By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
This year’s NFL draft signified that West Virginia University is beginning a new era of football, one that is very different from the time that passed in the previous 100 years.
Think about the image and effect WVU has had on professional football over the years.
The image has been a true reflection of the state itself – hard-nosed, tough.
Nothing very subtle, really, just Sam Huff, Joe Stydahar style of in-your-face football.
Quarterbacks? The school’s best – Pat White and Major Harris – there really wasn’t a place for them.
Running backs? The same thing, really. Oh, some made it, but none of the subtle, breakaway types of runners.
And wide receiver? Forget it.
That is why this year’s draft is such a breakaway from the norm.
Tavon Austin became one of the highest draft picks ever for WVU at No. 8 by the St. Louis Rams even though he doesn’t reach 190 pounds in full pads and the only thing he takes head on is life.
Expectations are he will give WVU a shot at its first All-Pro wide receiver, and if not he, then Stedman Bailey, taken in the third round by the same St. Louis Rams.
And there’s no reason Geno Smith can’t become a New York hero with the Jets … a feeling only one other QB in WVU history as felt, that being Jeff Hostetler, who led the Giants to Super Bowl victory.
As the game, especially in the Big 12, move more to wide-open passing games, the emphasis lands on QBs and wide receivers, and it’s very possible the same draft may have produced the Mountaineers’ top two NFL receivers.
Right now you almost have to break the all-time WVU receivers to play in the NFL into eras … James Jett and Jerry Porter, both Oakland, interestingly enough, are the modern day receivers, but neither reached all-NFL levels.
From an earlier time you had a pair of one-time Greasy Neale ends – as they were called – in Tod Goodwin and Bill Karr.
Goodwin’s career lasted only two seasons, but as a rookie for the New York Giants in 1935, he led the NFL in receptions and yards per catch. That he caught only 26 passes for 16.6 yards per catch offers proof of how different the times were.
Karr, out of Ripley, played for George Halas’ Bears, including the 1933 NFL championship team and caught 48 passes … in six years, starting 46 games. They didn’t get the nickname “Monsters of the Midway” throwing the ball.
Jerry Porter, who probably was the most gifted athlete to play at the school, caught 76 balls in one season for the Raiders and twice missed 1,000-yard receiving seasons by a combined total of 10 yards.
The quarterback position is a different matter, in that Hostetler had a couple of huge moments in the sun and Marc Bulger, who was playing Dana Holgorsen-style football before anyone had ever heard of Holgorsen, became an NFL starter for more than a decade.
His team? You guessed it, the same Rams who now employ Austin and Bailey.
Bulger’s claim to fame was reaching 1,000 completions faster than any NFL quarterback in history on Sept. 15, 2006.
With this in mind, we thought it might be fun to put together one-man’s – with a lot of help from John Antonic, who has become one of the prime historians on WVU football and basketball — all-WVU NFL team.
There’s room for argument, always a good thing, and if we’re right about the new direction WVU football is taking, there’s room for evolution in creating new All-NFL team players who could not exist in the past.
WR — Bill Karr, Chicago Bears, or modern day Jerry Porter, Oakland.
WR — Tod Goodwin (Giants, led NFL in receiving) or modern day James Jett, Oakland.
TE — Anthony Becht, Tampa Bay.
OL — Joe Stydahar, Bears NFL All-Star (1938, 1939, 1940, 1941), NFL All-Pro (1937, 1938, 1939, 1940), NFL champion (1940, 1941, 1946, 1951), NFL 1930s All-Decade Team, Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee.
OL — Bruce Bosley, San Fransisco 49ers (four-time Pro Bowl choice).
OL — Rich Braham, Cincinnati (12 years in the league).
OL — Al Baisi, Bears, two Pro Bowls 1939 and 1941 and was a member of Bears title teams in 1940-41).
OL — Mike Compton, Detroit Lions.
QB — Jeff Hostetler, Giants, 1994 NFL Pro Bowl selection, NFL Super Bowl champion (XXI, XXV); Marc Bulger, Rams NFL Pro Bowl (2003, 2006), St. Louis Rams MVP (2002, 2004).
RB — Harry Clarke, Bears, NFL All-Star (1940, 1941), 1943 NFL All-Pro, NFL Champion (1940, 1941, 1943).
RB — Adrian Murrell, Jets, three consecutive 1,000-yard season, 1996-98.
FB — Tom Woodeshick, Eagles, second in NFL with 947 rushing yards in 1968 and and 831 next year; Joe Marconi, Rams 1963 NFL Pro Bowl selection, 1963 NFL champion.
P — Todd Sauerbrun, NFL Pro Bowl (2001, 2002, 2003), NFL All-Pro (2001, 2002, 2003).
PK — Mike Vanderjagt, Colts.
DE — Renaldo Turnbull, Saints 1993 NFL Pro Bowl selection, 1993 NFL All-Pro selection.
DE — Jeff Merrow, Atlanta’s top pass rusher in the ’70s.
DT — John Thornton, Titans and Bengals.
DT — Mike Fox, Giants and Panthers, started on Giants Super Bowl team.
LB — Darryl Talley, Bills NFL Pro Bowl (1990, 1991), NFL All-Pro (1990, 1993).
LB — Sam Huff, Giants NFL Pro Bowl (1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1964), NFL All-Pro (1957, 1958, 1959, 1960), 1956 NFL champion, NFL 1950s All-Decade Team, 70 Greatest Washington Redskins honoree, Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee.
LB — Chuck Howley, Cowboys NFL Pro Bowl (1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1971), NFL All-Pro (1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970), Super Bowl V MVP, Super Bowl VI champion, Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor honoree.
CB — Tom Keene, Rams 1953 NFL Pro Bowl selection, 1953 NFL All-Pro selection, 1951 NFL Champion.
CB — Jerry Holmes, a decade with Jets, Detroit, Green Bay.
S — Tom Pridemore, Atlanta.
S — Mike Logan, Jaguars, Steelers, played on Super Bowl champion team.
KR – Fulton Walker, Miami, famous Super Bowl return for touchdown.
Certainly there’s some wiggle room on the WVU All-Pro team, but what can’t be argued is that Austin, Smith and Bailey are taking the Mountaineers down a new path.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.