MORGANTOWN - Raymond Walsh Jr. of Morgantown, who died last Saturday at the age of 76, was an outstanding defensive player for West Virginia University in the early 1950s.
"He was a tough guy and a super teammate," recalled Fred Wyant, a teammate of Walsh in 1952-53 and a close friend since then. "I always rated Ray right up there with (fullback) Tommy Allman. He was a great, very dependable lineman."
While he was born in Pennsylvania, Walsh grew up in Morgantown and succumbed after a short illness at his Point Marion Road home. Wyant remembers playing against him in a high school football game between Morgantown High and Weston.
Walsh lettered in 1951-52-53 after playing a year on the freshman team, as required at that time. He didn't play much his senior year at MHS because of injury. But Art "Pappy" Lewis, then in his first year as WVU's head coach, liked what he saw of him in a basketball game.
"He looked more like a football player to us then and, being from Morgantown, he came to us for tuition and books," recalled Gene Corum, then the Mountaineers' line coach. "It didn't take him long to earn a full scholarship."
It was Lewis who gave Walsh the nickname of "Blade.: The coach explained, "He is the only defensive tackle I ever saw that weighs only 208 pounds."
No one could have been more appreciative or proud of the opportunity to play football for WVU.
"That was the only thing I ever wanted to do," Walsh told me a few years ago. "Being from here and playing with so many great guys, it was truly a big, big thrill for me."
Corum enjoyed working with Walsh back there in the school's first golden era of football.
"Ray fit in beautifully in our wide-tackle-six defense," he recalled. "He played a lot of good football for us. He was a tough guy who could slash through offensive lines to make tackles."
Walsh participated in the first two Mountaineer victories over ranked teams. Old rival Pitt was the victim both times, 16-0 in 1952 and 17-7 in 1953. Both were in underdog roles at old Pitt Stadium.
He also played in WVU's first major postseason game, the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 1954, in New Orleans. Georgia Tech prevailed, 42-19.
Walsh is a member of the all-time WVU team for the 1950-59 period. Twelve other former teammates also are in that group.
As a result, he was considered by some as an unsung hero.
He didn't mind, though. Walsh loved playing alongside such all-time greats as Bruce Bosley, Sam Huff, Ben Dunkerley and Gene "Beef" Lamon.
After graduating from WVU, Walsh spent 32 years in the insurance business here. But he and others remained close to WVU via the Lettermen's Club, which solicited public support for worthy charities.
That eventually was replaced by the Varsity Club.
Funeral services for Raymond Walsh Jr. will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Richard R. Herod Funeral Home in Point Marion, Pa. Visitations are Wednesday.