Hometown: Fairfax, VA
Record: 28-17-1, Bowl Record: 1-1
Often overlooked, punters are crucial to the success of any team. Phil Brady was one of the important cogs in a well-oiled Mountaineer machine. Brady was not always a Mountaineer though, as he came to West Virginia via a transfer from East Carolina after his freshman season. He was first eligible to play for the Mountaineers in 2004, becoming the starting punter. Brady made critical punts to pin opponents deep in their end of the field and was instrumental in helping West Virginia win the field position battle. I was in attendance to witness his leg strength first-hand as he boomed a 73 yard punt against James Madison in 2004. During the 2005 season, his punting ability kept WVU in games early in the season while WVU figured out the quarterback and running back controversies. Once the Mountaineers settled in on White and Slaton, Brady got fewer and fewer punting opportunities. He would make the most of his chances, helping West Virginia reach the Sugar Bowl at the end of the 2005 season.
Memorable Game: Since we were on the subject, let’s talk about the 2006 Nokia Sugar Bowl. West Virginia was ranked 11th heading into the match-up with 8th ranked Georgia. The game was a virtual home game for the Bulldogs as the game had been moved from New Orleans to Atlanta in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. While New Orleans was recovering from the storm, the Georgia Bulldogs were about to have to weather a storm of their own. Nobody outside of the state of West Virginia expected what took place in the first half of this game. West Virginia jumped all-over Georgia early, getting out to an early 28-0 lead. Georgia was down, but not out. They fought their way back into the game, cutting the WVU lead to 31-28. Brady did everything he could to force Georgia to drive the field with 4 punts for 144 yards and a 41 yards per punt average. With the Mountaineers holding a narrow 38-35 lead, and unable to convert a late third down, the Mountaineers called on Brady. The Mountaineers lined up for the spread punt formation and pulled an incredible trick play. Brady ran off the left tackle for 10 yards to gain a first down for WVU to run out the clock, preserving West Virginia’s first BCS win, 38-35.
Competition: The cupboard is a little bare at #38 for impactful players. Some of the options here were solid role players like K.C. Shiller, but Phil Brady was the biggest star of the bunch. Honestly, his one play in the Sugar Bowl was enough to put him past the other players on this list. That one play was the difference between WVU winning a BCS game and being a team that choked away a huge lead. Think of the direction the program could have gone had WVU lost that game; we might not be talking about 3 BCS titles and the Big XII. We could be talking about 3 Gator Bowl losses and a rebuilding Big East.
Teaser: The athlete featured tomorrow is a player that had a keen football sense. He was an adept quarterback and later proved that he was an adept pass defender. What is remarkable is how few Mountaineer fans remember this player. Don’t worry dedicated readers, tomorrow we will talk about an athlete from a forgotten. This will be a player only we know (at least until the world has read this blog).