Written by Greg Walker
A 1982 consensus All-American, Darryl Talley was one of the most prolific tacklers in Mountaineer and Buffalo Bills history. During his four years in Morgantown, Talley amassed 484 career tackles – the most by any WVU player when his playing career ended. The four-year starting linebacker led West Virginia to the 1981 Peach Bowl and the 1982 Gator Bowl.
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His Herculean five tackles for loss in 1980 versus Penn State still stand as a WVU single-game record. For his career, Talley had 282 unassisted tackles , 202 assisted tackles, 28 tackles for loss and 19 quarterback sacks from 1979-82.
Talley came to WVU in 1978 and spent two seasons playing for Frank Cignetti before Don Nehlen took over the Mountaineer program in 1980. After two building seasons that saw WVU go 5-6 and 6-6, Talley and his teammates gelled to post nine wins, including a 26-6 rout of Florida in the 1981 Peach Bowl. The Mountaineers notched wins against Virginia, Maryland, Colorado State, Boston College, Virginia Tech, East Carolina, Temple and Rutgers during that season.
He was named Sports Illustrated player of the week for his 15 tackles versus Boston College, but it might have been the Pitt game that showcased his brilliant all-around abilities. In that game, he intercepted a Dan Marino pass to set up a Mountaineer field goal, blocked a punt and recovered it for a touchdown, and spent almost the entire afternoon in the Panther backfield.
Talley's good fortune continued the next year as WVU opened the 1982 campaign with a stunning 41-27 upset at Oklahoma. The Mountaineers suffered just two losses during the regular season and went on to meet Florida State in the Gator Bowl. After being named WVU's MVP and becoming the school's third consensus All-American, Talley played in the 1983 Hula Bowl and was selected in the second round of the NFL draft (39th overall) by the Buffalo Bills.
He went on to stardom in Buffalo as a starter for 12 outstanding seasons at linebacker from 1983-94, never missing a game while playing for the Bills. Talley is the Bills' all-time leading tackler with 1,137 career takedowns. He also recorded 38 ½ sacks and 11 interceptions as a Bill.
Talley also continued to chase Marino, then the quarterback of the Miami Dolphins. During a 1983 game, Talley came off the bench to sack Marino five times as the Bills rallied for a 38-35 overtime victory. Talley played in four Super Bowls and two Pro Bowls as the "heart and soul" of the Buffalo defense where he won the hearts of fans and fellow players alike. "I like the fact that he's about winning," said former San Francisco 49er safety Ronnie Lott. "He's not about showboating, or who's getting the glory, or who's making the plays. To me, that's a person giving of himself.”
Talley had a cheering section at Rich Stadium known as the “Talley Whackers” and after the 1990 season he received the Ed Block Courage Award.
Talley spent the 1995 campaign with the Atlanta Falcons and played one more year with the Minnesota Vikings in 1996 before retiring. Talley was named to WVU’s all-time football team (1980-89). In 2000, he won the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Distinguished Service Award.
The 6-4, 235-pounder was born July 10, 1960, in East Cleveland, Ohio. He is a graduate of Shaw High School in Cleveland and earned his bachelor's degree in physical education from WVU. Talley and his wife Jeanine have two daughters, Alexandra and Gabrielle, and currently reside in Orlando, Fla.
In 2003, Talley became the 20th member of the Wall of Fame in Ralph Wilson Stadium, and in 2011, he was elected into the College Football Hall of Fame - the 12th Mountaineer to be honored.