MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – On the 39th anniversary of the game that made Mountaineer linebacker Darryl Talley a star, WVU football retired his number.
On Oct. 2, 1982, Talley and the Mountaineers, lead by head coach Don Nehlen, clashed with the No. 2 Pitt Panthers at Pitt Stadium. Talley played every position but free safety that game, flying around the field for 10 tackles, a tackle for loss, and an interception. As if he needed to secure a better game, he stacked on a blocked punt that he recovered in the end zone for a touchdown.
“I did everything in that game that I could possibly do to win,” Talley said. “Before the game, I told my old man on the phone, I said, ‘Pop, they’re going to put me on national TV. I’m going to be on national TV.’ He said, ‘Yeah? And what’re you going to do?’ I said, ‘I’m going to show my butt on national TV’ He said, ‘Don’t tell me what you’re going to do. Go show me what you’re going to do.’ …
“I remember that I just ran after everyone I could find. Anybody I could hit, I hit. Whatever I could do during that game, I tried to do. I left it all out on the field.”
A four-year starter for the gold and blue, Talley finished his Mountaineer career as the program’s tackle leader (484 with 282 solo), with 35 tackles for loss, 19 sacks, five interceptions, and five fumble recoveries.
“Opportunity to play and get on the field,” Talley said of Nehlen’s trust in him to get the defensive job done. “I went from sleeping on the field to being a consensus All-American. Yes. I did do that.”
When asked what transpired to change his trajectory, Talley laughed and said, “I woke up. I truly started to work on my craft and deepen things that were conducive for me to win.”
That trajectory landed him on the WVU All-Time Football team, as well as being inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 1996 and College Football Hall of Fame in 2011.
Talley was drafted in the second round of the 1983 NFL Draft to the Buffalo Bills and proceeded to play 12 seasons with the team. He racked up two NFL Pro Bowl appearances in 1990 and 1991, and was declared an NFL All-Pro player in both 1990 and 1993. He was named one of the 26 greatest players to ever wear a Bills uniform during the team’s 50th Anniversary.
“I didn’t have that ‘fear factor’ that a lot of young guys have when they go in, because I played against the guys,” Talley said of playing Big East athletes in the NFL. “I was smaller than them at the time, and to steal one of Coach Nehlen’s lines, ‘I had to lift weights and get stronger,’ and once I did that, then those guys became my peers and some I got even better than.”
Talley joins Mountaineer legends Sam Huff (No. 75), Ira Errett Rodgers (No. 9), and Bruce Bosley (No. 77) as his number gets retired during today’s game. Additionally, Major Harris will have his No. 9 retired during the Oklahoma State game on Nov. 6.