Admittedly this is far from a complete list, that would be almost impossible. But WVSports.com looks back on just a handful of running players who have had an impact on West Virginia’s football program over the years.
This list is for those players who started their careers as walk-ons, even if they later received a scholarship.
Offensive lineman Rich Braham – 1990-93
Perhaps the most decorated name on this list, Braham was a University High School product and progressed into West Virginia, where he became a standout offensive line. Braham made 37 career left tackle starts for the Mountaineers and was a senior captain in his final season. The epitome of toughness, Braham battled multiple injuries en route to a career in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Full-back Owen Schmitt – 2005-07
Schmitt only wanted one opportunity — any opportunity to show what he can do at the next level after playing at Wisconsin River Falls, a D-III program. He found that in West Virginia, where he not only proved he could play at this level, but became a staple of the Mountaineers run from 2005-2007. Over the course of his career, he rushed for 1,003 yards and 13 touchdowns while adding 288 receiving yards and two points. And those totals don’t even include the holes he opened for Pat White and Steve Slaton.
LB Najee Goode – 2008-11
Goode moved to West Virginia from Cleveland and had to earn his part over the course of his first few seasons, but has played a much larger role in his last two seasons. Goode appeared in 56 games during his career, starting at SAM and then MIKE Linebacker for the last two seasons. Goode finished his career with 142 tackles, 26.5 tackles for loss and two interceptions before playing for multiple NFL teams. Most recently he was with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
WR Zach Abraham – 1991-94
The Triadelphia native went on in West Virginia and while it took him some time to adjust to only appearing in one game his first two years, he saw things take a turn in his third season with 10 catches for 174 yards and an improved result. But it was his final year that made him a legend in many eyes, due to a winning season of 41 catches for 752 yards and 6 touchdowns, including the 60-yard touchdown to beat Pitt in the closing seconds in 1994 after the Mountaineers had lost the lead.
K Paul Woodside – 1981-84
Woodside is another member of the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, but his career originally began as a walk-on in Falls Church, Virginia. Over the course of his four-year career, Woodside rewrote West Virginia’s kicking record book, setting school records for goals scored (323 points), field goals (74), and field goals (93). He also hit 79.6 percent of his field goal attempts. A pure first-team American, he will be remembered for many things, including his fourth-quarter field goal that led the Mountaineers over Penn State in 1984.
LB Scott Gyorko — 2001-04
A college product that continued in West Virginia after receiving no offers from high school and certainly made the most of his college experience. Gyorko started his career as a backup but transitioned to a starting role where he finished his four-year career with 222 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and 3 forced fumbles.
LB Ben Collins — 1998-2002
Collins came to West Virginia as a walk-on after a distinguished career at North Marion, where he was better known for his offensive talent. He played defense at Morgantown and after developing his physique found himself a starter during his senior season with 98 tackles and 4 tackles for losses plus an interception. He was also the player who used his fists to thwart Pittsburgh’s game-winning pass attempt in the 2002 Brawl.
FB Moe Fofana — 2001-03
Joined the program as a career changer from Maryland, and while he eventually received a stipend for his efforts, he impressed throughout his career as a blocker. Fofana touched the ball just five times for 28 yards and a touchdown during his time at Morgantown, but earned the respect and trust of many for his blocking.
WR Grantis Bell – 1985-88
Bell was originally recruited as an errand boy from South Florida, so he makes the list despite receiving a scholarship early in his career. He played 46 passes for 819 yards and six touchdowns, including a touchdown grab at the Fiesta Bowl for the Mountaineers, all four years.
LB Justin Arndt – 2013-16
Arndt began his career as a transferee from Martinsburg and played a role on special teams and has a reserve in his first three years with the Mountaineers. But in his final season, Arndt upped his game and earned a starting role in which he would put in an admirable performance for 84 tackles, 7.5 tackles for losses and 3 sacks.
DB Rich Rodriguez – 1982-84
Rodriguez is much better known for what happened after his playing days when he became a head coach, but he spent three years on the field for the Mountaineers and played a significant role in the 1984 Penn State game by recording an interception. He finished his career with 53 tackles and 3 picks. Rodriguez coached the Mountaineers before controversially leaving for Michigan.
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