Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

MICKEY FURFARI

July 2, 2013

Column: Nehlen rates Undra Johnson ‘something special’

MORGANTOWN — Undra Johnson of Bridgeport, W.Va., was one of the greatest running backs on West Virginia University’s first-ever undefeated regular-season football team.

The other two were A.B. Brown and Eugene Napolean, both of whom transferred from old rival Pitt.

Johnson, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., liked West Virginia so much he returned here after three years of playing pro football to make a living in the Mountain State in the investment business.

The 5-foot-9, 200-pound tailback earned letters in each season from 1985 through 1988. The records for those respective periods were 7-3-1, 4-7, 6-6 and 11-1.

It was in Johnson’s senior season that the Mountaineers were a scoring steamroller, setting school records, but losing in a Fiesta Bowl contest with Notre Dame for the national championship, 34-21.

“That has been on my mind for 24 years,” Johnson said in a recent interview. “I think about it all the time.”

Quarterback Major Harris was injured on the third offensive play. A couple of other key players also went down. Even Undra got hurt.

He explained, “I went down the first time I carried the ball that night. And to think about it, it was a late hit and hurt my knee. I just wish we would have had some better luck.”

But he still thinks that “if our guys had been able to stick together (health-wise), we’d have won the football game. I really do!”

Johnson also said he doesn’t believe that the Mountaineers really realized how big that game was.

He admittedly loved playing football for Hall of Famer Don Nehlen, WVU’s longest serving head coach from 1980 through 2000 – but he wishes he’d had a few more carries.

Nehlen said repeatedly, “Undra was  something special. He was right up there with the best running backs I’ve had and we had a lot of real good backs.

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MICKEY FURFARI