Cover Photo: WVU Athletics
Dave Van Halanger, mostly known as captain of the 1975 Peach Bowl championship team and the first strength coach in West Virginia football history, has died. The WVU program learned about Van Halanger’s passing from his former teammate Tommy Bowden this morning.
A native of Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh, Van Halanger spent a year playing at Greenbrier Military Academy in Lewisburg, West Virginia, before the Mountaineers under then head coach Bobby Bowden in 1972. Van Halanger was part of the 1975 offensive line that who paved the way for a WVU ground attack that averaged 251.5 yards per game and produced 29 rushing touchdowns. After helping to lead West Virginia to a 13-10 victory over NC State in the 1975 Peach Bowl, Van Halanger joined Frank Cignetti’s staff as a graduate assistant coach. He transitioned into WVU’s first strength and conditioning coach in 1978 and continued in that role when Don Nehlen was hired in 1980. Van Halanger is survived by his wife, Michele, and children Danielle, Michael, Matthew, Julie and Katelyn.
This sad news comes less than a week after the passing of Mickey Walczak. Walczak, who was named the MVP of West Virginia’s 1981 Peach Bowl victory over Florida, was 63 years old. In the Mountaineers’ upset big Peach Bowl win, Walczak caught eight passes for 75 yards and scored a touchdown. During the 1981 season, he recorded 49 receptions for 338 yards and six touchdowns that season, ranking second on the team to All-American tight end Mark Raugh’s 64 receptions. Walczak rushed for a season-high 55 yards and scored a touchdown in one of West Virginia’s best wins of the year, a 38-10 win at Boston College. In addition to his six touchdown catches, he also ran for two and threw a 21-yard TD pass to Raugh in WVU’s 27-6 home win over Virginia Tech.