Football: WVU Grid Great Dies

  • By John Antonik
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  • March 01, 2012 04:44 PM
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One of West Virginia University’s all-time athletic greats has died. Jimmy Walthall, a 2000 West Virginia University Sports Hall of Fame inductee, died Wednesday, Feb. 22, in LaFayette, Ga.

Walthall, 85, was a two-sport standout for the Mountaineers in football and basketball, leading West Virginia to a 21-12 victory over Texas El-Paso in the 1948 Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, as well as a pair of NIT appearances in basketball.

Walthall was twice named the state’s amateur athlete of the year, once while playing at Princeton High in 1944 for Coach Lee Patton, and then later while playing at WVU. In 1944 as a freshman halfback, Walthall led the Mountaineers to a 5-3-1 record, including back-to-back victories over Penn State and Temple and was invited to play in the East-West Shrine Game after that season.

“He almost beat Penn State singlehandedly,” Mickey Furfari recalled.

In the meantime, Walthall played guard for Patton's Mountaineer basketball team, helping West Virginia to a 12-6 record and a meeting against DePaul in the National Invitation Tournament. Walthall was also a member of the 1947 squad that won 19 games and lost to Utah in the NIT semifinals.

But it was on the gridiron where Walthall achieved his greatest success, particularly when a knee injury forced him to switch to quarterback in Coach Dudley DeGroot’s T offense. In 1948, Walthall ranked fourth in the country in passing behind Nevada’s Stan Heath, Tulsa’s Jim Finks and VMI’s Bobby Thomason by throwing for 1,136 yards and 12 touchdowns. Walthall was the first quarterback in school history to pass for more than 1,000 yards in a season and finished his career with 14 school passing records.

During his four years at WVU, including a two-year interruption in 1945-46 while serving in the Army, Walthall’s football and basketball teams combined to produce a 55-25-2 record with three postseason appearances.

After college, Walthall was drafted by two NFL teams – Philadelphia and Buffalo – but he never played in the pros. Walthall returned to WVU in 1960 to become a member of Gene Corum’s football staff before later teaching and coaching in Lafayette, Ga.

Walthall is survived by his wife Dot Brewster, son Jamie Walthall of Morgantown, W.Va., stepchildren Sheila Meyer of Clearwater, Fla., Mary Dunagan of West Union, S.C., Horace Brewster of Long Beach, Calif., Bobby Brewster of LaFayette, Ga., and several grandchildren and great grandchildren.