West Virginia football is set to retire its fourth jersey number in program history when it honors linebacker Darryl Talley by immortalizing his No. 90 during the Mountaineers’ game against Texas Tech on Saturday.
One of the most fearsome linebackers to play in Morgantown, the Cleveland native racked up a program-record 484 tackles in four seasons under Coach Don Nehlen, earning consensus first-team All-American honors in 1983. That set Talley up for a successful career in the NFL with the Buffalo Bills, Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings, where he earned a spot on the Bills’ Wall of Fame, as well as spots in the WVU Sports and College Football halls of fame.
Talley was an early contributor for the Mountaineers, joining the Frank Cignetti’s Mountaineer team out of Shaw High. He made an instant impact, playing in all 11 games and racking up 68 tackles. The team didn’t see much success, however, finishing 5-6 on the year without a bowl bid
The next season, Nehlen took the helm, and it was clear that the Mountaineers were up for a rebuild — luckily, the centerpiece of his defense was already well-established. Talley helped the Mountaineers finish .500 in 1980, adding 73 more tackles to his pile, while notching his first sack and a half against Rutgers. He also finished with 10 tackles-for-loss and a pick.
WVU made a massive step forward in his junior season. Talley helped lead the Mountaineers to the first of 15 straight winning seasons as they logged nine wins and three losses, earning a bid to the Peach Bowl for the first time since 1975. West Virginia lined up against the Florida Gators, winning 26-6. Talley added seven tackles in the victory, including one for a 19-yard loss.
Talley ended his career with a massive exclamation point in 1982, solidifying his place in the annals of Mountaineer football. That season, he racked up 100 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions, three forced fumbles and 10 tackles-for-loss as the Mountaineers earned a bid to the Gator Bowl against Florida State. Talley became the program’s first consensus All-American in nearly three decades.
After West Virginia, Talley enjoyed an illustrious 14-year career in the NFL as part of the stout Buffalo Bills squad coached by Marv Levy in the 1990s. He started on the formidable Bills defense that famously made — and lost — four straight Super Bowls, and has since also become a favorite piece of Buffalo lore on the team’s Wall of Fame. Talley also played stints with the Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings, recording 1,252 tackles, 38.5 sacks, 12 interceptions and two touchdowns in his pro career.
Talley’s No. 90 will become the third jersey number retired in WVU football history.
Be sure to catch a full interview with the Mountaineer great on the Oct. 9 episode of The Neal Brown Show, with an excerpt to be shown on Mountaineer GameDay ahead of WVU’s clash with Texas Tech on Saturday.