West Virginia’s Charles Sims and Will Clarke await the 2014 NFL Draft in less than two weeks, looking to follow in the footsteps of former Mountaineer greats that made an impact in the NFL.
It’s interesting to note that despite a program with stars like Pat White, Tavon Austin, Steve Slaton and others that collected touchdown after touchdown, the two of the greatest West Virginia players come from the defensive side of the ball.
Here is the top six, plus an honorable mention:
Also considered, LB Darryl Talley, Buffalo Bills:
Talley could have found himself on the list of former Mountaineers, if Buffalo had cashed in a couple Super Bowl championships in the franchise’s four trips in the 1990s.
No. 6: RB Harry Clarke, Chicago Bears
Before leaving for the United States Navy in 1943, Clarke was a three-time NFL Champion for Chicago’s original “Monsters of the Midway” teams during the first four seasons of the 1940s. You can add to that being only the second West Virginia alumnus to be named an NFL All-Star (1940, 1941) and All-Pro (1943).
Clarke was selected to the West Virginia University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1993.
No. 5: T Joe Stydahar, Chicago Bears
The very first West Virginia Mountaineer drafted, Stydahar, was selected by the Chicago Bears in the inaugural NFL Draft held in 1936 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia. With the honor of being the first athlete drafted from West Virginia, Stydahar would go on to be named as a member of the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 1930s as well as capturing four NFL Championships from 1940 through 1951.
Stydhar was selected to the West Virginia Athletic Hall of Fame in 1991.
No. 4: C Mike Compton, Detroit Lions and New England Patriots
The 1992 consensus All-American for West Virginia has protected two of the biggest names to ever grace a backfield in NFL history.
After being selected in the third round by the Detroit Lions in 1993, Compton would go on to open up holes for the iconic Barry Sanders as he joined the 2000 rushing yard club during his MVP season in 1997.
Compton protected Tom Brady’s blind side in the New England Patriots’ first Super Bowl win against the St Louis Rams in 2001. He was also on the roster during the second championship season for New England in 2003.
Compton was selected to the West Virginia Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005.
No. 3: QB Jeff Hostetler, New York Giants
There have been many West Virginia quarterbacks who have won conference championships and bowl games through the years, but only one has won a Super Bowl during their pro career.
Hostetler, who took over as starting quarterback after Phil Simms went down with a foot injury, would lead the New York Giants to the franchise’s second Super Bowl championship after serving as backup during the first in 1987.
Hostetler was selected to the West Virginia Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998.
No. 2: LB Chuck Howley, Dallas Cowboys
Howley could’ve been labeled as a NFL Draft ‘bust’ after being forced to retire following what was believed to be a career ending knee injury in 1959. The top-seven pick would return from injury in 1961 to be one of the greatest linebackers for the Dallas Cowboys for more than a decade.
In addition to being a member of Dallas’ Super Bowl VI championship, Howley was named to the NFL Pro Bowl six times, an All-Pro five times and the only player to be named MVP in a losing effort at Super Bowl V.
With such an impressive resume, Howley will likely end up being the third West Virginia player to be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in the future.
Until then, Howley is currently a member of the West Virginia Athletic Hall of Fame, being inducted in 1991.
No. 1: LB Sam Huff, New York Giants and Washington Redskins
There should be no other man in the long history of the West Virginia football program to have a resume like that of Sam Huff.
He was named to the NFL Pro Bowl five times, an All-Pro four times, a member of the New York Giants’ NFL Championship team in 1956 and named to the NFL All-Decade Team for the 1950s. Huff also found himself on the list of the 70 Greatest Washington Redskins in 2002 for his six seasons in the nation’s capital.
In 1982, Huff was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the second and most recent inductee for West Virginia.
Huff was selected to the West Virginia Athletic Hall of Fame in 1991, and had his No. 75 retired in 2005.