Former West Virginia University football star and NFL veteran Walter Easley is dead. He was 55.

Easley’s cousin, Robert Easley, Jr., says his body was found in his Charleston apartment Thursday.

“It’s overwhelming right now because it took us all by surprise,” Easley, Jr. said. “Looked like he was happy (Wed). He was at a middle school Catholic basketball game and he looked alright and now this happens.”

Easley was a versatile athlete who starred at Stonewall Jackson High School on Charleston’s West Side in the 1970s. He was a bruising running back, a scoring post player in basketball and a champion high-hurdler.

Easley played at WVU under Frank Cignetti and Don Nehlen. He began at fullback, was switched to linebacker, but when Nehlen got the job before the 1980 season he moved Easley back to fullback where he blocked for fellow Kanawha Valley native Robert Alexander.

“He weighed 230, 235 pounds and he looked like a 200-pound guy. He carried his weight very well. I think he was a natural fullback,” Coach Nehlen told MetroNews Thursday. “He was such a Mountaineer. I just feel so bad for him and his family.”

Easley scored the first touchdown at new Mountaineer Field against Cincinnati on Sept. 6, 1980.

“I remember the play. We called it a 36, an off-tackle play right,” Nehlen said.

Easley was undrafted in the 1981 NFL Draft but made the San Francisco 49ers and played on the Super Bowl winning team in 1981. He had a second season with San Francisco before finishing his pro career with the Chicago Blitz and Pittsburgh Maulers of the USFL.

Nehlen says he’d kept in close contact with Easley over the years because of his health problems. He says he seemed to be doing better after getting a kidney transplant a few years ago.

“Walt has struggled a great deal probably the last 10 years or so. He’s had a tough go of it,” Nehlen said.

 

 

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Comments

  • Keefe

    First saw him play in the North South All star game. It was a frustrating day for him and the north won. Joe Pa called him a big strong back and it will be a challenge to stop him. I remember him and was glad he was a Mountaineer.

  • Eddie Prather

    I knew Walter Easley from the time we were in 7th grade together at Wilson Junior High. He was already a MAN when we got to school in the early fall of 1970.
    Most people think of him going to Lincoln, but that occurred after school officials insisted that Walter change schools. He had so little stability in his life and was already friends with all of us. I told him I was sorry to see him have to leave, and he said that he was sorry that he had to go. It was the only time I ever saw him cry.

    Walter and I ended up on the same state championship baseball team for Charleston western senior league just before we went into high school. I was the first baseman; he played right field and was a hard right hand thrower. My left forearm still hurts when the weather is just right after he hit me there when we were playing against his team during the regular season. Most people know he won the Super Bowl, and the State championship in Football, but he also won it in Baseball back in 1970.

    Walter Easley was a monster of an athlete, and with his upbringing without a Dad in Orchard Manor, he learned early that he had to take care of himself; and no one dared cross him. Because of this, he could remain a soft spoken gentleman and was always that to me. You could always tell that he was mentally strong [he had to be] and this helped him achieve both in sports and also through life when it was never easy. The last I saw him was at our 30 year class reunion in 2006 where he was looking good after getting his new kidney and was content and upbeat.

    Nothing prepares any of us to loose someone dear to us, and Walter was THAT GUY for all of us at Stonewall. He took us with him on every down at WVU and then on to the NFL. I remember watching the local news here un Indianapolis in 1981 when he ran right over Hall Of Famer Jack Lambert of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the sports guy here in town said: "Folks, I am going to show you something that you are never going to see again, the mighty and fearless Jack Lambert will be devastatingly crushed by 49ers running back Walt Easley..." They showed the clip and I jumped out of my chair and cheered, because it wasn't just Walter who ran into the end zone for that touchdown; it was all of us. All of us who believe in the good guy finishing first, all of us who wished West Virginia could win and for those of us from Stonewall who walked the halls with him and who we built our hopes and dreams around. He was the one who led our future. If anyone can make it, it's Walter Easley we would tell ourselves.

    I just wonder how much of a burden he felt from carrying all of that from us all? The pressure to succeed and represent all of us, to claim the victory that we could not achieve, but he could. I wonder if that is why he spent two decades away from home in Baltimore, as if coming back would make him feel like he had failed us.....

    Walter, thanks for taking us with you. Thanks for carrying us on your back and showing us what those bright lights and locker rooms from the big time were like. Thanks for letting us cheer you and champion all the little guys from Charleston WV! Every touchdown, every first down, every play that took heart and part of your health and future demonstrated the sort of determination you had, and the character that it took to say no to all the major schools so you could be a Mountaineer; again, and represented us.

    Thanks old friend. Thanks for doing it and living it for us all, thanks again old friend.

  • Boggy

    It was my pleasure to grow up w/ Walt and be his friend since we were 11. We played little league, jr high and high School ball. He once told me at Stonewall basketball practice that I guarded him better than anybody he played. We both went to WVU. He played football and I baseball.

    Other friends and I went to watch Walt play twice for The Forty-Niners. We were so thrilled for him when he started his second game ever and scored the winning TD vs. Steelers.

    It was a great pleasure in my life to be a team mate and watch Walt perform. The greatest pleasure was being his friend.

    • cutty77

      i saw that TD also,he ran over the guy into the end zone at the end of the game.Pricless

      • Robert Easley, Jr

        He ran over Mel Blunt and Jack Lam-brick.

      • Superdaveo

        What a bruising powerful, bruising runner and blocker. Remember how popular and sought after he was in high school....but chose WVU ... all were glad he did. Though he passed early, I am certain he is in Jehovah Gods memory and perhaps some will see him again in Paradise. My thoughts and heartfelt prayers goes out to his family and all who knew him well.

  • Doak

    What a class guy - Walter. I grew up in St. Albans and remember what a classy player Walter was in high school for Stonewall Jackson and while attending WVU. Never met the man - but always great things were printed and said about him. My freind, Cedric Thomas was Walter's roommate at WVU and tod me a couple great thing about Walter. Prayers to the family and friends.

  • Low Country Kid

    Great "Home Grown" Mountaineer was a treat to watch Walt play. Absolute hard nosed, god given talent. May the good Lord wrap his loving arms around your friends and family during this very difficult time for all Mountaineers. Thanks for the memories my friend.

  • tazeer80

    He is missed!!

  • DL - A Friend & Neighbor

    Walter had seen a lot & done a lot - but in these last few years his riches were measured by his close friends and the young athletes he mentored. He was never quite the same after the death of his dear mother, but he always had a kind word, a warm smile, and very possibly a cold beer and some barbecue chicken. What a sweetheart; I will think of him every Valentine's Day.

    • Susan Miles

      Does anyone know of any funeral/memorial arrangements? Can you give me any info. regarding his mother? My mother, stepdad, and I lived next door to Alice back in the 80's. My mom lost contact with her in the last 15 years & she had been trying to locate her. She was heartbroken when I told her about your comment. I'm trying to find out funeral/memorial arrangements for my mom. We haven't seen anything listed in the papers & my mom doesn't have computer/internet access. Thanks if you have any info! RIP Walter!

    • cutty77

      @DL-A Freind & Neighbor,
      You are so right on Walter later in his life.I talked to him at The All Star Game late this summer at Laidley Field.He was telling me how he had been Coaching Doc's General's for a while.I often wondered if these Kids really knew how lucky they were to be Mentored by Him,like alot of young kids,i doubt if they knew it.But Walt was doing it for the right reason.Yes Sir,Walter got it right later in his life.RIP Walt.

  • Hank Halbert

    Walter was a big strong RB, and a great all around athlete....menacing! He ranks as one of WV's finest for sure. He wore those Stonewall Colors proudly! HH-CHS MT LION

  • Doug

    You will be greatly missed by all who knew you Walter. You were a great player and a very proud Mountaineer! RIP Walt.

  • JCarter

    I am a West Side boy and went to school at Lincoln Jr. High in the mid 80's. Although I personally never met Mr. Walter Easley, I can remember Coach Perry telling several great stories about his athletic abilites, how he carried himself, but more importantly, his great character. RIP, Mr. Easley!!!! The West Side will truly miss you.

  • John

    I met Walter before he had his transplant we became good friends. I will miss him he was good with the kids.

  • don

    I was a kid when my mother took us down to watch our cousin play in cincinnati. He was a gentleman then and ome of the first to hug me when she passed. He will be missed

  • Bill

    Walter was a proud son of West Virginia and a truly outstanding football player at West Virginia U. What a thrill it was to watch him play the game with such power combined with great athleticism. Our state mourns the loss of this fine gentleman.

  • TBone Porterhouse

    Very sad news. A nice man.
    RIP Sir Walter Easley.

  • cutty77

    Walter one The best all around Football Players at WVU.Lead the Team in Tackles as linebacker for Frank,then went to FullBack under Don.Was the Old School Running Back,when he got close to the End Zone,he smelled it,then took it in.When Walt was inside the 10 yard line,he scored ALWAYS. Thats why the 49ers took him.