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.