West Virginians on the Gridiron: 120 Years of Making History — The Modern Era, Part One

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CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – We continue our “West Virginians on the Gridiron” series today looking at the Modern Era. Head coaching natives of North Central West Virginia are responsible for 17 college football national championships all-time.

A good portion of that belongs to this man.  

NICK SABAN 

Monongah High School graduate Nick Saban’s career has transcended multiple decades. 

Saban found success at Michigan State in the mid-to-late 90s, and won his first BCS title with the LSU Tigers at the conclusion of the 2003 season. 

Following a two-year stint in the NFL, Saban returned to the college ranks, and has had historic success with the Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa. 

Saban’s won five national championships at Alabama, tying former Bama legend, Bear Bryant, for the most major college football titles for a coach in the modern era with six. 

“Nick’s very organized, knows what he wants to do. He assigns you your job and tells you what he expects out of you, and turns you loose to do it. Now, if you do it, you got no problem. You don’t do it, you’ve got problems. Everybody said Nick was hard to work for, but I never had a problem at all working for him,” said Rick Trickett, who worked under Saban at LSU.

Alabama has been ranked the top overall team in the country for at least one week for 12 straight seasons under Saban. 

He has collected the 13th most wins in Division 1 history, with his .788 winning percentage better than all but one D1 coach ahead of him in wins. 

He’s produced an astounding 97 NFL Draft picks at Alabama alone, including 33 first rounders … and six Heisman Trophy finalists. 

JIMBO FISHER

Jimbo Fisher has a couple championship rings on display, too. 

The Clarksburg native was Saban’s offensive coordinator at LSU in 2003 … and then led his own team to the top of the college football world ten years later, when Florida State went 14-0, led by Heisman winner Jamies Winston. 

“Even when he was a student assistant at a very early point in his coaching career you saw the greatness there. And then you get down to two to three minutes left, and it’s crunch time, and it’s a one possession game, those headsets go off and he turns to Jimbo for every call. And Jimbo was 22, 23 years old . You saw what was coming. I am on no level surprised at Jimbo Fisher’s success, and where he landed, and what’s played out with his coaching career you saw that coming as well,” said Jedd Drenning, WVU Football Radio Sideline Reporter.

Fisher had a good college playing career … winding up as D-3 National Player of the Year at Samford University in 1987. 

Fisher, now the head coach at Texas A&M, went there with the highest winning percentage in Florida State football history for a head coach — even better than former WVU and Seminoles coaching great, Bobby Bowden. 

“It never really hit me until afterwards, how many times I was in my back yard as a little kid saying this is for the national championship as a player. And I was really fortunate to be on some really good teams in college and we competed in national playoffs. We had some good teams. And thinking you’re making those plays, and to do it at the biggest stage in college football. And when you look back, you say, man I guess dreams do come true,” said Fisher.  

Fisher and Saban are two of just three active D1 football head coaches with 100-plus wins, a 75% or better winning percentage and a national championship.

Jimbo Fisher on why West Virginia-born coaches get along so well, and how the culture and background they come from goes into their coaching. (Video by Ryan Decker / WBOY)

RANDY MOSS

Wideout Randy Moss won a national championship in college, but never was able to win one in the pros. But it’s what Moss did, individually, that makes him one of the best pass catchers in NFL History. 

Moss was a 1st round pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, and set the league on fire, setting the record for touchdown catches as a rookie with 17. 

Ten years later he set the single-season touchdown receptions record with 23. 

Those are just two of the nineteen different records he set or tied during his NFL career, some of which still stand to this day. 

Moss ranks 2nd all-time in touchdown catches, fourth in receiving yards, and led the NFL in receptions five times. 

He was a six-time Pro Bowler, four times was a first team All-Pro selection, part of the 2000s All-Decade team, and the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time team.

And he was immortalized in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2018. 

Certainly all three of those men had Hall of Fame worthy careers.

Next time, in our final segment of “West Virginians on the Gridiron”, we take a look at our final four Mountain State natives, and all have WVU ties. 

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