2 in the country, but Talley, who never beat the Panthers, was not to blame. He played all over the field on national television and scored the team's only touchdown with a blocked punt and the return.

"I tried to do everything in my power to beat the University of Pittsburgh and Dan Marino and I couldn't do it," he said. "I couldn't get it done. I blocked a punt. I intercepted a ball. I made 20 tackles or so in the game. I tried everything and it didn't happen. It was one of those games I had a lot of fun in, but it didn't go so well for me."

For some time the same could be said of Talley's college career and his candidacy for the Hall of Fame. He left WVU in 1983 and had been out of the NFL since 1998 while satisfying all of the college hall's requirements. Every year, though, the call never came.

Everything changed Tuesday.

"It's a big deal for me," he said. "You think about how many millions of kids play and hope to get in college athletics. What percentage is it of kids to go there and to do this? It's truly a great honor. It's a great, great opportunity and I'm grateful for it. I understand everyone is going to say, 'You won't get the magnitude of it until you actually get on the stage.' As I sit back and think about the numbers, it's pretty remarkable."

ALSO EARNING induction into the Hall of Fame are former Ohio State running back Eddie George (1992-95), wide receiver Carlos Alvarez (Florida, 1969-71), defensive tackle Doug English (Texas, 1972-74), fullback Bill Enyart (Oregon State, 1966-68), defensive tackle Marty Lyons (Alabama, 1975-78), defensive tackle Russell Maryland (Miami, Fla., 1986-90), defensive back Deion Sanders (Florida, 1985-88), defensive back Jake Scott (Georgia, 1967-68), offensive guard Will Shields (Nebraska, 1989-92), quarterback Sandy Stephens (Minnesota, 1959-61), halfback Clendon Thomas (Oklahoma, 1955-57), defensive lineman Rob Waldrop (Arizona, 1990-93) and wide receiver Gene Washington (Michigan State, 1964-66).

Coaches earning induction are Lloyd Carr (Michigan, 1995-2007) and Fisher DeBerry (Air Force, 1984-2006).

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at or 304-319-1142. His blog is at


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(c) 2011, Charleston Daily Mail, W.Va.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.


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