Hometown: Bellaire, OH
Record: 11-9, Bowl Record: 0-0
Tom Keane was a shining example of college football players during the World War II era. Keane originally signed on to play with Ohio State University coming out of military school in 1944. After one year with the Buckeyes, he joined the Navy. After the war had ended in 1945, Keane was free to join any school he wished, ultimately joining the Mountaineers for the 1946 season. Keane played quarterback for West Virginia, which in that era, was responsible for rushing and passing. Keane had a relatively successful 1946 campaign, but would best be remembered for his 1947 season. He led the Mountaineers in offense and led WVU to a 4-0 record to start the season. Keane would help the Mountaineers weather the storm of four straight losses to finish the season with a 6-4 record. After his time in Morgantown, he would take his talents to the NFL, playing for the Rams, Colts, and Cardinals.
Memorable Game: There is virtually nothing in the way of documented statistics for Tom Keane’s career with the Mountaineers. With that in mind, we highlight a major victory over Pitt from 1947. This game is of huge importance to the West Virginia program as it marks the first time the rivalry with Pitt is referred to as the “Backyard Brawl.” West Virginia had been beaten down pretty well in 1947 after the team had gone from 4-0 to 5-4 heading into the game against Pitt. Coach Bill Kern had told his team that he planned to quit at the end of the season and many of the war veterans on the WVU team were due to leave the program at the conclusion of the season. It seemed like the whole team was crumbling. The Mountaineers decided to make one last statement, banding together to pull out a 17-2 victory over the Panthers in Pittsburgh. WVU’s radio announcer Jack Fleming noted that the Mountaineer fans had rushed the field to tear down the goal posts, making it unclear to Fleming that Pitt had actually scored a safety in the final seconds of the game. The win was WVU’s first over Pitt in 15 seasons.
Competition: Keane was a big deal in an often forgotten era of WVU football. He got the nod over some other notable Mountaineers like Van Richardson, Scott Kozlowski, and Terry Bowden. Honestly, it came down to highlighting the 1940s, as this is the only player in the countdown from the 1940s.
Teaser: The pick at #36 is a beast of a player. He was a ferocious fullback that helped power Coach Nehlen’s teams of the early 1980s. He was so strong and hairy, I swear he must have been half wolf. Maybe he also had a pension for surfing on the roofs of vans.