By Mickey Furfari
Times West Virginian
Joe Taffoni came across the state border from nearby Nemacolin, Pa., in 1962 to become an outstanding offensive guard on West Virginia University’s football team.
After one year on the freshman team, as required by the NCAA, he was a varsity standout on the 1963-64-65 teams coached by Gentleman Gene Corum. He helped the Mountaineers post records of 4-6, 7-4 and 6-4. He is a member of the WVU all-time team for the period 1960-69.
West Virginia lost to Utah 32-6 in the first-ever indoor Liberty Bowl in Atlantic City, N.J. The enclosed football field measured only 90 yards.
Taffoni, who was 6-foot-3 and tipped the scales at 230 pounds, recalled WVU’s wild but wonderful 63-48 victory over old rival Pitt on Oct. 14, 1965, at old Mountaineer Field.
“That wasn’t really a game; it was a track meet,” he suggested. “Johnny Michelosen was Pitt’s coach then, and a very good one.
“A guy I played against in that contest was named Fred Hozgolian. He was a center and I played alongside him with the Cleveland Browns for five years.”
Another game that sticks out in Taffoni’s mind was a 28-27 win against Syracuse at home in the 1964 regular-season finale. That sealed the bowl bid.
“I really enjoyed playing football at West Virginia,” Taffoni said. “I have no regrets. It was a great experience.”
His son, Dr. Matt Taffoni, was an outstanding linebacker at the university from 1991-94.
After graduating with a degree in history in 1967, Joe was drafted in the third round of the NFL draft by Cleveland. “I played five years with the Browns (at 260 pounds) and three with the New York Giants.”
He called it quits as a player in 1976. Then he launched a lengthy coaching career, joining Joe Morrison at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga because he played with him in New York.
After a five-year stint there, he got out of coaching and went into the business world.
But Taffoni still found time to teach and coach at Holy Cross High School in Delran, N.J.
“We sent a lot of players to West Virginia,” he noted.
Taffoni served in that role for 21 years and finally retired in 2011.
Joe and his wife Susan moved two years ago to Chapin, S.C., to be close to his son in the Columbia, S.C., area.
The Taffonis have been married for 45 years. Besides Dr. Matt, they have a daughter, Maria.
The son just turned 41-years-old, and his sister, 35. Maria, who’s also a WVU graduate, has a married last name of Hetlingel.
There are four grandchildren, two in each family.
Dr. Taffoni is married to Lucy Ours, a former Miss West Virginia.
Taffoni said in parting, “We are still staunch supporters of the state, the university and the program. And I wish everybody all the best.”