Talley's Tally

Darryl Talley's competitive spirit drove him to measure himself against the best players of his era. The results of that drive were a stellar career in a Mountaineer uniform and a belated, but well-deserved, election to the College Football Hall of Fame.

Talley, who was one of the top linebackers of his day, competed against a number of other 'backers who earned national recognition. He didn't back down from that challenge, and set a goal of not just matching, but exceeding, their production.

"I looked at those guys, and said, 'I can compete with you and I can outplay you,'" Talley said on Tuesday. "We had Delbert Fowler [here at West Virginia] Rickey Jackson and Hugh Green and Sal Sunseri at Pitt, and Larry Kubin [Penn State]. I would see what they did, and try to do better. I was never satisfied. I wanted to keep competing with them, and I thought, 'I can outplay them. Just watch me, and I will do it.'"

Talley certainly matched the achievements of those players, displaying what his head coach, Don Nehelen, described as "a nasty frame of mind."

"He would flat out smack you," Nehlen said of his star defender. "He was a great college and pro player, but what set him apart was that he could play up on the line of scrimmage and handle the tight end, or play in space because of his great speed."

Talley was one of the prototypes of faster, less bulky linebackers than dominated the college and pro game when the emphasis of the game switched from strength to speed. He had both, wearing a huge set of shoulder pads and unleashing devastating hits at the point of attack while chasing down ball carriers all over the field. His hit on an East Carolina player in a 20-3 win in 1981 would have been a YouTube staple had it come two decades later, but it encapsulated all of his talents in just one play. Quickly diagnosing a swing pass, Talley broke on the ball and crushed the receiver with such force that he was stretched horizontally long before he ever came close to hitting the ground.

Most players would recall that or other successful moments in their career as they looked back from the vantage point of a Hall of Fame election, but Talley actually listed a pair of moments which weren't all roses and sunshine. He recalled the 1982 game against Oklahoma, in which he didn't play up to par while suffering from a temperature of 102 degrees, and also described his memories of the Pitt game in 1982.

In what was one of the greatest individual defensive performances in West Virginia history. He blocked a punt and returned it 22 yards for a score, picked off a Dan Marino pass and was all over the field in what turned out to be an agonizing 16-13 loss.

"Pitt had beaten us every year, and I did everything in my power to win that game, and I couldn't do it," he recalled. "I blocked a punt, intercepted the ball, had twenty-some tackles, and it just didn't happen."

It's instructive to note that Talley brought up those two moments. Like another WVU Hall of Famer, Jerry West, he took losses and setbacks to heart, and it's clear that those low moments have stuck with him. They are countered, however, by the many good moments that led to his induction.

"It's truly an honor -- think about all the millions of people that play the game, guys that played for a year or two years, or played in school and they didn't make it that far," he said. "To actually be selected; it says I did something while I was there besides stand around and have a finger stuck up my behind. I'm as proud as a peacock. It's been a long wait, but like my dad says, anything worth having is worth waiting for. I will appreciate it a lot more now that what I would have before."

Talley's formal induction into the Hall will take place at the National Football Foundation Awards Dinner on Dec. 6, 2011 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.

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