Tuesday, March 25, 2008

West Virginia's Greatest Athletes

Mainly this post is a memorial for a fallen friend, Michael Wayne Tyson whose body was found at home March 19, 2008. Here his athletic exploits are chronicled in a 1999 article appearing in the Charleston (WV) Daily Mail - juxtaposed with those of Randy Moss and others from Kanawha County, WV. Within the next week or so, a special edition of the internet radio program I host, will allow his friends to remember him in our own way!

Randy Moss is known today across the country for his football feats, but he was a pretty good basketball player, too. He won the state Player of the Year award in hoops twice.

Moss, Walker spur sports debate
Tyson, Alexander also mentioned as all-time greats
July 7, 1999
Daily Mail sportswriter

RANDY Moss' status as the greatest prep athlete ever produced in these parts is seldom challenged. But when it is, Dunbar High School's Melvin Walker is usually the guy thrown into the ring for debate.

"Melvin was as good as there's ever been in the county,'' said Delmar Good, who coached Walker in football at Dunbar from 1963-65. "Melvin could do it all.'' "That guy could do everything,'' said former Winfield football coach Leon McCoy. "He was just a natural.''

So, just who is Kanawha County's best high school athlete of the century? Could it be anyone other than DuPont's Moss? And what about South Charleston's Robert Alexander and Charleston High's Mike Tyson? Those guys could chew gum and walk at the same time with the best of them.

"Randy Moss was the best,'' said Jim Fout, Moss' basketball coach in high school. "I love Melvin Walker, too. I competed against him. But Randy is a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger and a little bit faster.''

You know the Moss prep file by now:
· Kennedy Award winner in football.
· Two-time state Player of the Year in hoops, although he was selected as the
   co-Player of the Year as a junior.
· State 100- and 200-meter sprint champion as a sophomore.
· .300 hitter and outfielder extraordinaire in one season of baseball.

Moss, a high school All-American and now NFL All-Pro receiver, finished his prep football career with 109 catches for 2,435 yards and 44 touchdowns. He also rushed 75 times for 843 yards and nine TDs and returned five kicks and four interceptions for scores while leading the Panthers to two Class AAA state titles. Moss also punted and occasionally booted field goals. Robert Alexander was afootball, basketball and track star for South Charleston.

In basketball, he produced 1,713 points to become DuPont's all-time leading scorer and threw down enough highlight-reel dunks to market a video. As a junior, he teamed with senior Jason Williams to form one of the best prep basketball teams ever in the Kanawha Valley, a wildly entertaining bunch who could have drawn 4,000 fans to watch them in a parking lot pickup game.

At 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, Moss was as graceful in shoulder pads as Mary Lou Retton on the balance beam. He was deceptively strong and ran much faster than his loping strides would indicate. Several Major League Baseball teams were prepared to draft Moss had he indicated an interest in pursuing the sport.

Walker, whose best sport might have been baseball, was built similar to Moss. He stood 6-3 and weighed 170 pounds when he won the Kennedy Award as Dunbar's quarterback in 1965, leading the Bulldogs to a 9-2 record. Dunbar lost to Bluefield in the Class AAA title game. Walker called his own plays at QB and passed for 937 yards and 11 TDs as a senior, despite missing significant playing time because of a thumb injury. He also rushed 70 times for 512 yards, a 7.3 per-carry average, and was a tremendous saftey.

Walker punted for a 35.3-yard average and ran back punts and kickoffs. In basketball, he scored 1,211 career points and led the Bulldogs to the 1966 Class AAA title. In junior high, Walker ran 100 yards in 10.3 seconds and long jumped 21 feet, 9 inches, farther than any high school athlete at the time. He could have been one of the state's best high school hurdlers had he devoted more time to track.

Charleston High's Mike Tyson earned a football and track scholarship to Iowa State. Dunbar didn't have a baseball team in the mid-1960s, but Walker excelled on the diamond during summer league play.

Walker earned a football scholarship to the University of Wisconsin and enjoyed an outstanding sophomore season as a defensive back. A broken leg in the season finale, though, ended Walker's playing career. Complications set in following the injury and Walker's leg was amputated below the knee. "Anything that boy put his mind to he could play,'' said Bill Young, Walker's basketball coach at Dunbar. "The kid was the best all-around athlete to ever come out of this state,'' Young added. "But here again, I'm a little prejudiced. But if you ask other coaches, they'll tell you the same thing.''
It depends on which coaches you ask.

"He was as good as Moss is,'' Good said. "As far as athletic ability, he had as much. He could have been an outstanding receiver. But I played Melvin at quarterback because he had a lot of ability. I had to get the ball into his hands. I think Melvin would have played in the pros.''

"Melvin Walker was an outstanding athlete,'' said longtime Herbert Hoover Coach Joe Cowley. "But I really don't think he was in the same class (with Moss). He couldn't do as many things. He wasn't as big and he wasn't as fast. He was a great player, don't get me wrong. But guys like Moss don't come around very often.''
"I've got to give Randy the edge and it's not because I coached him,'' Fout said.

"I'm not so sure that Randy Moss is not the most purely talented kid I've ever seen,'' said former Charleston High and Capital football coach Roger Jefferson. "Melvin Walker was an outstanding athlete. But from what I've seen, I don't think there's been anybody better than Randy Moss.'' Not even Alexander, said Fout.

"He wasn't a slouch, either. But he wasn't as good (an athlete) as Moss or Walker,'' Fout said of the great South Charleston running back, who won back-to-back Kennedy Awards in 1975 and '76, scored over 1,000 points in basketball and starred in track.

Walker scored 92 touchdowns and rushed for 5,872 yards in three seasons. Tyson, also a running back, was talented and fast enough to earn a football and track scholarship to Iowa State in 1973 despite sitting out his senior year of football at Charleston High following a dispute with his head coach. He then promptly rushed for 137 yards against Nebraska as a freshman, qualified for the NCAA track meet and broke Iowa State's long-standing record in the long jump (26-2 1/2) after only three days of practice.

"Mike Tyson was in a class by himself,'' said Keith Pritt, who coached Tyson in track at Charleston High. Pritt was an assistant football coach. "Mike Tyson has to be included as one of the greatest athletes in West Virginia.
"He just had that gift. And on top of that, he was a wonderful kid to coach.''

Tyson spent only one season at Iowa State, opting to return home for family reasons. Later, he began outrunning some of the world's fastest sprinters in track meets across the country. In 1976, Tyson was on his way to earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic team when he pulled a hamstring in a heat of the 200 meters during the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore.


  1. Mike Tyson was the fastest sprinter and best running back ever produced by the State of West Virginia. 4.5 40 ? haha

    Mike didn't reach his full potential...and needed coaching, guidance, and competition...not available in WV. Needed to go to TX, Florida, or CA.

    John Kiser of Charleston, moved to CA in his Jr year of HS and ran a 4:07 mile...with coaching and competition...same issues with Mike.

    Randy Moss, James Jett, Mike Reid...almost as fast... Standouts for sure. Proud of you Randy!

    HC Halbert III

  2. I attended CHS when Tyson was there, I saw greatness.

  3. CHS had Mike Tyson, Ricky Hurt, Paul Daugherty,Steve Morton,Walt Chamberlain, Chuck Green, and many others. This should go down as the best football team in WV of all time, class of 71.

  4. Great recollections, Anonymous. That '71 graduating class was state champions for the third year in a row - actually winning the third in 1970, and graduating the following year. That '70 team was truly a great one. Tyson and I were sophomores then. But I seem to recall Daugherty being a year behind us - and not playing for CHS until the '71 season.

  5. My dad played at CHS 68-70, and Mike is my uncle, I love Uncle Tyson RIP!

  6. These are all good comments but let me add to the situation. I remember Melvin Walker stating that "no one was going to come over to Dunbar's bench and throw up their hands up signaling touchdown." St.Albans High had done just that the week before against Charleston High. Look at the stats and see how many yards offensively St.Albans gained against Dunbar the next week at Laidley Field. So it ain't about how big the dog is in the fight, but how big the fight is in the dog, that was Melvin Walker he would shut you down.

  7. I rent off of robert alexander. He is a slum lord and a crack head. He is a foster parent who teaches kids drugs are ok... They put him in rehab because he smoked his heart out and he left. Guess he did not want to change his life. His wife rebecha had a brain tumor removed they put her on pain pills but I'm sure the doctor did not tell her to crush them and sniff them.

  8. Jerry West, without any doubt, is the best athlete in the history of West Virginia. He would have been superb at any sport.

    1. Should a could a would a don't count people want statistics

  9. Melvin Walker was a great athlete, but I remember the 1965 season when there was a showdown between 2 5-0 teams; Charleston High & Dunbar.
    The critics did not give Charleston High any respect for that game & predicted that Dunbar would win.
    Charleston won 13-7 I played on that team.
    We finished the season 9-1

  10. Melvin Walker could run for a touchdown, pass for a touchdown, shoot, make, and rebound a basketball, run the 100 yd (at that time) dash, hit a towering home run, and throw a runner out at home, then wipe a dribble of sweat off his brow. However, he did have some great teammates as well.

    1. I remember Melvin Walker being such a very very nice young man also. I was out of school but my husband And I would go watch them play. Dunbar had several other good athletes also on those teams.

  11. Claude Geiger East Bank. Best Tail Back and Track Guy

  12. I was a friend, and classmate of Mike Tyson. He was a great guy with loving
    grand parents. He changed after the 10th grade and was never the same.
    Great athlete for sure. He was a track mate of Randy Moss' father Randy Pratt. Randy Pratt was a natural athlete without coaching. He was Just a Little slower Than Tyson. Tyson was also a track mate with Michael Willis
    The Hurdler. Michael Willis set multiple state records during His time.
    Mike Tyson ,Greatest Athlete of all time in Charleston Maybe not. But I will always remember his smile and sense of humor. Rip in peace Mt.
    BTW Mike Willis Passed several Years ago in Atlanta. RIP Mike Willis.
    May Randy Pratt and Randy Moss reconcile there differences.
    Robert Miller CHS 1973

  13. This is a great list of Kanawha/WV athletes and they all are worthy of recognition. The Best All Around Athlete goes to Melvin Walker. Football Basketball Track Baseball we could debate all day long and his accomplishments are no less than any, but more than some. Now lets step out of the traditional and look at the difference makers. Melvin was an incredible accomplished swimmer. Many times he would swim against the best that WVIAC conference champion WVSC had to offer. His brother was a member of that team. Tennis, Melvin played singles and doubles with and against some of the best that WVSC had to offer, this was on clay courts. Table Tennis, Archery are just a few other sports that he excelled in tournaments. One sport that he actually loved to play was Billards. He was known throughout the Kanawah Valley to frequent the most competitive billards spots, from Nitro, Dunbar, The Blvd. bowling alley, Court St. It took Melvin only one summer to pick up a set of Kmart golf clubs (5) and a canvas bag and enter the Madison, Wisconsin open, make 2 days until the final cut on Sunday. Like I said Best All Around, Melvin Walker.