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
By Tom Aluise
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.