Harris, Talley to be inducted into W.Va. Sports HOF

WHEELING — Two of the state’s most honored college football players will be inducted into the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.

Major Harris and Darryl Talley will be enshrined by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association at the 75th annual Victory Awards Dinner on May 1 at the Embassy Suites in Charleston.

Harris and Talley, in 2021, became only the fourth and fifth West Virginia University football players to have their jersey numbers retired by the school. Harris wore No. 9 and Talley No. 90. Both earlier were inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and the WVU Sports Hall of Fame and Mountaineer Legends Society.

Harris, a three-time team MVP from 1987-89, also placed third, the highest-ever for a Mountaineer, and fifth as a sophomore and junior in the Heisman Trophy balloting. He was a two-time ECAC Player of the Year and, as a junior, earned First Team Kodak All-America and Second Team by The Associated Press and Football News.

He was selected twice by the W.Va. Sports Writers Association as the state Amateur Athlete of the Year for 1988 and 1989.

Harris became one of only two Division-I quarterbacks to pass for over 5,000 yards and rush for over 2,000 yards while finishing with a then-school record 7,334 total yards in his three seasons.

After leading WVU to the 1987 Sun Bowl as a redshirt freshman, he guided the Mountaineers to the school’s first-ever unbeaten, untied regular season before bowing to unbeaten Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, billed as the national title game, where Harris was injured on the third play and was limited the rest of the game.

A Mountaineer fan favorite, he received some votes in the 1988 state Gubernatorial Election.

After his junior season, he opted to turn professional and was selected in the 12th Round of the NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Raiders. Harris played one season with the British Columbia Lions in the Canadian Football League before turning to the Arena Indoor League for much of the next decade as a player or coach including a year as coach of the Wheeling Thunderbirds.

He currently resides in his hometown of Pittsburgh, where he played for Brashear High School.

“This honor means a lot to me,” Harris said. “I think you appreciate honors more when you’re older and can look back. When you’re playing sports, you’re more focused on the present and the next game. The best time of my life was at WVU. The fans were the best and the state supported our teams.”

Talley, a four-year WVU starter at linebacker from 1979-82 and team captain and MVP as a senior, is Mr. Defense while Harris would be Mr. Offense in this selection.

Talley became only the third consensus All-American in WVU history in 1982. Like Harris, he’s a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, WVU Sports Hall of Fame (1996) and the Mountaineer Legends Society.

The most prolific tackler (484) in not only Mountaineer history but in the history of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, where he recorded 1,137 tackles while never missing a game in 12 seasons from 1983-94. He finished his 14-year pro career with one season in Atlanta (1995) and one season in Minnesota (1996).

He was picked 39th overall in the second round of the NFL Draft by the Bills, where he started in four Super Bowls and two Pro Bowls and was selected to two All-Pro teams. He’s a member of the Bills’ Wall of Fame and was selected to the 26-player All-Time Bills Team on the 50th anniversary of the franchise.

He was recruited out of Shaw High School in Cleveland, Ohio, by then-WVU coach Frank Cignetti and played two years before finishing his Mountaineer career with two years under coach Don Nehlen. He played in the 1981 Peach Bowl victory over Florida and in the 1982 Gator Bowl.

Talley was selected by the W.Va. Sports Writers Association as the 1982 state Amateur Athlete of the Year.

He currently resides in Orlando, Fla.

“When I was in school at WVU,” Talley said. “I didn’t have time to smell the roses. But I must admit that the honors never get old when I look back and reflect on the past. When I look back, my only word would be ‘Wow.”’

Talley said he has good memories of his coaches, Cignetti and Nehlen, and noted that Nehlen “helped me and showed me to walk the walk if I wanted to be the best I could be in football. I listened and trusted coach Nehlen, who helped me a lot.”


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