By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald
Longtime West Virginia University football observers rated Gene “Beef” Lamone as one of the greatest guards in the school’s history.
That’s hardly surprising, though. He was like a one-man wrecking crew as a two-way performer with the Mountaineers from 1951-54.
As a sophomore in ’52, Lamone was credited by Tony Constantine, then sports editor of the Morgantown Post, with making 16 tackles in a 16-0 upset of old rival Pitt.
That was believed to be an all-time single-game WVU record, though the NCAA wasn’t keeping official statistics on tackles that early. But WVU stats show only that Lamone had 50 solo tackles and 40 assists as a senior in 1954.
A Pittsburgh writer wrote that Lamone looked like a fifth man in the Panthers’ backfield that October afternoon in old Pitt Stadium.
That 1952 team made history in that significant shutout. It was West Virginia’s first-ever victory against a nationally-ranked team.
“Of course, I remember that game,” said Lamone, a Wellsburg native who has been living in retirement at Fort Myers, Fla., the past 15 years.
Lamone, who’s 79, plays tennis three days a week. He and wife Marion, who were high school sweethearts in Wellburg, have been married for 58 years.
They have three grown children and eight grandchildren.
One daughter, Kellie Cockayne, and her husband reside in Fort Myers.
She works for a dental company. The other daughter, Jill Ovies, is a school teacher in Nashville, Tenn.
Son Brad works for a plastic company.
Despite his excellence as a blocker on offense, Lamone said he really liked playing tackle on defense better. Speed was his chief attribute along with strength.
“I could even outrun quarterback Fred Wyant,” he boasted. “But he probably wouldn’t admit that today.
“Halfback Jack Stone was the only teammate who was faster.”
“Beef” was 6-foot-2 and weighed as much as 220 pounds as a Mountaineer. But he was up to 240 pounds for two years as a pro, one each with Philadelphia and Cleveland.
“I enjoyed playing in the NFL,” he admitted. “But I didn’t make much money.”
After his brief NFL career, Lamone spent nine years as head football coach at Linsly Military Institute in Wheeling.
During his WVU career, Lamone helped the Mountaineers to a four-year record of 28-7. The 1953 team earned a berth in the Jan. 1, 1954, Sugar Bowl against Georgia Tech.
He and center Chick Donaldson were co-captains of the 1954 squad. “Beef” also was invited to play in the East-West Shrine All-Star game at San Francisco.
He majored in marketing and business at the university.
Asked whether he enjoyed his years in Morgantown, Lamone replied those years were “the best of my life. Marion and I were already married, and it was great playing football there.
“I couldn’t have been with a finer group of guys. We were like a family. We’re still close.”
He pointed out that almost the whole squad consisted of West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania natives.
His only regret was that he couldn’t have become a top assistant to the athletic director. Art “Pappy” Lewis, head football coach from 1950-59, had said to Lamone he hoped to be A.D. after giving up coaching and wanted him as an aide.
“It never happened, unfortunately, because he was forced out,” Lamone lamented.
So Lamone settled for a marketing position with Capital Management Corp. in Columbus, Ohio. He spent 33 years with that firm and traveled not only throughout the United States but the world.
He eventually became vice president of marketing and enjoyed that greatly. He still has one account he serves in West Virginia.
That corporation makes heavy industrial equipment.
Lamone, who made all-state as a standout in Wellsburg High School, made the Associated Press All-America second team as a junior and its third team as a senior at WVU. He also was the only unanimous choice for a spot on the All-Southern Conference first team.
He’s certainly proud of the fact that he started 34 consecutive games as a Mountaineer — all but his first at WVU.
In case you’re wondering , Lamone got his nickname of “Beef” as a somewhat hefty 3-year-old. It was pinned on him by the legendary Red Donley, who lived next door to the Lamones in Wellsburg.
Donley went on to earn fame as a sports announcer on radio and TV in Pittsburgh as well as Wellsburg.
Gene “Beef” Lamone was inducted into the WVU Sports Hall of Fame in 1995. He also is a member of the all-time team for the period 1950-59.