by Scott Gyorko, Former WVU linebacker:
There’s been so many, that it’s hard to just choose just one. I mean, I played with Grant Wiley, jumping over the pile at Virginia Tech; Pacman Jones with his returns and INTs, “Slim Chris” Henry and his amazing grabs, JP (John Pennington) and his catch against Pitt.
It’s not just one play that ever sticks out. If you actually try and sit down, and go over all the plays and try to pick out just one, it’s hard.
Some people like offensive plays, some like defensive, and some like special teams. It just depends on who you ask, and I can tell you, every player will have multiple plays for each.
But it’s not a favorite play that each player remembers the most, it’s the camaraderie between the guys and just hanging out.
The play which sticks out the most is one in which I don’t even remember what happened at the end. We were playing Miami at home and playing really well, but we came up a little short.
The play came on a kickoff and I was running down the field and I looked at their back wall.
It wasn’t too many guys, just two — unfortunately their names were Jonathan Vilma and DJ Williams, and both went on to NFL careers.
Well, I wasn't backing down and just ran into them full speed, as were they.
That’s all I remember as the hit knocked me out.
It was the ground that woke me up when I hit it. I got up and kind of stumbled to the sideline.
Coach Gibby (Tony Gibson) met me first and goes, ‘Gyorko, you all right, ‘cause you knocked yourself out!’
I knocked myself out? The hit broke my chinstrap. Watching the replay the next day, both of them fell backwards and I fell to my side. Honestly, I still don’t remember where the ball carrier was tackled.
My friends are always into big hits and they always remind me of that one.”
by Gary Stills, Former WVU linebacker/defensive end:
One of the moments that stand out for me was the first time we played Marshall. It was the big game. We hadn’t played each other in about 80 years. We had this new turf in there and I wanted to make the first sack on it.
We lined up and I said ‘I’m going to get this.’ I remember the play, like third-and-6. I was playing right defensive end and I literally blew past the guy to sack Chad Pennington. I got up and did my celebration dance. I don’t know if it was too provocative or what.
I mean, I’ve looked at and it wasn’t provocative to me but maybe it was to other people.
The referee, he looked at me and said, “Look mister, no break dancing!” I looked at him and just started doing more.
We can be here all day talking about these things.
When I was a freshman, I cracked my front tooth but I couldn’t get it fixed until my senior year. After I fixed it, I could take it in and out.
Now we’re about to open the season with Ohio State and I don’t wear a mouthpiece, but during warmups I lost the tooth.
I’m thinking, I’m not going to go out there and get caught on national television making a big play with my mouth wide open and my front tooth missing. So I put in a mouthpiece. I went to the trainer and told I wasn’t going out there without my tooth and he busted out laughing.
So the game starts and we’re playing and we’re at the 32-yard-line and I look down, and there’s my tooth. We got that whole field and there’s my tooth, right there in front of me. I bend down, pick it up, put it in my mouth, throw my mouthpiece on the sideline and go on playing.
Well, we go to the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville and we’re laying at the pool and I lost it again in the pool. Solomon Page is my roommate and I start smiling and Solomon’s got this big laugh and he hollers out, “Everybody stop! G.Stills lost his contact in the pool.” So everyone’s looking for a contact.
Soon as I got drafted I went right to the dentist and got me a good tooth.
John Conte, Former WVU center:
When you play for Don Nehlen and Dave McMichael, our offensive line coach, you are a running football team. The one play that sticks out is Iso 42. It’s the first play you learn when you step foot on the West Virginia campus.
You run it right over right guard and as center you double team the nose guard.
The class I came in with included Marc Bulger, Solomon Page, Amos Zereoue and Anthony Becht and a whole bunch of other guys. We were there 1995-1999, and we came out to play our first game against Pitt.
You might remember Amos broke the 69-yarder the first time he carried the ball against Pitt on national television. I got to play my first game that night in old Pitt Stadium. I got to play eight plays that game and for a kid who grew up in Morgantown I’ll never forget it.
I still have a picture of a play against Pitt during the first game I ever played hanging on my wall.
But also unforgettable was the last game we ever played against them. That was in the fall of ’99 and it also was against Pitt and we crushed them, 52-21, and cost them a chance to go to a bowl game.
It kind of made going 4-7 that year a little bit better.
We beat the crap out of Pitt. In my five years at West Virginia we went 4-1 against Pitt and the only game we lost was in ’97 and that game went triple overtime (41-38). It was a heartbreaker. I think it was Walt Harris’ first year.
The play that stands out comes from that game, that Iso 42 where I double-teamed the nose guard with Rick Gilliam. We were beating the pants off them and I mean I just pancaked him.
I just pounded this guy and, while Rick was usually the trash talker in the offensive line, I remember yelling at this guy, “Hey, 85, I’m wearing you out.”
Well, he looked at me and tried to smile. He said, ‘John, my number’s not really 85. It’s 97, but since you are the ‘King of Holding’ you ripped it right off me earlier”
We all started laughing.
Time passed, Rick died unexpectedly a few years back and we held a memorial golf tournament for him and after the golf outing his dad, Mr. Gilliam, was kind enough to have us over to his house. He had all these pictures from Rick’s career, including one I’d never seen before. It was so funny.
It was a picture of me and Rick from that Pitt game in ’99 and that guy is lined up right over me and he had that jersey on, but it didn’t have his name on his back. Everyone else had their name on the back.
I really must have ripped it. I laughed because that’s the story I always tell and there it was, all nice and clean and no name on the back.
Tanner Russell, Former WVU offensive lineman:
It’s kind of funny, you think about it all the time … watching a game or talking to a buddy, something wild happens and you think about a play way, way back. It just jars your memory.
You might remember this old Pizza Hut commercial where guys are sitting around telling this story about playing football at a school that was probably like Concord or Bethany and they kick this field goal from about the 4-yard line to win the game.
Well, by the time they get done telling the story over and over there’s about 100,000 seats full and the kicker’s leg is broken and it’s from 50 yards out.
The same thing happens with us.
One I love to think about because it was such a fun season came against Syracuse in 1998. We’re in a two-game skid and we could have been in serious trouble if we lost to Syracuse that day.
One of my favorite plays that we had all five years I was there — I loved watching it being run and I loved running it — was the Statue of Liberty. We were driving and had just completed a pass to David Saunders. It put us on about the 32 on the near hash to our sideline and they called the Statue of Liberty play.
It’s one of those plays that set up perfectly. I tell people all the time one of the fun things about being an offensive lineman in football is when you have a quarterback like Marc Bulger. He reminds me of Peyton Manning, always changing the play. The defense moves, he changes it again. The clock may be winding down, but he has it under control.
He always had that play set up. Marc would come to the line of scrimmage and he’d give an audible … but it was a fake audible. The defense would expect him to pitch it out to Saunders on the wide side of the field.
I had Bryan Pukanis to my left playing guard. We’d snap the ball and we’d step into that play-action pass protection. You’d always know when Marc would pump fake the ball because you’d see the linebackers just fly.
It’s funny, I had a wide receiver to my right and he’d come in to crack on the linebacker. He came across my face, the fullback did his job and it was one of those amazing things. I pulled out and by the time I got where I was going I could see through the end zone and all the way into our locker room.
I had Amos Zereoue behind me with the ball and there was only one defensive back between me and the end zone. He had no chance. It was the perfect play call at the perfect time.
They took it hook, line and sinker. God bless that defensive back. He was out there and it didn’t matter. He did his juking and jiving thing, but I was running straight. I wasn’t slowing down. He tried to shoulder up with me and it did not work out to his advantage. He tried to reach a hand up on Amos’ leg. I just slapped his hand down and held him up against the turf.
He just took it. I just plowed right over him. I remember looking up and seeing Amos trotting in the end zone.