MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (July 1, 2021) – The West Virginia University Department of Intercollegiate Athletics will retire football’s No. 90, in honor of consensus All-American and College Football Hall of Famer Darryl Talley, during the Texas Tech game on Oct. 2.
Talley was one of the most prolific defenders in Mountaineer and Buffalo Bills history. During his four years in Morgantown, Talley amassed 484 career tackles, which were the most by any WVU player when his playing career ended in 1982. The four-year starter led West Virginia to the 1981 Peach Bowl and the 1982 Gator Bowl.
Talley produced five tackles for loss in a 1980 game against Penn State, which was a WVU single-game record that stood for 20 years. For his career, the East Cleveland, Ohio, native had 282 unassisted tackles, 202 assisted tackles, 28 tackles for loss and 19 quarterback sacks.
Talley came to WVU from Cleveland’s Shaw High School in 1978 and spent two seasons playing for Frank Cignetti before Don Nehlen took over the Mountaineer program in 1980. After two rebuilding seasons that saw WVU go 5-6 and 6-6, Talley and his teammates jelled to post nine victories, including a 26-6 rout of Florida in the 1981 Peach Bowl. The Mountaineers also notched wins that season against Virginia, Maryland, Colorado State, Boston College, Virginia Tech, East Carolina, Temple and Rutgers.
As a senior, Talley was one of the leaders in the season-opening win at No. 9 Oklahoma, when the Mountaineers stunned Barry Switzer and the Sooners, 41-27. Later that season, he was named Sports Illustrated Player of the Week for his 15 tackles versus Boston College, but it was probably the game at Pitt that season that solidified his status as college football’s top outside linebacker. In that game, he intercepted a Dan Marino pass to set up a Mountaineer field goal, blocked a punt and recovered it for a touchdown and spent almost the entire afternoon in the Pitt backfield in a narrow 16-13 loss to the No. 2-ranked Panthers. Talley’s talent and versatility for the WVU defense was on display in that Pitt game as he lined up at every defensive position except for nose guard. He led West Virginia to a 9-2 regular season and an invitation to play Florida State in the Gator Bowl.
After being named team MVP and becoming only the school’s third consensus All-American, Talley was invited to play in the 1983 Hula Bowl and was selected in the second round of the NFL Draft (39th overall) by the Buffalo Bills.
He blossomed into a star for the Bills, playing 12 seasons as the team’s starting outside linebacker from 1983-94, never missing a game and starting in four Super Bowls. At the conclusion of his career, Talley was the Bills’ all-time leading tackler with 1,137. He also recorded 38 ½ sacks,12 interceptions, 14 fumble recoveries and three touchdowns for his career as a Bill, averaging 120 tackles, 3 ½ sacks and 6.2 takeaways per season.
Aside from the Super Bowls, he was selected twice to the Pro Bowl and was voted All-Pro in 1990 and 1991. He concluded his career by playing one season each with the Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings to total 14 years in the NFL.
Along with being a consensus All-American and one of the greatest players in Mountaineer football history, Talley’s overall career honors are vast. He is a member of WVU’s All-Time Football Team, was inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 1996, won the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Distinguished Service Award in 2000, which is named after the Bills’ legendary owner, became the 20th member of the Buffalo Bills’ Wall of Fame, inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2011, the Mountaineer Legends Society in 2016 and named one of the 26 greatest players in Buffalo Bills history as part of the team’s 50th Anniversary, joining teammates Jim Kelly, Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas, Cornelius Bennett and Andre Reed among others.
He now becomes just the fourth WVU football player in history to have his number retired. Talley’s No. 90 joins Sam Huff’s No. 75, Ira “Rat” Rodgers’ No. 21 and Bruce Bosley’s No. 77 as retired WVU football numbers. Sophomore defensive lineman Akheem Mesidor currently wears No. 90 for the Mountaineers, and he will finish his career in that number before it goes into permanent retirement.
The WVU Athletics Council unanimously approved the retirement of Talley’s number as he meets the qualifications that include an undergraduate degree from WVU, induction into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame, induction into the Mountaineer Legends Society and induction into a national collegiate or professional hall of fame.
An on-field presentation with Talley is planned during the Texas Tech game and the No. 90 will be permanently displayed in Milan Puskar Stadium with the other three retired numbers.