The Times West Virginian

Sports

July 9, 2013

FURFARI COLUMN- Nehlen rates Undra Johnson ‘something special’

MORGANTOWN — Undra Johnson, now of nearby Bridgeport, was one of the great running backs on West Virginia University’s first-ever undefeated, untied regular-season football team.

The other two were A.B. Brown and Eugene Napoleon, both of whom transferred from old rival Pitt.

Johnson, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., liked West Virginia so much he returned here after three years of playing pro football to make a living in the Mountain State in the investment business.

The 5-foot-9, 200-pound tailback earned letters in 1985-86-87-88. The records for those respective periods were 7-3-1, 4-7, 6-6 and 11-1.

It was in Johnson’s senior season that the Mountaineers were a scoring steamroller, setting school records, but losing in a Fiesta Bowl contest with Notre Dame for the national championship, 34-21.

“That has been on my mind for 24 years,” Johnson said in a recent interview. “I think about it all the time.”

Quarterback Major Harris was injured on the third offensive play. A couple of other key players also went down. Even Johnson got hurt.

He explained, “I went down the first time I carried the ball that night. And to think about it, it was a late hit and hurt my knee. I just wish we would have had some better luck.”

But he still thinks that “if our guys had been able to stick together (health-wise), we’d have won the football game. I really do!”

Johnson also said he doesn’t believe that the Mountaineers really realized how big that game was.

He admittedly loved playing football for Hall of Famer Don Nehlen, WVU’s longest serving head coach from 1980 through 2000 — but he wishes he’d had a few more carries.

Nehlen said repeatedly, “Undra was something special. He was right up there with the best running backs I’ve had, and we had a lot of real good backs.

“We took a chance on him, and he turned out to be something special. I think the world of Undra.”

Johnson, who graduated with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree, posted some impressive statistics at the university.

Playing in 41 games, he rushed 442 times, gained 2,212 yards and scored 21 touchdowns. He also caught 10 passes for 66 yards and two touchdowns. His longest reception was 17 yards.

Johnson, whose longest rush was 55 yards, was coached at Fort Lauderdale High by West Virginia native Rick Terry. One of his teachers there also came from this state.

Both recommended to Nehlen that he give Johnson a scholarship, and he did.

“No one gave him a chance, and he turned out to be something special,” Nehlen repeated.

After spending three years in the NFL with Atlanta, New Orleans and Dallas, Johnson hurt his shoulder and retired. Then he returned to this area in 1994 and launched his highly successful business.

He spent six years with Merrill Lynch and now has 13 years with Wells Fargo. He travels extensively out of his Bridgeport base dealing in the markets.

Now 47 years old, Undra says his next goal in life is to marry the woman he loves.

1
Text Only
Sports
  • Big ‘I’ golf coming to Pete Dye

    The Trusted Choice Big “I” National Championship will make its first trip to West Virginia when Pete Dye Golf Club hosts the 46th annual installment of the event Aug. 5-8.
    The Pete Dye course, ranked No. 45 on Golf Digest’s ranking of America’s 100 Greatest Courses and No. 9 on Golfweek’s ranking of Best Modern Courses, will host 160 of the best junior golfers from 40 states during the 72-hole stroke play event.

    July 30, 2014

  • Scott sees swift title contention for Lakers

    Byron Scott was a key component of the Los Angeles Lakers’ Showtime teams, a smooth shooting guard with sizzling competitive fire. He believes his purple-and-gold championship pedigree makes him the ideal coach to return the struggling 16-time champions to NBA contention.
    “This organization is all about championships, period,” Scott said Tuesday at his introductory news conference. “We don’t look at Western Conference finals, Western Conference championships. We look at (NBA) championships. And we know we have some work ahead of us, but I’m excited. ... I love challenges anyway, so this is going to be fun.”

    July 30, 2014

  • Opinion: People running NCAA may not be bumbling idiots

    Two down, one big one to go.
    And with it a growing realization that maybe the people running the NCAA aren’t the bumbling idiots everyone has been making them out to be.
    The NCAA’s agreement Tuesday to create a $70 million fund to diagnose concussions and brain injuries does more than just give some former and current athletes a bit of peace of mind — if no real money. It also extricates the organization from another serious threat to its existence, one that could have potentially bankrupted it if everyone who ever suffered a concussion playing college sports were somehow able to cash in.

    July 30, 2014

  • Steelers Camp Footbal_time2.jpg Bell looking for more decisive, productive season

    Le’Veon Bell kept watching the tape over and over, equal parts pleased and puzzled by what he saw.
    There were times during his rookie season when the Pittsburgh Steelers running back would place his hand on an offensive lineman’s back and wait patiently for the hole to open.
    Sometimes, one would appear. Sometimes it wouldn’t, mainly because whatever sliver of daylight existed had already been swallowed by darkness while Bell was still trying to read the blocks in front of him.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • smallwood-wendell(1)-2.jpg Charges against Smallwood dropped

     West Virginia University running back Wendell Smallwood took to Twitter mid-afternoon Tuesday to express his feelings after charges of witness intimidation against him were dropped by the state of Delaware.
    It took him only three words to say what was on his mind: “God is Good.” Smallwood is now free to return to West Virginia and rejoin his Mountaineer teammates when they open camp for the 2014 season Thursday.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • dungy0725 (1).jpg Rice, Dungy sideshows stain NFL

    The National Football League guards its reputation as aggressively as lineman are paid to protect a quarterback.
    So, as training camp opens around the country, how odd is it to see Commissioner Roger Goodell’s 32-team NFL empire battling bad headlines and stinging criticism from all quarters?
    Anyone want to talk to the new quarterback for his early assessment of playing with the best and biggest players in the land? That would be business as usual. Nothing has been routine about the early days of camp this season.

    July 30, 2014 2 Photos

  • Post 17 #7 Post 2 #12 mw.JPG DeVaul wraps up final season as Post 17’s leader

    If you were to ask players on Fairmont American Legion Post 17’s roster who they looked up to, you’d find a familiar pattern.
    Sure, you may get some Andrew McCutchens or some Derek Jeters as replies. But if you want to find out the real answer, just look into the dugout.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Big ‘I’ golf coming to Pete Dye

    The Trusted Choice Big “I” National Championship will make its first trip to West Virginia when Pete Dye Golf Club hosts the 46th annual installment of the event Aug. 5-8.

    July 29, 2014

  • Charges against Smallwood dropped

    West Virginia University running back Wendell Smallwood took to Twitter mid-afternoon Tuesday to express his feelings after charges of witness intimidation against him were dropped by the state of Delaware.

    July 29, 2014

  • Return to Mountain State exciting for new sports writer

    When I packed my belongings out of my Morgantown apartment in May, fresh with a journalism degree from West Virginia University, I thought I had ended a chapter of my life and closed the book on my experience inside the great Mountain State forever.
    It wasn’t until I received a phone call back in my hometown of Canton, Ohio, from the Times West Virginian that the idea of a return to the area became a possibility. The opportunity to begin my professional career in an area that I’ve become comfortable with for the past several years was too good to pass by.

    July 29, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Sports
House Ads
Auto Racing Photos
Auto Racing Breaking News
Auto Racing Standings