|West Virginia's Fulton Walker returns this kickoff for a touchdown against the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XVII in Pasadena, Calif.
Through the years, there have been many Super Bowls that have featured West Virginia University players.
Tight end Ken Herock played in Super Bowl II way back in 1967 with the Oakland Raiders when the NFL and AFL were still at each other’s throats.
Dallas Cowboy linebacker Chuck Howley was named MVP of Super Bowl V in 1972, dubbed the “Blunder Bowl” because it was plagued by turnovers and poor play. Howley, however, was magnificent, intercepting a pair of passes and making plays all over the field that afternoon.
In fact, Chuck remains the only player from a losing team to ever be named MVP of football’s biggest game. Afterward, he received a brand new Dodge Charger for his efforts and it meant so much to him that he ended up giving the car to his wife.
“She went out to a bridge party one night and she hit that accelerator and the tires squealed and she brought that car right home and said, ‘You take it. I don’t want it!’” Howley once told me.
Howley also played in pro football’s big game in 1973 when the Cowboys knocked off Miami, 24-3, at old Tulane Stadium in New Orleans.
Fullback Walter Easley saw action in San Francisco’s 26-21 triumph over Cincinnati in Super Bowl XVI at the Pontiac Dome in Pontiac, Mich., and defensive tackle David Grant was a mid-game replacement for injured Tim Krumrie in Super Bowl XXIII, in 1989, when the Bengals fell just short of glory at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami.
Who could ever forget Jeff Hostetler’s performance in Super Bowl XXV in Tampa in 1991 after Whitney Houston sang the national anthem when Operation Desert Storm was nearing its climax? And one of Hostetler’s New York teammates that evening was none other than former Mountaineer defensive tackle Mike Fox.
Linebacker Darryl Talley also played in that game, as well as the next three Super Bowls, his Buffalo Bills losing all four of them to the Giants, Redskins and Cowboys. A dubious distinction, for sure, but it was also an unbelievable accomplishment when you consider that the Bills had to win four straight AFC titles to get there.
“We accomplished something that will probably never be accomplished again going to four straight Super Bowls,” Talley said. “And we lost in the AFC championship game the year before that. Nobody has ever stood up and said that’s one helluva feat.”
That’s one helluva feat, Darryl.
West Virginia’s Alvoid Mays took part in one those Bills losses in 1992 while playing for the Washington Redskins.
More recently, guys such as John Thornton (Tennessee), Mike Compton (New England), Jerry Porter (Oakland), Todd Sauerbrun (Carolina), Mike Logan (Pittsburgh), Pat McAfee (Indianapolis) and Ryan Mundy (Pittsburgh) have all participated in pro football’s biggest showcase.
But the coming-of-age performance for ex-Mountaineers, at least for me, came on Jan. 30, 1983 in Pasadena, Calif., when the Washington Redskins outlasted the Miami Dolphins, 27-17, at the Rose Bowl.
That was the game when “The Diesel”, John Riggins, broke things wide open in the fourth quarter with a 43-yard touchdown run to capture game MVP honors.
||Watch Fulton Walker's kickoff return against the Washington Redskins
And it was also during that game, when, late in the second quarter, Fulton Walker took a kickoff at his own two, started to his right and then changed direction where he found a crease at his 17. He shot through the opening like a bolt of lightning and raced 98 yards for a touchdown to give the Dolphins a short-lived 17-10 lead.
It was Fulton Walker’s 15 minutes of fame.
I was just a freshman in high school then and I thought it was pretty cool that a Mountaineer player that I had grown up watching – from Martinsburg no less - was the guy Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen were making such a big fuss about in front of more than 81 million viewers on TV.
“It’s in the book, Fulton Walker has a new Super Bowl record!” Enberg said during the broadcast.
Fulton Walker's great return comes to mind because later this afternoon, West Virginia’s Bruce Irvin will get a chance to showcase his talents on the biggest stage in all of sports.
Perhaps Bruce can add his name to Super Bowl lore, the way many former Mountaineers before him.
I know I will be right there on my couch rooting Big Bruce on, with my nachos, chicken wings and a beverage or two close by. After that, it's salads and water for the next six months.
In the meantime, go get ‘em Bruce!