In the pantheon of all-time great West Virginia Mountaineer football players, Bruce Bosley’s name is near the top of the list. Now, more than half a century after playing his final down for WVU and eleven years following his death, his #77 jersey was retired by the university.
The retirement was a process four years in the making. Before Bosley’s jersey retirement, only two other Mountaineers shared that honor: Ira Errett Rodgers and Sam Huff.
Originally from Green Bank, WVa, Bosley’s accolades are lengthy. While playing under Art “Pappy” Lewis, Bosley was a two-way athlete, he lined on both the offensive and defensive lines. He was a consensus All-American in 1955. In his four years in Morgantown, he was named to twelve different All-America teams.
A ceremony was held during the season opener this past weekend against Missouri. Bosley’s family was on-hand to commemorate the event. Bruce’s grandson Chase donned a game-worn WVU jersey from the new Mountaineer Legend.
“The ceremony was unique experience for me and my family,” Chase told us. “It is humbling and inspiring to see the impact he had on Morgantown, West Virginia University, and the state. Remarkable to have been included in such an honor. To know that in 125 years, only three other jersey have been retired and this was the third. To have that come to the highest honor, my heart is full.
“To look up and see 65,000 people in the stands cheering for him was incredible,” said Chase. “To see that 60 years after he played that people, even young, knew who he was and what he meant to the school.”
During his collegiate career, he played with Sam Huff and Gene “Beef” Lamone to help the Mountaineers earn a 31-7 record.
The San Francisco 49ers selected Bosley in the second round of the 1956 NFL Draft. He went on to play 14 years in the NFL with San Francisco and Atlanta. He made the Pro Bowl four times during his career.
A couple years after his death, Bosley’s family reached out to the Mountaineer Athletics Department to see about having his jersey retired. The process began while Oliver Luck held the position of Director of Athletics and passed the torch in this project to Shane Lyons when he took over the job, finally culminating with the formation of the Mountaineer Legends Society this past spring.
“This project has been in the developmental stage for several years, and I believe it will give us another great avenue to honor our history,” Shane Lyons said. “This club will be like our own ring of honor. We are calling it Mountaineer Legends Society because that’s what these former student-athletes are to our fans. Their accomplishments are greatly appreciated and now with three forms of recognition, first being the Hall of Fame, next the Legends Society and then the ultimate retiring of the number, I believe fans will start to see more of our all-time greats being honored.”
The effect of Bosley’s jersey retirement on his family after all of these years was remarkable to hear from them. The members of the family that I communicated with for this article were bursting with joy over the honor bestowed on the late Bruce Bosley.
To see and hear the reaction from the fans and the fanbase for this shows that retiring the #77 was the right move by the Athletics Department. In recent years, much has been said about which other numbers WVU should retire, especially since the Mountaineers’ rise to national prominence during the Pat White/Steve Slaton era. Many articles have been written about that duo and how the numbers 5 and 10 should hang alongside Rodgers, Huff, and now Bosley.
But you can go back further to names like Harris, Jozwiak, Hostetler, Talley, Marconi, Howley, and many others to see that this Mountaineer Legends Society could potentially give the proper recognition to players for years to come. The legacy these players left behind in Morgantown helped WVU get to where they are now, but also give their families something to take pride in, knowing that their forebear was recognized by the University that got them started.
Chase reiterated what this meant to them: “An experience my family will never forget. We will never forget that experience.”