Hometown: Kaylor, PA
Record: 12-13-5, Bowl Record: 0-0
Jumbo Joe Stydahar was one of the first superstars in Mountaineer football history. He played during one of the more forgettable periods of WVU football in the early 30s. Stydahar had grown up just down the road from West Virginia University in the small mining town of Shinnston, WV (he moved there while a child). With the Great Depression taking its toll on the country, Stydahar came to West Virginia to play for Coach Earl “Greasy” Neale. The exploits of Neale’s playing and coaching career were appealing to any recruit, but he was unable to translate that into winning West Virginia teams. Stydahar would flourish under new Head Coach Charles “Trusty” Tallman. Stydahar was a crushing tackler and a proficient blocker, playing along both lines for the Mountaineers. He was also a talented center for the West Virginia basketball team, earning varsity letters for 1933-1935. His talent stood out on poor WVU teams, earning him a 3rd team All-America honor in 1935 and an invite to the East-West All-Star game. His play in the All-Star game caught the attention of George Halas, leading to Joe’s selection 6th overall in the inaugural NFL draft. Stydahar is the first player ever drafted to be inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame (the top 5 picks did not have such luck). After a Hall of Fame worthy college playing career and a Hall of Fame pro career, Stydahar honorably served his country in World War II as a member of the U.S. Navy. Following the war, he would coach the Los Angeles Rams to a NFL championship in 1951. In summary: Joe Stydahar excelled at everything he put his mind to.
Memorable Game: As you might be able to imagine, it is really rare to find box scores for games from the 1930s. It is even harder to find box scores for bad teams from the 1930s. With that in mind, we highlight West Virginia’s 1934 victory over Duquesne. Coach Tallman had begun his Mountaineer coaching career with a home victory over West Virginia Wesleyan to open the 1934 season. West Virginia then faced a tough road game against Duquesne. The Dukes had won the previous two meetings against the Mountaineers. WVU was looking to snap the losing streak that day at Forbes Field. Joe Stydahar was the star of the game, scoring the lone touchdown on the day. The Mountaineers beat the Dukes by the score of 7-0.
Competition: As had been pointed out to me in a previous comment, Joe Stydahar might have also worn #58 during his time in Morgantown. I went by the photos published in West Virginia University Football Vault: The History of the Mountaineers by John Antonik that clearly shows Stydahar in a #46 jersey. Stydahar is one of only two WVU players to reach Canton, so there was no beating him for this spot. I know many fans were probably thinking Walter Easley should be here, but I just cannot imagine an argument where Easley beats out Stydahar.
Teaser: Tomorrow we look at the career of another tenacious tackler for the Mountaineers. This player from Fremont, OH played with a lot of gas in the tank. So tomorrow, we offer tribute to this great WVU linebacker.