Mostly known for his success on the basketball court, first playing for the Blue Devils and later for East Tennessee State, there is no doubt that Talford — originally from Dante — was a human highlight reel with his spectacular dunks and silky-smooth maneuvering around defenders.
“Basketball was still my thing and people still come up to me to this day and talk about the days when I was at East Tennessee State,” Talford said. “No one ever comes up to me and talks about the track, but I still like to talk about those old times every once in a while.”
There is also his lesser-known but still impressive accomplishments on the baseball diamond. He was hard to hit when he was on the mound, once fanning 14 batters in a late-season game against Honaker. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 24th round of the MLB amateur draft.
Talford even had a stellar senior year on the football field, including a five-touchdown effort against Fort Chiswell in a Region C playoff game.
He racked up 21 catches for 450 yards and seven touchdowns and carried the ball 46 times for 547 yards and eight scores that season.
However, most likely his greatest feats came during the 1988 outdoor track season when he established himself as one of the most decorated athletes in Southwest Virginia history.
And for an athlete that was all-state in four sports — all four years in basketball — that is saying a great deal.
A WARM DAY IN JUNE
On the campus of VMI in Lexington one Saturday in June, Talford turned heads with his outstanding performances in the field events.
He won individual titles in the high jump (7-0), long jump (23-11¼) and triple jump (49-8¼). All three became VHSL Group A and state meet records. Before the first VHSL reclassification in 2013, two of those had yet to be surpassed, one of them the high jump.
“I woke up that day and my legs were feeling pretty rested and I thought that I could have a good day,” he said. “I never dreamed that I could win all three events and set the state records in all of them. I never thought that could happen in my wildest dreams.”
Talford is one of just 12 jumpers in VHSL history to clear 7 feet in the high jump and just the second from Southwest Virginia.
“All of my other events had finished and I came into the high jump at 6-6,” he said. “I missed my first two attempts at 6-6 and was down to my last one. My coach looked over at me and gave that look of ‘no more playing around.’ I didn’t miss until I got to 7-2.”
Yes, Talford attempted 7-2 at the state meet even after he’d already won — and still quipped that his form was lacking.
“My form was really not that good and I had just figured out how to lay my body flat when I went across the bar,” he said. “If I had had any good high jump coaching, who knows how high I could have gone. When I asked them to put the bar up to 7-2, it was like they had raised the bar 8 inches.
“If I had learned to get my feet up over the bar better, I could’ve cleared it because my body was way over the bar.”
Just for good measure, Talford was also quick on his feet.
He still owns the Castlewood record in the 100-meter dash, 10.9 seconds, and along with Jeff Cook, basketball teammate Maurice Hayes and Scott Jesse was part of the school-record 4x100-meter relay team that ran a 46.0.
“My coach, Larry Short, came up to me at the district meet and told me that I was going to run the 100 because we needed points if we wanted to win the meet,” he said. “I hadn’t run the 100 my senior year because I was focused on my jumping. I wasn’t very good at coming out of the blocks either. One of the guys at the starting line asked me what I had run and I told him that I ran like an 11 or 12 something. He didn’t seem too worried about me after that.
“I guess everything just clicked for me that day because I had a good start and I ended up getting the school record. I was just as surprised with myself as anybody else was.”
Talford also recalled running with Hayes on a good Blue Devils 4x400 team that had a chance at qualifying for the regional meet.
Until they dropped the baton.
“Mo was handing off to me in the 4x4 and he hit me in the arm and I dropped the baton. I went back and picked up it up and passed a couple of people, but we ended up not making it even though our last guy was really fast in the 400.
“The 400 was a long way for me because I was a short-distance guy. I ran 4.41 in the 40-yard dash at ETSU and I was dying going into the last curve. My teammates said it looked like I had nine gorillas on my back coming into the finish.”
TRACK IN COLLEGE?
Talford competed in the Southern Conference track and field meet during his sophomore season at ETSU and scored in three events, including second place in the triple jump.
“Coach (Dave) Walker came up to me in my sophomore year and asked if I would compete at the SoCon meet,” Talford said. “It was a good day, but I didn’t do track after that. I got really focused on basketball.”
HONORED AT CASTLEWOOD
Talford was inducted to the Castlewood Sports Hall of Fame in January. He also has had his No. 22 jersey retired, and it’s hanging in the rafters at Castlewood’s new gymnasium. He is also a member of the Virginia High School Hall of Fame.