Deceased Football Autographs

Buried With Their Cleats On

Nick "Bull" Adduci  (1929-2005)

Linebacker—(Nebraska) Washington Redskins 1954-55

 

Nick Adduci is buried in Pleasant Hill Cemetery, Frankfort, Illinois.

Tony Aiello (1921-2012)

Wing Back/Blocking Back—(Youngstown) Detroit Lions 1944, Brooklyn Tigers 1944

 

Tony Aiello autographed this 3x5 card for me in February 1996.

Terry Barr  (1935-2009)

Defensive Back/Wide Receiver—(Michigan) Detroit Lions 1957-65

He had a lot of quickness and a lot of speed. They put him in at flanker, and that’s where he blossomed into a great football player. Great hands, and he was very intelligent about the game.

    Joe Schmidt

 

Eddie Bell  (1931-2009)

Defensive Back/End—(Pennsylvania) Philadelphia Eagles 1955-58, Hamilton Tiger-Cats (CFL) 1959, New York Titans 1960

Because of his great speed and determination, he was always used up on the line when the opposition punted.  His forte was blocking a punt when the opponent was kicking near to or behind his own goal line.
    Norm Van Brocklin

 

Eddie Bell sent me this autograph in December 1988. This is the actual 1956 Topps card that I bought in 1956.

Rex Berry  (1924-2005)

Defensive Back/Halfback—(Brigham Young) San Francisco 49ers 1951-56

My best games were against the Rams.  Probably because I started worrying that [Crazylegs] Hirsch and [Tank] Younger would make me look bad in front of 102,000 spectators.  They never did.
    Rex Berry

 

 

Rex Berry autographed this 1950 Ev Thorpe cartoon.  He is buried in Mountain View Memorial Estates Cemetery, Cottonwood Heights, Utah.

John "Rebel" Bookman  (1934-1995)

Defensive Back—(Miami) New York Giants 1957, Dallas Texans 1960, New York Jets 1961

 

John Bookman is buried in Roselawn Memorial Park, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Billy "Book" Bookout  (1932-2008)

Cornerback—(Oklahoma/Austin College) Green Bay Packers 1955-56   [Little All-American 1954]

 

Tom "Wetback" Brookshier  (1931-2010)

Cornerback—(Colorado) Philadelphia Eagles 1953,1956-61 [All-Pro 1960]

It was really scary. I went to Hershey [for training camp in 1953] and we beat everybody for a week and then the veterans all came in.  I looked around and there were like 90 guys out there! I go over to the general manager and said,  “Mr. McNally.” He said, “Who are you?” I said, “Brookshier.” He said, “Oh, yeah. A 10th-round draft choice.” I said, “Yes. Which Philadelphia bank is my money in?” And he said, “What money?” I said, “My contract. The $55 hundred that you offered me on the telephone.” He said, “That's for the whole year.” All the guys around him started laughing, so I said, “How many are you going to keep?” And he said, “33.”  So I went right back out on the field and the No. 1 draft choice came downfield on a pass pattern and I knocked him out. Our coach jumped and yelled and I thought, “Oh my God, I'm going to get cut!” But he ran out and said, “I like that!”  At every level, I sort of got better. I really wasn't the best player on my high school team in Roswell [New Mexico]. I don't think I was the best player on my Colorado team. I just sort of went to the next level and played better.  When I came back [in 1956], our teams weren't very good. I know it sounds strange, but you learn a lot from last-place teams because the town's not nearly as turned on or enthusiastic about you.  When he [Buck Shaw] came to take over the Eagles, he brought in Van Brocklin and he let me call plays and run the defense. We only won two games that year.  We were on the train coming back from Washington, they had shut us out the last game of the year, and Buck said, “Take a look around you boys because you're not going to see each other. There's going to be one team coming, one team going and one team playing.” So with that, he started bringing in new players. He got Don Burroughs from the Rams, Bobby Friedman from Cleveland, Jimmy Carr from the Cardinals. That's our secondary on the team that ended up winning it in ‘60.  A lot of people thought it was about the third- or fourth-best team and I can't think of a better compliment than to not be the best team and win it all. That's the reason Buck Shaw quit. He said, “I can never duplicate this. If you're the best team and you don't win it, you ought to be ashamed.” But if you're like the third or fourth team and you win the championship, that's special. That is very special.
    Tom Brookshier

He was a little raw but very aggressive.  Actually, aggressive is an understatement.  Hell, he'd mug you if he could.
    Frank Gifford

 

Al Brosky  (1930-2010)

Defensive Back—(Illinois) Chicago Cardinals 1954 [College Football Hall of Fame 1998]

 

George Buksar  (1926-2011)

Linebacker/Fullback—(Purdue, San Francisco) Chicago Hornets 1949, Baltimore Colts 1950, Washington Redskins 1951-52

I made a trade to obtain this autograph only four days before George Buksar died.  I traded a 3x5 autograph of Bill Cregar for it.  He is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, Solon, Ohio.

Don “Blade” Burroughs  (1931-2006)

Defensive Back—(Colorado A&M) Los Angeles Rams 1955-59, Philadelphia Eagles 1960-64

I had too many interceptions that year [1960]; I cost myself money.  Vince McNally said he'd give me a $100 bonus for every interception, then he'd double it at a certain point. At midseason, he said, “Blade, I can't do it. It's going to cost me too much.”
    Don Burroughs

 

See the entry for Jim David (below) for a 1951 cartoon signed by both Burroughs and David.

Fred "Tank" Cardinal  (1925- 2004)

Linebacker—(Notre Dame/Baldwin Wallace) New York Yankees 1947

 

Tom “Tom-Cat” Catlin (1931-2008)

Linebacker/Center—(Oklahoma) Cleveland Browns 1953-54,1957-58, Philadelphia Eagles 1959 [All-American 1951-52]

Tommy Catlin had gotten loose from the service [in 1957] and his quiet football knowledge would become an important part of our defense.
    Don Paul

Gerry Cowhig  (1921-1995)

Linebacker/Fullback—(Notre Dame) Los Angeles Rams 1947-49, Chicago Cardinals 1950, Philadelphia Eagles 1951

Gerry was one tough football player. He was big even by pro football standards and he'd just as soon run over you as go around. And he was a ferocious blocker.

     Adam Walsh

Gerry Cowhig was one of more than a dozen players who autographed this Notre Dame football banquet program on 8 December 1942.  The program was given to me by Jane O'Connor, widow of  Bill "Bucky" O'Connor.

Jim "The Hatchet" David  (1927-2007)

Defensive Halfback—(Colorado A & M) Detroit Lions 1952-59   [All Pro 1954]

He was the roughest who ever played that position.  If a line judge wandered into his area he was looking for trouble.  Well, Harlan Hill, who was playing flanker for Chicago, came into Jim David's territory on a little look-out pattern.  The Chicago quarterback threw the ball to someone else, but that didn't make any difference to Jim David, no sir.  Someone was in his area, so David took a few steps and whack! he broke Harlan Hill's jaw.  Hill got to bleeding pretty bad, so George Halas, the Chicago coach, took him out and sent in some guy whose only function was to get revenge on Jim David.  And he did, too.  He hit Jim David and busted his teeth.  All his teeth just fell out.  I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  David stayed in the game, wobbling around, his jersey just red with blood, and it was a horrible sight.
    Alex Karras

Jim David and Don Burroughs autographed this 1951 Ev Thorpe cartoon.

Andy Davis (1927-2007)

Defensive Back—(George Washington) Washington Redskins 1952

 

Jerry "Weasel" Davis  (1924-2006)

Defensive Halfback—(Southeastern Louisiana) Chicago Cardinals 1948-51, Dallas Texans 1952

 

Don Doll  (1926-2010)

Defensive Back—(Southern California) Detroit Lions 1949-52, Washington Redskins 1953, Los Angeles Rams 1954 [#1 Kickoff Returner 1949]

I never got a raise in six years and that’s why I quit.  In my first year with the Lions, I got a salary cut even though I had had a good year.  I just missed Rookie of the Year by a few points behind a kid by the name of Joe Geri with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  I had twelve interceptions that year, but I got a salary cut.  In my third year I got my salary back up to where it was in my first year, but I never got a raise after that.  After my last season, I asked for a $500 raise from the Rams and they wouldn’t give it to me, so I went into coaching.
    Don Doll

        I enjoyed being an All-Star.  The only disconcerting note in our daily routine [preparing for the 1957 College All-Star Game] was a rather peculiar system of calisthenics administered by assistant coach Don Doll.  Doll's calisthenics looked like something out of yoga.  He would have us stand there and wiggle our fingers for perhaps four or five minutes.  Then we would spend a similar period moving our necks back and forth.  Next we would exercise one leg.  Altogether, Doll's calisthenics sessions were the oddest and longest I've ever experienced.  He conducted them very systematically, almost with reverence.  I found them dreadful.
    Jim Brown

Don Doll, who coached the defensive backs [on the 1963 Detroit Lions], had been in camp just long enough for the team to discover that he neither smoked, drank, nor swore and he got himself tagged with the nickname "Coop"—for Gary Cooper.  "I heard the Coop say "Heck!" today," said Wayne Walker.  "No! No!" said the players, throwing up their hands in horror.
    George Plimpton

 

 

I asked Don Doll if he would name who the roughest, hardest-hitting players who he played against.  He named Bucko Kilroy, Ed Sprinkle and Ed Neal.

Jack Doolan  (1919-2002)

Defensive Back/Wingback/Offensive End/Defensive End—(Georgetown) Georgia Pre-flight Skycrackers 1942, Lakehurst Naval Air Station Blimps 1942; Washington Redskins 1945, New York Giants 1945-46, Chicago Cardinals 1947-48

I always gained 3 or 4 pounds.  The California trip was always a big trip. We'd get to see Jane Russell, Bob Waterfield's wife.
    Jack Doolan, on
    traveling by train
    to play on the West Coast

Harry Dowda  (1922-1996)

Defensive Back—(Wake Forest) Washington Redskins 1949-53, Philadelphia Eagles 1954-56

Chuck Drazenovich  (1927-1992)

Linebacker—(Penn State) Washington Redskins 1950-59

 

Al Drulis  (1921-2008)

Linebacker/Fullback/Blocking Back/Quarterback—(Temple) Chicago Cardinals 1945-46, Pittsburgh Steelers 1947; Portsmouth Pirates (Dixie League) 1946, Richmond Rebels (AFL) 1948

 

Ralph "Rass" Felton  (1932-2011)

Linebacker/Fullback—(Maryland) Washington Redskins 1954-60, Buffalo Bills 1961-62

 

Felton responded to a questionnaire I sent him in September 1994, printing all his answers.  He did not autograph anything.  He was buried in Center Cemetery, Midway, Pennsylvania. 

Neil "Ferris-Can-Wheel" Ferris  (1927-1996)

Defensive Back/Halfback—(Loyola) Washington Redskins 1951-52, Philadelphia Eagles 1952, Los Angeles Rams 1953, British Columbia Lions (CFL) 1954

 

Neil Ferris is buried in Lake Havasu Memorial Gardens, Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

Galen Fiss (1931- 2006)

Linebacker—(Kansas) Cleveland Browns 1956-66

The cast [temporary cast on his left hand] did have its benefits.  Slap people upside the head with that cast, you really get their attention.  In practice, I’d make a real pest out of myself, whacking people in the head with my cast.  For games, we had to cover it with rubber and the officials inspected it, but it was still like a club.  The cast went from my knuckles to about two thirds of the way to my elbow.  The darn thing probably weighed two or three pounds, and by the time you swing your hand and land one, it’s going to have an effect.
    Galen Fiss

Galen Fiss's cremated remains were given to family.

George "Bill" Forester  (1932-2007)

Linebacker—(Southern Methodist) Green Bay Packers 1953-63 [All-Pro 1960-63]

He was a tough dude, boy, he really was. [After one game], his ankle was as big as his calf or thigh, but by God, he didn't miss a game. He kind of drawled, he really didn't talk. He was a prince of a young man.
    Jim Temp

Bill Forester is buried in Sparkman Hillcrest Memorial Park, Dallas, Texas.

Tom Franckhauser  (1937-1997)

Defensive Back—(Purdue) Los Angeles Rams 1959, Dallas Cowboys 1960-61, Minnesota Vikings 1962-63

Tom Franckhauser is buried in Sparkman Hillcrest Memorial Park, Dallas, Texas.

Bobby "Goose" Freeman  (1932-2003)

Defensive Back/Safety—(Auburn) Cleveland Browns 1957-58, Green Bay Packers 1959, Philadelphia Eagles 1960-61, Washington Redskins 1962

Paul Brown wasn't going to resign himself to a loser's status.  He was going to field a winner.  We were going to be competitive as all hell in 1957, and we were going to start by competing with each other.   Fiercely.  The annual Survival of the Fittest.  I wasn't to get my starting spot back automatically either.  All-Pro or not.  Paul Brown, the master of the psychological needle, simply introduced me to a good-looking rookie out of Auburn, told me the kid was interested in learning to play right cornerback, and left us without another word.  Bobby Freeman was shot in the ass with talentan outstanding prospect.  and, like most veterans, I felt an obligaiton to help the kid learn the trade—as I'd been helped.  I also felt it was my duty to point out the pitfalls awaiting a rookie at right corner: standing all alone out there in front of God and 70,000 people, watching as a Tommy MacDonald or Raymond Berry comes running at you, about to fake you completely out of your jock.  freeman turned out to be a most considerate rookie.  He screwed up his knee in camp, and by the time he'd returned to full speed, my name was back on the office door.

     Don Paul 

 

Bobby Freeman's grave is in Auburn Memorial Park, Auburn, Alabama. 

Hank Gremminger  (1934-2001)

Cornerback/Safety—(Baylor) Green Bay Packers 1956-65, Los Angeles Rams 1966 [All-American 1955]

He was a steady player. He wasn't a spectacular-type like Willie Wood was, but he was just a steady ballplayer.
    Red Cochran

Hank Gremminger is buried in Memory Gardens, Weatherford, Texas.

John Guzik (1936-2012)

 

Linebacker/Guard—(Pittsburgh) Los Angeles Rams 1959-60, Houston Oilers 1961  [All American 1958]

 

Jimmy Harris  (1934-2011)

 

Safety/Defensive Cornerback—(Oklahoma) Philadelphia Eagles 1957, Los Angeles Rams 1958, Dallas Texans 1960, Dallas Cowboys 1961

He was a super guy. He had a lot of talent. He really had a lot of talent.

     Tommy McDonald

 

Howard "Rabbit" Hartley  (1924-2006)

Defensive Halfback—(Duke) Fort Pierce Naval Amphibious Training Base Commandos 1944; Washington Redskins 1948, Pittsburgh Steelers 1949-52

Howard Hartley is buried in Woodlawn Memorial Park, Greenville, South Carolina.

Norb Hecker  (1927-2004)

Safety/End—(Baldwin-Wallace) Los Angeles Rams 1951-53, Toronto Argonauts (CFL) 1954, Washington Redskins 1955-57, Hamilton TigerCats (CFL) 1958; Coach—Atlanta Falcons 1966-68 [Little All-American 1950]

To survive those training camps was a real feat.  They were there to get you in shape. It was brutal in some cases - guys were passing out.  I can remember players going through six weeks of training camp, getting cut, and paying their own way home in some cases.  Not one red nickel for six weeks of work.
    Norb Hecker, on Rams’
    training camp at Redlands College

 

Jerry "Three Star" Hennessy  (1926-2000)

Defensive End—(Santa Clara) San Diego Naval Training Center Bluejackets 1944; Chicago Cardinals 1950-51, Washington Redskins 1952-53

 

Jack Hoffman  (1930- 2001)

Defensive End—(Xavier) Chicago Bears 1952,1955-58

 

Jack Hoffman is buried in St. Marys Cemetery, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Wayne "Bob" Hoffman  (1917-2005)

Linebacker/Fullback/Blocking Back—(Southern California) Washington Redskins 1940-41, Hollywood Rangers (Independent) 1945, Hollywood Bears (PCFL) 1945, Los Angeles Rams 1946-48, Los Angeles Dons 1949

 

Irv "Huck" Holdash  (1929-1992)

Center/Linebacker—(North Carolina) [All-American 1950]

I was drafted by the Cleveland Browns (1951) but first had to report to the Army for a two year period . . . .I had my try-out in 1954.  After three weeks I was cut—at 200 pounds Paul Brown felt I was too light to back up their line.  I was then called by the Winnipeg "Blue Bombers" in the Canadian League.  "Cut again" . . . .  CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THIS LETTER SENT TO ME BY IRV HOLDASH IN 1990

 

Irv Holdash is buried in Mountain View Cemetery, Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.

Chris “Duke” Iversen (1920-2011)

Linebacker/Halfback/Defensive Back—(Oregon) Jacksonville Naval Air Station Fliers 1942, Jacksonville Naval Air Station Air Raiders 1943; New York Giants 1947, New York Yankees 1948-49, New York Yanks 1950-51 [Service All American 1943]

Iversen was a great linebacker.


George Ratterman

 

Farnham "Gunner" Johnson  (1924-2001)

Defensive End—(Wisconsin/Michigan) Camp Lejeune Marines 1944; Chicago Bears 1947, Chicago Rockets 1948

[In] 1947, I played for Bears in All-Star game and exhibitions (tore hamstring against Eagles).  Was with them in opener at Green Bay, but injury didn't heal for six months.  Was paid in full, however.
    Farnham Johnson

 

Farnham Johnson is buried Corinth National Cemetery, Corinth, Mississippi.

Don Joyce  (1929-2012)

 

Defensive End/Defensive Tackle—(Tulane) Chicago Cardinals 1951-53, Baltimore Colts 1954-60, Minnesota Vikings 1961, Denver Broncos 1962

 

He was the guy who ripped Les Richter's helmet off and whacked him in the face with it.

        Pat Summerall

Don Joyce, a 6-foot-3, 260-pound rookie tackle out of Tulane set a Cardinal record our last night at the [Passion] Pit.  Ten pounds of raw hamburger and ten martinis.  It was that type of training camp.

        Don Paul

                                                              

Tom Keane  (1926-2001)

Defensive Back/Receiver—(Ohio State/West Virginia) Los Angeles Rams 1948-51, Dallas Texans 1952, Baltimore Colts 1953-54, Chicago Cardinals 1955  [All Pro 1953]

  

Veto Kissell (1927-1997)

Linebacker/Fullback—(Holy Cross) Buffalo Bills 1949, Baltimore Colts 1950

 

Gene Knutson  (1932-2008)

Defensive End—(Michigan) Green Bay Packers 1954, 1956

Somebody for some reason decided to take a swipe at my head and my helmet came off.  It also took part of my ear lobe with it.  I remember waking up on the field.  I think it's the only time that I ever remember passing out because when I was standing there with the doctors and trainer, I noticed all the blood on my uniform and I thought about cleaning that, but I seemed to be OK.  Then the trainer said, "Well, what shall we do with his ear?"  The doctor said, "Well, we'll just sew it right back on."  When I heard that, I passed out.  That was in an exhibition game against either the Eagles or the Redskins. . . . CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THIS INTERVIEW THAT I DID WITH GENE KNUTSON IN 2007

 

I interviewed Gene on 6 May 2007.  The above quote is taken from my transcription of that interview.

Gene Knutson is buried in St. Joseph Valley Memorial Park, Granger, Indiana.

Jack Lininger  (1927-2002)

Linebacker/Center—(Ohio State) Detroit Lions 1950-51

 

Jack Lininger declined to give me his signature ("Sorry no signatures"), but he did print his name on a questionnaire sheet that I sent him.

Cliff "Tongue" Livingston  (1930-2010)

Linebacker/Defensive End—(Orange Coast JC/UCLA) Fort Ord Rangers 1952-53; New York Giants 1954-61, Minnesota Vikings 1962, Los Angeles Rams 1963-66

Cliff Livingston came back each year as a different guy.  He changed personalities.  One year he came back and told us he was Robin Hood — bow and arrow and all — and that his plan was to rob from the rich and give to the poor.  I was rooming with him that year, and one night when the season was almost over I woke up and saw him standing there with the bow drawn back and the arrow aimed at me.  I said, “What the hell are you doing?  Are you crazy?”  He just looked back and said, “What are you doing here?  Who are you?”  He didn’t seem to know, although we’d been roommates for weeks.  At any rate, he didn’t shoot me.  Another year he came to training camp and told us he was a race car driver, another he was the world’s greatest lover.  That year, after playing a preseason game against the Cowboys, he showed up at the Dallas airport to get on the team plane wearing only leopard-skin bikini shorts.  He walked all the way through the airport like that, barefoot, and got on the plane.  Another time, we had an exhibition game in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  After the game, he wasn’t on the team airplane, which was flying out of Harrisburg.  When the plane moved out to the runway, a taxicab was chasing it across the airfield.  Cliff was in it.  They stopped the plane and opened the door and let down the steps and he clambered on board, and then he borrowed some money to pay off the cab driver.
    Pat Summerall

Cliff Livingston, a linebacker of ours, was very funny.  I remember once out at training camp in Salem, Oregon, it was after eleven, which was our curfew.  The coaches would come around to check if we were in our rooms, and then they’d go downstairs to a kind of lounge and have coffee and talk.  Well, this particular night Cliff had made arrangements to go out.  Someone had loaned him a car, and so after the bed check he was tiptoeing downstairs with his shoes in his hand.  He was just about out the front door when Jim Lee Howell, our head coach, saw him and said, “Cliff, where the hell are your going?”  “Coach,” he said, “I was out earlier and I lost my wallet somewhere, and I was just going back to the café to see if I could find it.”  Howell looked at him and then at the shoes in his hand and said, “What the hell you plannin’ to do, Cliff—sneak up on it?”
    Kyle Rote

 

Howie Livingston  (1922-1994)

Defensive Back/Fullback/Wingback/Halfback—(Fullerton JC) New York Giants 1944-47, Washington Redskins 1948-50, San Francisco 49ers 1950, Chicago Bears 1953  [#1 Interceptions 1944]

Howie Livingston autographed the cover of a 19 November 1944 New York Giants vs. Green Bay Packers game program. The program was autographed by more than a dozen Giants players and was given to me in 1995 by Rusty Kane, a tackle on the Giants.

Lenny Lyles  (1936-2011)

Defensive Back/Halfback—(Louisville) Baltimore Colts 1958, 1961-69, San Francisco 49ers 1959-60

He was the fastest man in football equipment I ever saw.  And I saw Bob Hayes.  From the beginning of time until today, nineteen thirty, nineteen fifty, I don’t care when, nobody ever ran faster in pads than Lenny Lyles.

          Johnny Sample

 

James "Jungle Jim" Martin  (1924-2002)

Linebacker/Kicker—(Notre Dame) Cleveland Browns 1950, Detroit Lions 1951-61, Baltimore Colts 1963, Washington Redskins 1964  [All-American 1949, College Football Hall of Fame 1995; #1 Field Goals 1963]

The Chicago crowd came running out on the field, and everybody started to slug everybody.  It was catching, like some sort of quick-moving disease.  Jim Martin was standing over on the sidelines.  He was our place-kicker, and he'd been in the Marines, and he was a Notre Dame man, and he was a little crazy, too.  While he was watching what was going on, a cop came up alongside, Martin saw him, turned, and hit him with a short, stiff right hand.  Absolutely great punch.  The cop went "boing" and down he went.  I don't know why Martin did it—maybe because he'd always had a hankering to hit a policeman and it seemed as good a time as any.  Playing in Chicago always drives you a little nuts anyway.
    John Gordy

Dick "Sticks" Nolan  (1932-2007)

Defensive Back—(Maryland) New York Giants 1954-57,1959-61, Chicago Cardinals 1958, Dallas Cowboys 1962; Coach—San Francisco 49ers 1968-75, New Orleans Saints 1978-80

Bob Hollway was the only killjoy I ever played for . . . until I got to the [New Orleans] Saints and met Dick Nolan.  He tried to do things the way Tom Landry did them in Dallas and he wasn't successful, because he wasn't Tom Landry.  He refused to believe that part of his job was to motivate players . . . .We could have gotten a wall to coach us and it would have been just as effective.  The man had the personality of a grapefruit.
    Conrad Dobler

Bob Nussbaumer  (1924-1997)

Defensive Back/Halfback—(Michigan) Green Bay Packers 1946,1951, Washington Redskins 1947-48, Chicago Cardinals 1949-50  [#1 Interceptions 1949]

 

John "Pep" Panelli  (1926-2012)

 

Linebacker—(Notre Dame) Detroit Lions 1949-50, Chicago Cardinals 1951-53

 

I had been drafted by the Lions number one in 1949.  I had also been drafted by the New York Yankees of the AAFC.  I had wanted to play in New York at Yankee Stadium because that’s only twenty-six miles from Morristown, New Jersey, where my family home was.  But I also wanted a good contract, and fortunately for me, I was able to do that because I had the two offers, which upped the ante a little.  I had an exceptional senior year at Notre Dame, averaging 7.5 yards per carry.  I wasn’t a consensus All-American, but I made some All-American teams.  I had a pretty good bargaining position.  Red Strader, the coach of the Yankees, came to South Bend while I was in law school.  Bo McMillin, the coach of the Lions, visited me the same day.  One of them was in an office and the other in a hotel room across the street, and I’d go back and forth between them.  I told Strader that I would sign for $30,000 for two years.  He said he’d have to make some calls.  I went to McMillin and said, “Here’s what I got offered across the way—$30,000—$15,00 a year for two years, and a $1,500 signing bonus for each year, that’s another $3,000.”  He says, “Well, I think we can handle that.”  So I went back to Strader and told the truth about what I was offered by the Lions, and he says, “John, I don’t think I can guarantee that.”  So I shook his hand and went back to Bo and agreed to sign with the Lions.

                  John Panelli

 

John Panelli autographed this 3x5 card for me in January 1994.

Joe Parker  (1923-1998)

Defensive End—(Texas) Pearl Harbor Pacific All-Stars 1945; Chicago Cardinals 1946-47   [All-American 1943]

Back then [1941 at Texas], we had to play thump poker.  Do you know what thump poker is? We didn't have any money to play, so if we won, we'd thump everybody on the head.
    Joe Parker

 

Joe Parker is buried in Riverland Cemetery, Stanfield, Texas.

Don Paul  (1926-2001)

Defensive Back/Halfback—(Washington State) Chicago Cardinals 1950-53, Cleveland Browns 1954-58  [All Pro 1955]

Brown kept Paul on the team because he was so handsome. He looked good in the hotel lobby.
    Ed Modzelewski

Don Paul inscribed this on the inside front cover of his funny autobiography published in 1988 entitled I Went Both Ways: The Adventures of the NFL's Joyboy During the Fabulous Fifties.  What a wonderful and surprising gift and a really fun book to read.  I've reread it a couple times.

See video clip of Don Paul intercepting a pass in a December 26, 1955 game between the Cleveland Browns and Los Angeles Rams. The Browns won with a score of 38-14.

Bob Pellegrini  (1934-2008)

Linebacker—(Maryland) Philadelphia Eagles 1956,1958-61, Washington Redskins 1962-65 [All-American 1955, Knute Rockne Award 1955, College Football Hall of Fame 1996]

Most of all, I owe thanks to my dog.
    Bob Pellegrini, on receiving
    the MVP award for the College All-Stars

Bob Pellegrini is buried in Wildwood Cemetery, Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Bill Pellington  (1927-1994)

Linebacker—(Rutgers) Baltimore Colts 1953-64

We had a play when I was with the Giants called the "bootsie."  The quarterback would take the ball, kneel down, and the other ten guys would jump on the offending player.  Jim Lee Howell was a guy who wanted us to get somebody if he thought they were playing too rough.  Bill Pellington was a linebacker with the Colts and he was a real mean bastard.  He had hit one of our guys upside the head which Jim Lee thought was unnecessary.  We were playing in the Polo Grounds and [Charley] Conerly called the "bootsie" against Pellington.  [Frank] Gifford was split wide as a flanker and, for whatever reason, Charlie called the play off at the line of scrimmage.  Gifford didn't hear Conerly, so he came off the line of scrimmage, jumped up, and kicked Pellington right in the numbers.  Pellington went nuts and started slamming Gifford around like a rag doll.  When they finally got it stopped, Gifford wandered back to the huddle and said, "What the hell happened?"  It was a wonder that he wasn't killed.
    Pat Summerall

 

Bill Petrilas  (1915-1976)

Defensive Back/Wingback—New York Giants 1944-45

 

Bill Petrilas autographed the cover of a 19 November 1944 New York Giants vs. Green Bay Packers game program. The program was autographed by more than a dozen Giants players and was given to me in 1995 by Rusty Kane, a tackle on the Giants.

Herb Rich  (1928-2008)

Safety—(Vanderbilt) Baltimore Colts 1950, Los Angeles Rams 1951-53, New York Giants 1954-56  [All Pro 1952]

I hold record for best avg. punt return for a season (1950 avg. of 23 yds. per return).
    Herb Rich

 

Roy Ruskusky (1921-2001)

Defensive End—(St. Mary’s) Hawaiian Warriors (PCFL) 1946, New York Yankees 1947

 

 

Roy Ruskusky was afflicted with arthritis when he wrote me this letter in 1993. He mentioned he had "a real good year" with the Hawaiian Warriors, but had a "mediocre year, suffered two ruptured discs" with the Yankees in 1947.

Lou Saban  (1921-2009)

Linebacker/Fullback—(Indiana) Fort Benning Fourth Infantry Raiders 1944; Cleveland Browns 1946-49; Coach—Buffalo Bills 1962-65,1972-76  [AFL Coach of the Year 1964-65]

Half a loaf is better than none.
    Lou Saban, after
    settling for a tie

 

Eddie Salem  (1928-2001)

Defensive Back—(Alabama) Washington Redskins 1951, Montreal Alouettes (CFL) 1952 [All-American 1950]

 

 

Ed Salem is one of nine 1950 A.P. All-Americans who autographed this news article announcing their selection.  The others who signed it include Sonny Grandelius, Dick Kazmaier, Ted Daffer, Bob Ward, Kyle Rote, Jim Weatherall, Al Carapella, and Huck Holdash.

Salem is buried in Elmwood Cemetery, Birmingham, Alabama

Ivan Schottel (1920-2000)

Defensive Back/End—(Northwest Missouri State) St. Mary’s Pre-flight Air Devils 1942, Detroit Lions 1946,1948

 

Ivan Schottel is buried in Ashland Cemetery, St. Joseph, Missouri

George "Dirty George" Seemann  (1916-1998)

Defensive End—(Nebraska) Green Bay Packers 1940

 

George Seemann was cremated and his ashes scattered in different cherished places in Iowa, Vermont, Colorado, and elsewhere. 

Rex "Wreckless Rex" Shiver  (1932-1997)

Cornerback—(Miami) Los Angeles Rams 1956

 

Leo "Scoop" Skladany  (1927-2003)

Defensive End—(Pittsburgh) Paterson Panthers (AFL) 1949-50, Philadelphia Eagles 1949, New York Giants 1950

He was outstanding.  He had strength.  He was our punter, too, which showed his versatility.  He was a good pass-catcher, and he was outstanding on defense.  He played left end, which was where you put your best player in those days.  He was an all-around player.  You couldn't beat him.
    Lou "Bimbo" Cecconi

Bubba Smith (1945-2011)

Defensive End/Offensive Tackle—(Michigan State) Baltimore Colts 1967-71, Oakland Raiders 1973-74, Houston Oilers 1975-76 [All-American 1965-66, College Football Hall of Fame 1988, #1 Draft Choice 1967, All-Pro 1970-71]

He's one of the greatest defensive players in college football history.

            Henry Bullough

I had my own way of tackling. I used to grab the whole backfield. Then I threw guys out until I found the one with the ball.

             Bubba Smith, in a Miller Lite commercial

 

Albert "Hank" Soar  (1914-2001)

Defensive Back/Fullback/Wingback/Quarterback—(Providence) Boston Shamrocks (AFL) 1936, New York Giants 1937-44,1946 [#1 Passing AFL 1936]

The Shamrocks won the AFL championship, and after the season we went on a barnstorming tour south down to Miami with the New York Yankees.  They had Ken Strong and the coach was Jack McBride, who had also been with the Giants.  After the season, I was a free agent and I got offers from most of the NFL clubs.  I chose the Giants.  I didn’t make a hell of a lot more money with them than when I was playing for the Shamrocks.  They wanted to give me $125, but I got $200 a game. . . . [Steve Owen] was conservative.  He wouldn’t take chances.  I liked to play the game without thinking what you have to do, you just do it.  Once he fined me fifty bucks for doing something he didn’t like, but I haven’t paid him yet.  We had a feud going on, but it wasn’t really a feud.  When we were alone, we’d talk a lot.  We lived in the same hotel, and we’d often discuss things about a game or the team.  But yet, I’d get on the field and he’d fight me like hell.  He used to get mad.  I’d run the ball all the way down the field and get near the goal line, and he’d pull me out.  He’d put Bull Karcis in and Bull would score and I’d throw the helmet.  He wouldn’t pay attention.  Oh, it was a great relationship we had.  We gave a big party when he retired in 1953.  Newspapermen were there, and they asked him, “Who was your favorite player in your coaching years?”  And Steve said, “You’re not going to believe this.  It was Hank Soar.”  They said, “Why?”  And he said, “Because he always came up with the ball.  I said to Hank one time, ‘You’re either good or you’re lucky!’  And you know what he said to me?  ‘I’m both!’”
    Hank Soar

Hank Soar is buried in Swan Point Cemetery, Providence, Rhode Island.

 See video clip of Hank Soar (#22) in the 1938 NFL championship game between the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants played on December 11, 1938, in the Polo Grounds.  The Giants won 23-17.  In the clip, Soar makes a nice catch and run for yardage down the sidelines. He is also shown making the game-winning touchdown catch while dragging Packer defender Clarke Hinkle into the end zone.

Gene Spangler (1922-2010)

Defensive Back—(Tulsa) Detroit Lions 1946

 

 

Gene Spangler autographed this 1946 news article reporting his signing with the Lions.

Bill Stits  (1931-2011)

Defensive Back/Halfback—(UCLA) Detroit Lions 1954-56, San Francisco 49ers 1957-58, Washington Redskins 1959, New York Giants 1959-61

 

After his death, Stits was cremated.

Bill "Pop" Stanton  (1924-2010)

Defensive End—(North Carolina State) Buffalo Bills 1949, Ottawa Rough Riders (CFL) 1950-52

Bill Stanton is buried at Montlawn Memorial Park, Raleigh, North Carolina.

Charlie Sumner  (1930-   )

Defensive Back—(William & Mary) Chicago Bears 1955-60, Minnesota Vikings 1961-62

The first position that [the Bears] tried me at was at quarterback. But my arm wasn't strong enough to throw the passes for those guys. So they moved me to halfback. I wasn't at that position very long because we had a blitz pick-up drill one practice and I had to pick up linebackers and defensive ends. I got crumpled. I figured that I was gone but they gave me one last chance at defensive back. I started a game and intercepted a couple passes and ran one back for a touchdown. I could have played a few more years but I got beat up so bad [with the Vikings]. I was a defensive safety and I led the team in tacklesyou can imagine what was going on up front. I broke both of my arms and I ached all over.

    Charlie Sumner

 

Note: I received some incorrect information that Sumner had died in 1996.  Jim Zimmerman informed me that he had received an autograph from Sumner from his home in Hawaii in December 2009.  His inclusion in this deceased player website is therefore most premature, but we'll leave his autograph and photo on for display.

Bill Svoboda (1928-1980)

Linebacker/Fullback—(Tulane) Chicago Cardinals 1950-53, New York Giants 1954-58

 

 

I still have my 1957 Topps football card that I bought when I was thirteen years old in 1957 (shown here).  I obtained this 1974 Bill Svoboda autograph and two other 3x5s from dealer Bill Butts who bought the collection of Rich Laade, my former collecting mentor, after Rich passed away.  I sold several autographs from my collection in 2010 to a collector interested in Auburn players to fund the purchase of this card.

John Symank (1935-2002)

Defensive Back—(Florida) Green Bay Packers 1957-62, St. Louis Cardinals 1963

He was a very hard-nose personality. He didn’t have any problem getting along with Vince Lombardi.

     Charlie Key

 

Larry Visnic  (1919-1994)

Linebacker/Guard/Blocking Back—(Benedictine) New York Giants 1943-45

 

 

Stan Wallace  (1931-1999)

Safety—(Illinois) Chicago Bears 1954,1956-58; Toronto Argonauts (CFL) 1959-61  [All Pro CFL 1960-61]

 

Stan Wallace is buried in Roselawn Cemetery, Champaign, Illinois. 

Fred Wallner  (1928-1999)

Linebacker/Offensive Guard—(Notre Dame) Chicago Cardinals 1951-52,1954-55, Houston Oilers 1960

 

Gerald "Bones" Weatherly  (1928-2004)

Linebacker/Defensive Back—(Rice) Chicago Bears 1950,1952-54

 

Bones Weatherly is buried in Hillside Cemetery, Cuero, Texas

Norm “Wild Man” Willey  (1927-2011)

Defensive End/Offensive Guard/Offensive End—(Marshall) Philadelphia Eagles 1950-57

Greasy Neale put me in there, and I went hellbent and knocked Tommy Thompson down and a few other people and. kept doing that, and Greasy took me out, Then Tommy looked up again, and I was back in, and he said, "Oh, my god, there comes that wild man again." Then the newspaper picks it up. I was called "Mad Man" for a while, then it stuck with me as "Wild Man."

                  Norm Willey

He was the "Wild Man." That was his nature. He went full blast and did a good job. He played harder than he did with good sense sometimes, but he played hard. He played instinctive football. That was his way. He wasn't concerned about what the game plan was. He played things his way, and it worked out good for him. Probably the only way he could have made it was his way.

                   Vic Sears

 

 

 

In about 2009, Norm Willey replied to my autograph request by sending these items. He generously sent me an excellent condition 1954 Bowman card signed and this signed note.

John E. "Scooter" Williams  (1927-2005)

Safety/Defensive Back—(Southern California) Washington Redskins 1952-53, San Francisco 49ers 1954, Montreal Alouettes (CFL) 1955-56

 

Junior Wren (1929-2003)

Defensive Back—(Missouri) Cleveland Browns 1956-59, Pittsburgh Steelers 1960, New York Titans 1961

When I joined the Browns, we had a player named Junior Wren, Junior was just enraged at Paul.  He told me, “If Paul gets on me again like he did after last game, you know that hook where he hangs his hat?”  I said I did.  Junior said, “I’m going to hang him right on that hook, I’m telling you.  That last play, it wasn’t my fault.”  I just nodded and waited to see what happened.  Paul came up to Junior and said, “Junior Wren, I have seen better performances out of high school players.”  Did Junior hang Paul on the hook?  Of course not.  All he said was, “Yes, Paul.”  That was it.  “Yes, Paul.”
    Paul Wiggin

 

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Listen to the Voices of:

  • Sam Baugh (Pro Hall of Fame)
  • Max McGee (Receivers)

See a Video Clip of:

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  • Sam Baugh  (Pro Hall of Fame)
  • Jay Berwanger  (Running Backs)
  • Vic Bottari  (Running Backs)
  • Ed Brown  (Quarterbacks)
  • John "Red" Cochran  (Running Backs)
  • Charlie Conerly  (Quarterbacks)
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  • Clint Frank  (Running Backs)
  • Bill Gay  (Running Backs)
  • Sid Gillman  (Pro Hall of Fame)
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  • Arnie Herber  (Pro Hall of Fame)
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  • Billy Hillenbrand  (Running Backs)
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  • Don Hutson  (Pro Hall of Fame)
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  • Ken Keller  (Running Backs)
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  • John Kimbrough  (Fullbacks)
  • Al Krueger  (Receivers)
  • Tom Landry  (Pro Hall of Fame)
  • Dick Lane  (Pro Hall of Fame)
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  • Tuffy Leemans  (Pro Hall of Fame)
  • Max McGee  (Receivers)
  • Lamar McHan  (Quarterbacks)
  • Wellington Mara  (Pro Hall of Fame)
  • Dale Meinert  (Guards)
  • Tony "Skip" Minisi  (Running Backs)
  • Cliff Montgomery  (Quarterbacks)
  • Ray Nitschke  (Pro Hall of Fame)
  • Jackie Parker (Quarterbacks)
  • Don Paul  (Defensive Backs/Ends)
  • Walter Payton  (Pro Hall of Fame)
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  • John Rauch  (Quarterbacks)
  • Ray Renfro  (Receivers)
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