Continuing on with our 100 day countdown to WVU’s season opener against the Alabama Crimson Tide, we have reached day 50, the number once worn by WVU linebacker, Dennis Fowlkes.
Originally from Columbus, OH, Fowlkes spent four seasons as part of the WVU football program, from 1979 to 1982. He came into the program at the tail end of the Frank Cignetti era, and was still a with the team during the beginning of Don Nehlen’s coaching tenure. During his four seasons in the old Gold and Blue, Fowlkes recorded 458 career tackles, along with 5 sacks, and 7 interceptions.
He is one of six Mountaineer greats to have recorded 400 or more tackles during their collegiate career, and is currently third amongst the school’s all-time leaders in tackles, only trailing Grant Wiley, and teammate Darryl Talley for the lead.
1979 was another dismal year for the WVU Football program as they would go on to finish with a 5-6 record, the school’s fourth losing season in a row. The Mountaineers lost four times that year by 20 points or more, and were utterly humiliated in a season ending 42-7 defeat at the hands of the Arizona State Sun Devils. Throughout the season, Fowlkes saw a great deal of playing time, and was able to record 57 tackles, 2 interceptions, and a sack to start his career off on a positive note.
The 6’2”, 225 pound middle-linebacker broke out a season later, recording a career high 150 tackles, along with 3 interceptions, and a sack. His 150 tackles ranks second for most tackles in a single season by a sophomore Mountaineer player. The team improved to a record of 6-6 under first year head coach, Don Nehlen, but missed out on a bowl berth after a season ending loss to Syracuse in Morgantown.
In 1981, the team as a whole took a big step forward as they finished the regular season 8-3, and earned a place in the postseason for the first time in five seasons. Fowlkes had another fine season on the defensive side of the ball, recording 111 tackles and a sack during the year. In their New Year’s Eve showdown with the Florida Gators, the Mountaineers handled the SEC powerhouse 26-6 to win the 1981 Peach Bowl.
To finish out a memorable college career, Fowlkes, aka “Mr. Inside”, went on to record another 100+ tackle season (140 to be exact), along with 2 sacks, and 2 interceptions. The team finished the regular season 9-2, just missing out on a possible national championship opportunity following losses to Penn State and Pitt along the way.
The team earned their second straight bowl bid, this time to the 1983 Gator Bowl, where they would fall in the season’s final game to the Florida State Seminoles 31-12. None the less, the team was still good enough to finish with a top 20 ranking in both major polls, another major step in the right direction for a program on the rise.
Dennis Fowlkes graduated from West Virginia University in the spring of 1983. Following his graduation from the school, he would go on to pursue a career in professional football, signing with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted free agent that same spring.
Fowlkes would spend three seasons in the twin cities, appearing in 40 regular season games for the Vikings. However, Fowlkes would end his career with three more NFL appearances in 1987, this time for the Miami Dolphins, before calling it quits the following year. He recorded two sacks during his four year pro career, both coming in his final season with the Vikings in 1985.
All countdown profiles of numbers 100-51 are still available here at WVUPros.com