Many this time of year are fighting colds.
On Sunday, though, I contracted a fever.
A Super Bowl fever.
Color me crazy, but I’m truly jazzed about the upcoming matchup between San Francisco and Kansas City. And it got me thinking. It got me remembering.
I have some truly wonderful Super Bowl memories — many that center on former WVU Mountaineers.
CHUCK HOWLEY – Yes, I’m old enough to remember when the Wheeling-born, Warwood High uber-athlete played in the Super Bowl. I was 11-years old, watching and listening to Curt Gowdy and Kyle Rote call the game.
Howley, in case you’re unaware, is the only ex-WVU athlete to letter in five – yes, five – sports: football, track, wrestling, gymnastics and swimming. He was a hero to those my age who followed WVU. Playing for Tom Landry in Dallas, Howley was a six-time Pro Bowl pick and is a member of the Cowboys Ring of Honor.
Anyway, playing linebacker (he was a guard and center at WVU), Howley intercepted two passes and forced a fumble in the Super Bowl going against the Baltimore Colts. He played so well, in fact, he was named Most Valuable Player – the only player on a losing team to ever win the award.
WALT EASLEY – OK, so I watched FOR the Charleston native and Stonewall Jackson High grad. The fullback played for the champion San Francisco 49ers in 1981. San Fran beat Cincinnati 26-21. The game before that Super Bowl the 49ers’ Joe Montana and Dwight Clark put together “The Catch” finish. Anyway, Easley didn’t get a carry, but he earned a Super Bowl ring playing for Bill Walsh.
FULTON WALKER – Perhaps my greatest single thrill watching a former Mountaineer came via Martinsburg High graduate Walker. A defensive back by trade, Walker carved out a brand via special teams in Super Bowl XVII and Super Bowl XIX. On Jan. 30, 1983, Walker – playing for Miami and legendary coach Don Shula — electrified the NFL with a record 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown – the first in Super Bowl history. On the day, he had 190 kickoff yards with the score, setting Super Bowl records. In Super Bowl XIX, Walker contributed 93 kickoff return yards and 15 yards returning punts. Unfortunately, Walker died at the much-too-young age of 58 in 2016. Our state now has a high school special teams award named after him.
DAVID GRANT – Yes, a nose tackle made the Mountaineer faithful proud in the Jan. 22, 1989, Super Bowl. Grant played six seasons for Cincinnati, Tampa Bay and Green Bay. His shining moment, however, came with the Bengals. Their star defensive lineman, Tim Krumrie, broke his leg in the first quarter. Not a good thing to happen when the opponent was San Francisco’s Montana and Jerry Rice. Yet Grant played a heck of a game, clogging the middle effectively. Montana was simply Montana in the end, leading San Francisco on a 92-yard game-winning drive.
DARRYL TALLEY – I remember Talley walking around the WVU campus with the words “The Assassin” emblazoned on his leather jacket. “The Duke of Awesome” is what they called him in Buffalo, where he played 12 years for the Bills. “Spiderman,” he was. Jim Kelly still insists Talley belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Anyway, watching Talley in the Super Bowl was an annual event for the four-year run coach Marv Levy put together. His fans called themselves “Talley Whackers.” Unfortunately for Talley, the Bills didn’t win once in that stretch, but he always said, “at least I got four bites of the apple.”
Which leads us to…
JEFF HOSTETLER – Yes, it was Hostetler and the New York Football Giants that broke the Bills’ hearts in 1991. Many will remember the Super Bowl because Buffalo kicker Scott Norwood pushed a potential game-winner wide right. I, however, will always remember it because of Hostetler’s performance. Season starting QB Phil Simms was injured and out of the playoffs. And Hoss rode in to save the day. Although Ottis Anderson was wrongly handed the MVP trophy, Hostetler was 20-of-32 passing for 222 yards and a score. The moment I’ll never forget, however, was when Hoss faced Hall of Famer Bruce Smith alone in front of the world. After trading punts, the Giants were pinned at their own 7-yard line. On second down, Smith sacked Hostetler in the end zone for a safety. Yet Smith had a chance to force a fumble for a strip-sack TD. The former Mountaineer, however, ripped his arm away, helping to ensure only two points would be surrendered. It was a hell of an effort.
One of many Super Bowl memories to treasure.
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Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.