Continuing on with our 100 day countdown to WVU’s season opener against the Alabama Crimson Tide, we have reached day 44, the number once worn by WVU fullback, Jim Braxton.
Originally from Vanderbilt, PA, Braxton was a three year member of the WVU Football program, from 1968 to 1970. In his career, Braxton registered 1,462 rushing yards, 906 receiving yards, 54 pass receptions, and 25 total touchdowns (14 rushing; 11 receiving).
Currently, Braxton is ninth in career touchdowns scored on the school’s all-time list. He is also 13th on the school’s all-time scoring list with 206 career points.
In his first active season on the team, Braxton recorded 272 rushing yards, 276 receiving yards, a rushing touchdown, and two receiving touchdowns. His efforts helped the Mountaineers finish the 1968 campaign with a 7-3 record with wins over Pitt, Syracuse, William & Mary, and VMI along the way.
The following season, the 6’0”, 220 pound fullback had a career year running the ball with 848 rushing yards, and 12 rushing touchdowns. He also registered 65 receiving yards, and a receiving touchdown to help the old Gold and Blue finish the 1969 season with an incredible 10-1 record, and a victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks in that year’s Peach Bowl. The 1969 Peach Bowl was the final game for then WVU head coach, Jim Carlen. Carlen would leave West Virginia to take over in the same role at Texas Tech the following season.
Braxton’s senior season saw the Mountaineers enter the year with hopes of their first national championship in program history. However, these hopes were dashed with a week five loss to Duke. They lost out on playing in a second straight bowl game with a disappointing defeat to Pitt the following week.
None the less, West Virginia still managed to finish the season with a winning record, ending the 1970 campaign with a solid 8-3 record under first year head coach, Bobby Bowden. Although Braxton had a down year running the ball with just 51 yards on the ground, and a rushing touchdown, he proved to be a reliable option in the passing game, recording a career- high 27 receptions, 565 receiving yards, and eight receiving touchdowns.
Following the completion of his collegiate football career, Jim Braxton earned first team, All-American honors from the Associated Press. He would go on to be selected in 1971 by the Buffalo Bills in the third round of that spring’s NFL draft.
Braxton had a lengthy career in the National Football League, spending seven years as O.J. Simpson’s lead blocker in the Bills’ offense, and spent his final season in the league with Buffalo’s AFC East rival, the Miami Dolphins. He finished his career with 2,890 rushing yards, 1,473 receiving yards, 144 receptions, and 31 total touchdowns (25 rushing; 6 receiving).
Sadly, Braxton passed away in July of 1986 at the age of 37. Braxton had been going through a lengthy battle with cancer before his death. He was survived by his wife, Pam, and two sons.
Simpson, who often credited Braxton’s blocking for allowing the all-pro tailback the ability to reach 11,000+ career rushing yards, was devastated by the loss of his friend and teammate. He said of Braxton “what he meant to my career is impossible to calculate…” and “Bubby was my protector on the field, and my companion off it.” Braxton is currently enshrined in the WVU Sports Hall of Fame.
All countdown profiles of numbers 100-45 are still available here at WVUPros.com