MORGANTOWN — Dan Shearer IV of Morgantown was an outstanding defensive back in 1986-87-88 at West Virginia University.
Known to his teammates and friends simply as “Zippy,” he called it a “dream come true” when Coach Don Nehlen gave the graduate of tiny St. Francis High School here an opportunity to play for the Mountaineers.
“I actually had met Coach Nehlen when he first got here (in early 1980) when I was a kid and he gave me a Michigan plaque which I placed on my bedroom wall.
“As you know, he had been an assistant coach at Michigan (on Bo Schenbechler’s staff) and that meant a lot to a young kid then.”
Tony Fragale, who now resides in Florida, was head coach at St. Francis High then.
That West Virginia went 11-0 and met Notre Dame for the national championship in 1988 was no surprise whatsoever to Shearer, then a junior on the team.
“We lost up at Syracuse by just 32-31 in the last game of 1987 and they finished undefeated,” he recalled. “We really had beaten them in every way (except the final score.)
“So the ride on the plane home was different from that after any other loss. I could tell from the team leaders and coaches then that we were going to be a special team in 1988 and we were.”
Those Mountaineers might well have gone on to defeat Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl for the national title if it weren’t for several key injuries.
Quarterback Major Harris injured his shoulder on WVU’s third offensive play in the 34-21 loss.
Shearer, who now is 46, left school after the bowl game and did not use his senior year of eligibility. His son Dan V, now 24, was born and he began a family.
A daughter, Sydney, 18, just graduated from Morgantown High School. She has a scholarship to play Division I lacrosse at St. Francis (Pa.) College. The father said, “She’s a better athlete than I was.”