End—(Southern California) New York Yankees 1927, New York Giants 1930-35, Brooklyn Dodgers 1936, Rochester Tigers 1937 [All-Pro 1933, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1981]
Tim Mara signed me to my first contract with the Giants. He was a good owner. I never had any trouble with him—or any owner, for that matter. I signed up to play for just so much and that was it. At that time, we didn’t consider what the other fellow got. If he made $500 a game or $1,000 or only $2, we didn’t care. But the money sure wasn’t very good in those days. I got $150 a game when I first signed with the Giants. I didn’t exactly get rich on that salary.
Red Badgro wrote me in February 1989 that Bronko Nagurski was the "toughest and the strongest of any player I played against. He was just the greatest, but he was not mean."
He is buried in Hillcrest Burial Park, Kent, Washington.
Quarterback—(Texas Christian) Washington Redskins 1937-52; Coach—New York Jets 1960-61, Houston Oilers 1964 [All-American 1935-36, College Football Hall of Fame 1951, #1 Passing 1937,1940,1943,1947,1949, #1 Punting 1940-43, All-Pro 1937,1940,1942-43,1945,1947-48, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1963]
In '37, there wasn't really any protection whatsoever for a man throwing a pass. The other team could go after you until the whistle blew. In other words, you'd complete a pass to a fellow out in the flat and he'd take off running, back and forth across the field maybe, and the rushers would be going after the passer all the while. In those days, they'd want to put the quarterback on the ground regardless, even though he's got nothing to do with the play by that time. Mr. [George Preston] Marshall got the rule changed so that they had to lay off the quarterback after he threw the ball . . . . before that, hell, they'd chase you all over the field, maybe 30 yards, until they got their hands on you.
This is the actual Sammy Baugh card that I got in a pack of cards (probably bought from Wolfe's Market) in 1955. I have the full set and it is in pristine condition. I don't think I really cared for it at that much when I was nine years old, but now I really like it. I have 51 autographs from players in this 100-card set.
Coach/Co-Founder/Owner—(Pennsylvania) Philadelphia Eagles 1933-40, Pittsburgh Steelers 1941-46; NFL Commissioner 1946-59 [Pro Football Hall of Fame 1963]
There were one or two instances, which you are going to have in any contact sport, and those were thrown out of proportion. The Ray Bray case was one of those and got a lot of publicity. In a preseason game with the Bears, Bray was wearing a face mask and I wasn't. After he hit me, he came down on me with that mask and split my nose open. I was on the ground and couldn't do much, so I kicked him in the balls. Bert Bell fined me $250 and my wife gave him hell. She told him that he had cost her a new coat, so Bert said if I behaved myself and didn't get thrown out of any more games he'd give me the money back. I didn't get into any real trouble the rest of the season, and after the last game Bert gave me a check and made me endorse it over to my wife. The joke was that Bert made a mistake and the check was for $500. When she called Bert and told him about it, he said, "Boy, am I lucky. If Bucko had gotten his hands on that money, I would have never seen the other $250."
This note came from the Bert Bell estate. The Pennsylvania collector I obtained it from acquired it in about 2006. He was a Steelers collector and had several Bert Bell items so he deemed this note expendable. He was most interested in getting a Chuck Cherundolo signature that I had to help complete a Steeler Legends photo. So in January 2010 I sent him the Cherundolo and cut signatures of four other Steelers including Darrell Hogan, Don Looney, Rocco Pirro, Joe Krupa, and John Yurchey. The note says, "Is your Pef wonderful $580 in your Acc, Love & kisses, Pef." Pef is what his wife, Frances, called him. The collector wrote me that the handwriting compares very favorably to the signed checks that he had in his collection. He believed this note was 100% authentic.
Quarterback/Kicker—(Kentucky) Chicago Bears 1949-58, Baltimore Colts 1950, Houston Oilers 1960-66, Oakland Raiders 1967-75 [AFL Player of the Year 1961, AFL #1 Passing 1961, AFL #1 Scoring 1967, AFC Player of the Year 1970, All-Pro 1961, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1981, A.P. Athlete of the Year 1970]
Everybody talks about all the damn pressure that was supposed to be on me . . . .I've never had any pressure in football . . . .Pressure happens when you don't have faith in your ability. I think positive . . . .When I go in, as far as I'm concerned the score is 0-0. I just go out there and "think win." That's all.
George Blanda is another one that’s hard to forget. George would bet on anything. You’d go to a bowling alley, and he’d bet he could beat you. You’d play a pinball machine, and he’d be there with a bet. Blanda was a nervous kind of guy. One of the funniest things I remember from those days was when we were breaking the huddle and lining up one game, and all of a sudden I feel George behind me. I was the right guard, and he’s there behind me, his hands under me, and he starts calling the signals. Larry Strickland, the center, who’s got the ball, looked over at me with this strange expression on his face, trying to figure out what the hell George was doing with his hands under the guard instead of the center.
George Blanda signed this 8x10 photo in Nov. 1988 that I obtained from the Chicago Bears. They sold me quite a number of 8x10s that I used to request autographs for a nominal fee of $1 per photo. The above 1956 and 1958 Topps cards are ones that I bought as a kid in those years. My son, William, was about ten years old in probably about 1988 when he drew this pencil sketch of George Blanda and sent it to him to be autographed.
Offensive Tackle—(Morgan State) New York Giants 1953-65 [All-Pro 1956-60,1962-63, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1975]
I was very surprised when I learned I was drafted by the Giants. In fact, I didn’t even know anything about the Giants then. I got a letter from the Giants and then Em Tunnell came down and told me about being drafted, what it meant and everything. . . . They sent me a contract for—I think it was—$2,700 a year. I showed it to my coach at Morgan, Eddie Hurt, and he said, “Sign it. That’s more than I got when I started teaching and coaching.” Then I just signed it and sent it back. I went back to Charlottesville then, and in the summer the Giants sent me a train ticket. It was from Charlottesville to St. Peter, Minnesota, where they held their training camp. When I got there the only other black persons I saw were Em Tunnell and a fellow named Leo Miles from Virginia State. Like Em, Leo was a defensive back, but, unlike Em, he only lasted one year. I was treated very well when I got there. Some of the players went out of their way to be helpful—veterans like Arnie Weinmeister and Al DeRogatis and Jack Stroud—he was a rookie like me. It was the first time that I had ever played football with any white boys. . . . I was still only nineteen when I joined the Giants—I wouldn’t be twenty until late in October—and all the others there were a good deal older. I hung around mostly with Em Tunnell, and he was thirty-one years old that year. He really kind of guided me around in the beginning. I was just a kid pretty far away from my home and with very little money in my pocket. He became a very good friend. . . . We had it great, though, Em and I. When we traveled around, we couldn’t stay with the white boys. So the Giants would make arrangements for us to stay with a black family. Wellington Mara took care of all that. He would check out the people who we were going to stay with, and they were always fine people and had very nice homes. And we loved it! Hell, we didn’t have any curfew like the others had. We could do just about anything we wanted to do and didn’t have any coaches to check on us. We could drink beer in our rooms, have people in, party it up. We had the best deal. It made me kind of angry when segregation ended and we had to stay with the white boys. It made our lives more difficult.
This is the actual Roosevelt Brown card that I got in a pack of cards (probably bought from Wolfe's Market) in 1956. How fortunate I am to still have all my old trading cards.
Defensive Tackle—(Grambling) Kansas City Chiefs 1963-75 [NAIA All-American 1962, College Football Hall of Fame 1996; #1 AFL Draft Choice 1963, All-Pro 1966-69, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1990]
What I like to do is come down around the quarterback's head with the club—this [his forearm]—the club. You try to ring his bell. You just sort of shake it down around his head all the time. I very seldom tackle a quarterback around the body anywhere. I try to strip 'em through here—the head. You really crush him to the ground, and the next time he'll be looking for you.
I employed this cartoon which appeared in an issue of PFRA's Coffin Corner to request an autograph from Buck Buchanan.
He is buried in Mount Moriah Cemetery, Kansas City, Missouri.
Halfback—(Gonzaga) Green Bay Packers 1941-44,1946-52 [Little All American 1939, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1974]
When I was first drafted by the Packers, I had to go in the Army and when I came back they had drafted a couple of defensive ends from different schools. I met Tony on the corner of Pine and Washington streets, and I got to talking with him. He said, “Jim, every year there's a draft and they'll be bringing someone in your position. All you have to do is be a better man and a better football player than they are.” I never forgot that. That was a very important bit of sage advice to give to a young Packer. He was one tough guy for his size. He wasn't a big man, but he was well-respected. I knew a lot of the fellows he played with, and he was very well-respected as a professional as far as football was concerned and also definitely for his personality and integrity and honesty.
Tony Canadeo is buried in Allouez Catholic Cemetery, Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Guard—(William & Mary) Detroit Lions 1950-59 [All Pro 1951-54,1956-57, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1996]
He was a gigantic tackle.
These cards of Lou Creekmur are the actual cards I bought when I was a ten and eleven year old kid (probably from Wolfe's Market). It seems I was pretty rough on the earlier card, but the 1957 card is in excellent shape.
Watch a video clip on the life and career of Lou Creekmur.
Defensive Tackle—(Boston College) Baltimore Colts 1950,1953-61, New York Yanks 1951, Dallas Texans 1952 [Pro Football Hall of Fame 1968]
He couldn't run the forty-yard dash if you gave him from ten in the morning till two in the afternoon. He was always being kidded about it. But what a fine player—quick, strong, and great balance. No one could knock him off his feet. You very seldom saw him in the ground.
Watch a hilarious video clip of Art Donovan being interviewed on the Johnny Carson show in the early 1990s.
Halfback—(Virginia) Randolph Field (Texas) 1944, Pittsburgh Steelers 1942,1945-46, Detroit Lions 1947-49, Washington Redskins 1950-51,1953 [#1 All-Purpose Running NCAA 1941, #1 Scoring NCAA 1941, All-American 1941, Maxwell Award 1941, Walter Camp Trophy 1941, Smith Memorial Trophy 1944, All-Service Team 1944, College Football Hall of Fame 1956, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1966]
It was at Virginia where I got the nickname "Bullet," which was a great misnomer because I wasn't very fast. In fact, there have been more articles written about how slow I was. I think my best time in the 100-yard dash was something like 11:2. But I did have a good takeoff, a quick start, and for the first 30 yards or so I was right on beat.
Bill Dudley was a willing signer. Above is just a part of the 1941 UPI All-American article signed by both Dudley and Dick Wildung in 1993.
End—(Santa Clara/UCLA) Second Air Force Superbombers 1944-45; Los Angeles Rams 1948-56; Coach—New Orleans Saints 1967-70 [College Football Hall of Fame 1976, #1 Receiving 1948-50, All-Pro 1949-50, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1970]
In '56 we were playing the Rams in Baltimore, and [Don] Shula had a little thing going with Los Angeles' great end Tom Fears. He must have been holding Fears every time he ran downfield, because all day as we were walking back to the defensive huddle after the play we'd hear Fears screaming, "Shoes, goddamnit, keep your mitts off me. Don't hold me anymore." Finally Fears had had enough, and toward the end of the game he coldcocked Shula with an elbow that put his lights out. Smashed Shula's jaw.
This is the actual Tom Fears card that I got in a pack of cards (probably bought from Wolfe's Market) in 1956. How cool is that! How fortunate I am to still have all my old trading cards.
Tom Fears autographed this 1945 Tom Paprocki cartoon.
He is buried in Ascension Cemetery, Lake Forest, California.
End—(Gonzaga) Los Angeles Wildcats 1926, New York Yankees 1927-28, New York Giants 1928-29,1931-35; Coach—Boston Redskins 1936, Washington Redskins 1937-42, New York Yankees 1946-48, Chicago Hornets 1949 [#1 Receiving 1932, All-Pro 1928-29,1932, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1976]
[George Preston] Marshall hired Ray Flaherty, who had been a great player with the New York Giants and was familiar with Marshall's egocentricities. He had it put in his contract that Marshall would stay off the field. So Marshall had to go upstairs, but he had extensive telephone lines all over the place. He would phone the band and the bench and everything else. Flaherty had a man on the bench who would take Marshall's phone calls, but Flaherty would ignore everything Marshall said. We had our first winning season —won seven, lost five.
I found several photos that I used for requesting autographs in books. My wife simply photographed the photo in the book and we developed it into an 8x10. They turned out pretty well, including this one signed by Ray Flaherty.
End—(Ohio State) Cleveland Rams (AFL) 1936; Coach—Miami (Ohio) 1944-47, University of Cincinnati 1949-54, Los Angeles Rams 1955-59, Los Angeles Chargers 1960, San Diego Chargers 1961-69,1971, Houston Oilers 1973-74 [College Football Hall of Fame 1989, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1983]
Football was a game of chess to Gillman. He started with linemen as the pawns. Guards, for instance, could do any one of 25 different things. Taking in all the positions, he taught us 15,960 plays in two weeks of practice with the Rams.
Gillman named Ron Mix the best football player during his years coaching.
Watch a video clip of Sid Gillman.
He is buried in Hillside Memorial Park, Culver City, California.
Tailback/Defensive Back/Quarterback/Blocking Back—(Wisconsin/Regis) Green Bay Packers 1930-40, New York Giants 1944-45 [#1 Passing 1932,1934,1936, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1966]
Once in a game in St. Louis, Herber threw me a pass for a touchdown that I thought would never come down. It just stayed up there. The next day the paper said that it had traveled 77 yards in the air.
Arnie Herber 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.
He is buried in Fort Howard Memorial Park, Green Bay, Wisconsin.
See video clip of Arnie Herber (#38) 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. Watch him throw a 40-yard touchdown pass on the first play on the clip. See video clip of Herber (#38) in the 1939 NFL championship game between New York Giants and Green Bay Packers at Milwaukee's State Fair Park. The Packers won 27-0. Look for Herber throwing a nice pass about one-third of the way into the clip. See video clip of the famed passing/catching combination of Arnie Herber and Don Hutson. See documentary video program on Don Hutson.
Guard—(Mississippi) Cleveland Browns 1958-73 [All Pro 1967-69, Pro Football Hall of Fame 2007]
I always liked Gene. I don't know how many guys he called nigger back in his hometown, and I didn't give a damn. By the time he got with us he transcended any Mississippi bullshit.
He was an unparalleled pass blocker. His man would never get to the quarterback. He’d make the rest of us look bad. And he was one of the greatest downfield blockers I’ve ever seen. When he went out on a sweep, his man went down and stayed on the ground. By the end of his career, he was 265 pounds and he could still run like a high school fullback.
He was the consummate guard.
He was an all-around great player. He was so fast getting out leading those sweeps, people didn’t realize he was also strong and a great technician in pass blocking. Whoever he was blocking just did not get to the quarterback.
Watch a video clip of Hickerson's induction into the Hall of Fame.
Listen to news report paying tribute to Gene Hickerson upon his death.
He is buried in Elmhurst Park Cemetery, Avon, Ohio.
League Founder/Owner—(Southern Methodist) Kansas City Chiefs (Dallas Texans) 1960- [Pro Football Hall of Fame 1972, National Soccer Hall of Fame 1982, International Tennis Hall of Fame 1993]
If Lamar had had less money, people would have called him cheap, but because he was so wealthy, he was considered "good with money." He had a very limited wardrobe, just a few suits, and when I asked him why, he explained, "I can only wear one suit at a time." Once, I remember, Lamar and I were boarding a commercial flight together. I turned to go to first class and, to my surprise, he turned right to go back to the coach section. "Why are you sitting back there?" I asked. As always, his answer made perfect sense. "Both ends get there at the same time," he said.
Lamar Hunt is buried in Sparkman Hillcrest Memorial Park, Dallas, Texas.
See photo tribute to Lamar Hunt.
End—(Alabama) Green Bay Packers 1935-45, East Chicago Indians (AFL) 1940 [All-American 1934, College Football Hall of Fame 1951, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1963]
Don Hutson of the Packers gave me what gray hairs I have today. You know he was so fast and shifty you couldn’t cover him with a tent. The guy had three speeds, and Don could easily fake you out of your athletic supporter, as they say. And he had hands—if the ball came anywhere near him, he’d catch it.
He had to play defense even though his specialty was that of being a great pass receiver, probably as great as any receiver we have in the game today who only has to concentrate on catching footballs. Hutson wasn't able to hang up the statistics the receivers have today because he had to make tackles on defense as well.
Don Hutson weighed about 178 pounds and was about 6 feet 2 inches when he came to us in 1935. He didn't have the size for a pro football player. But then we saw his speed and the way he just glided—when he ran he didn't put his knees up to his chin, just kind of flowed. The best way I can describe Hutson is if you could picture a gazelle, running through a defensive secondary in the National Football League. He had a deceptive stride, and he did the hundred in something like 9:7. And what great moves he had. One day I saw him fake Beattie Feathers of the Bears out of his shoes, literally fake him out of his shoes. They had to call time out so he could put them back on. Hutson was the greatest offensive end who ever lived, even by today's standards. He played defense, too, and he used to block these enormous tackles we used to play against. He could do a pretty good job blocking, even though he was awfully small for that aspect of the game. He did it well partly because he could get to whoever he was blocking so quickly. I remember running through many holes that he helped to open. [Curly] Lambeau played Don as a halfback on defense, and it worked out perfectly. He was a great pass defender by his very nature. He could use his hands and jumping ability as well on defense as on offense. But most of all, he made life easy for our passers. He would run the basic patterns and all Arnie Herber and Cecil Isbell had to do was throw to a spot. Hutson might be ten yards away from the spot, but he would get there and catch the ball.
Don Hutson of Green Bay was fantastic. Even today [late 1960s], with all the specialists, I don't see a Don Hutson. If you didn't knock Hutson down [when he was coming off the line on a pass pattern], he'd score four or five touchdowns a game.
Hutson could outrun the wind.
Hutson is so extraordinary that I concede him two touchdowns a game and just hope we can score more . . . .Hutson is the only man I ever saw who can run in three different directions at the same time.
He made it look easy.
[He was] a fabulous receiver.
He was so difficult to defend against because half the time he didn't know himself where he was going. He'd signal the passer how he was going to break.
Don Hutson is the sweetest football player I have ever seen. He pulls everything out of the air within ten feet of him.
Glen "Lefty" Sorenson
I remember the first time I saw Hutson. He had a little-bitty ole pair of shoulder pads he bought in Woolworth's or maybe his wife made them.
[He was] the greatest receiver who ever lived.
This is the actual Don Hutson card that I got in a pack of cards (probably bought from Wolfe's Market) in 1955. I have the full set and it is in pristine condition. I don't think I really cared for it at that much when I was nine years old, but now I really like it. I have 51 autographs from players in this 100-card set.
Don Hutson seems to have appreciated my son William's sketch that he did of him as he personalized this 8x10 photo to him. William was about 12 years old when he did this sketch. Along with Slade Cutter, Hutson autographed this news article reporting the 1934 A.P. All-Americans. The 1942 Ciri cartoon is one of three cartoons signed by Hutson in my collection. The others are Jack Sords cartoons from 1942 and 1943.
See video clip of Don Hutson among several being named an All-American in 1934. See video clip of Hutson (#14) scoring a TD on a pass in a January 17, 1940, game against a chosen team of pros making up the Eastern All-Stars. See video clip of the famed passing/catching combination of Arnie Herber and Don Hutson. See documentary video program focusing on Hutson's unbreakable passing records. See documentary video program on the career of Hutson.
Fullback—(St. Mary's/Modesto JC/Arizona State) Calgary Stampeders (CFL) 1953, Pittsburgh Bucs 1954, San Francisco 49ers 1954-56, Detroit Lions 1957-59, Pittsburgh Steelers 1960-65, Houston Oilers 1966 [Pro Football Hall of Fame 1987]
I'll tell you 'bout a play we had when I was with the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was called "What's the matter" play. What happened was that a situation came up against those same damn Giants—Huff, Robustelli, Katcavage, Roosevelt Brown—and we had fifteen yards to go for a touchdown. Those cats were real poison when you got down close, so in the huddle I called the "What's the matter" play. What happens is this. I walk up behind the center but I keep my hands tucked in my crotch. I call out "Red!" which begins the signal count, but all of a sudden John Henry, the fullback, calls out of the backfield behind me, "Hey, wait a minute." So I stop the count and rear up and I turn toward him and I sing out, "What's the matter?" Across the line the Giants begin to relax and they think, "Oh man, what a bum team this is," and they stand up to enjoy the confusion, when suddenly, two beats after the word "matter" the ball is hiked right past my hip to John Henry and he takes off—I mean like he just tears! Sam Huff was laughing so hard he could hardly run after John Henry. He run like he was crazy drunk in some cabbage patch, just stumbling along holding his sides.
Bobby Layne, What a head-hunter he was. He hit [Charley] Trippi with a roundhouse right, his arm extended, and the plastic surgeons had to redo the whole of Trippi's face—jaw, nose . . . .You know, there's a fine line between being nasty and being dirty. I don't know whether Sprinkle was nasty or dirty, but John Henry was just plain dirty. There was a time in San Francisco when I caught a pass, and some defensive guy got me by the ankle and I was dragging against him. Out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of John Henry coming for me, getting set to clobber me with that roundhouse right, so I shifted the ball to under my left arm and as he came in I gave him a short pop with my right fist and down he went before he could get that punch of his uncorked. Really cold-cocked him. The referee said, "Okay, Hart, that'll cost you fifteen yards." I cried out, "But didn't you see what he was going to do to me?" "Sure," said the ref. "And I probably would have done the same thing you did. But you did the hitting, so it will cost you fifteen." I'm probably the only guy who ever carried the ball on a play and got penalized fifteen yards for unnecessary roughness.
. . . in '57 we were playing the Lions at Detroit in the fourth game of the year, and their big fullback, John Henry Johnson, took a cheap shot at Carl Taseff on an extra-point attempt. He hit him a shot in the nose and broke it, and Taseff didn't play for the rest of the '57 season. The next time we played the Lions, the following season, Johnson tried to do the same goddamn thing to Taseff. But this time he missed. I said to myself, yet again, "I'm going to get this sonofabitch sooner or later," because I really like Taseff . . . .I told Ray Krouse, a teammate on the Colts who had played two seasons with the Lions, "John Henry Johnson is a marked man." Krouse warned me that Johnson was a tough bastard. But it didn't matter. Honor was honor. Besides, I was no weeping willow, either. So a year after this, we're playing in Detroit, and Johnson brings a kickoff back and is run out of bounds right in front of our bench. I was wearing one of those football capes that obscured my numbers, but I knew if I punched the guy I'd get caught. So when our special teams ran him out of bounds, he was still traveling fairly fast, and I hit that black bastard so hard with my shoulder, smashing it right into his face, that I figured, "Uh oh, here's one I finally killed." I was wrong. He laid there for a while. But he got up. And when he got up, whoops, watch out. I got out of his way real quick. Krouse was right. John Henry Johnson was a tough alley fighter.
If I was going down a dark alley where hoodlums hang out late at night, I would rather have John Henry with me than anyone else on earth. He was just a helluva nice guy. But he hit like a tornado—all over you at once. And he was absolutely fearless.
John Henry was Pittsburgh's principal thug. He was a street-brawling SOB who used to drink shots with Bobby Layne. On kickoffs, John Henry had this quaint habit: he'd sneak up on people, break their jaws with his forearm. One kickoff, John Henry shattered the jaw of our backup fullback, Ed Modzelewski. John Henry broke two different bones, Ed was all fucked up. After the game, our team passed around a hat. Each man stuck $20 in the hat: whoever messed up John Henry would get the pot. Man, they never touched him. He'd dance and move and taunt. If John Henry somehow got cornered, he'd slub it out, or bite people. Though we never stopped trying, we never got John Henry. The ante kept growing.
Around 1959, when John Henry Johnson was with the Lions, I got blind-sided by him on a "dog." He was the "near" back. I came across and thought I had the ball carrier for an eight-yard loss. I didn't even see John Henry. He got me right on the jaw and knocked nine fillings out of my mouth. I got up with a handful of silver.
These 1958 and 1959 Topps cards are the actual cards I bought when I was a kid (probably from Wolfe's Market). They are in very good condition. Johnson signed this and another autograph for me in November 1989.
Offensive Guard/Tackle—(Maryland) Chicago Bears 1954-65, Washington Redskins 1966 [All-American 1953, Knute Rockne Award 1953, College Football Hall of Fame 2000; All Pro 1955-61, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1991]
Stan was one of the first weight lifters in the business, and he was kind of a unique attraction. He was so strong as a result. There used to be pictures of him in the newspapers doing push-ups with someone sitting on his shoulders.
I developed my own form of conditioning. I had been working on a carefully planned weight-lifting program since my high school days. No one was lifting weights with the Bears when I got there. It was not in vogue in the 1950s; in fact I was warned that I might be risking my career working with weights. They thought I’d become muscle-bound and lose my speed and agility. Actually, if I hadn’t started lifting weights early, I would never have become a pro football player.
These Topps cards of Stan Jones are the actual cards I bought when I was a kid (probably from Wolfe's Market). They are in very good condition, especially the '59 card which is Ex-Mt condition (almost still smell that sliver of insert gum).
I asked Stan if he would tell me who the toughest, most bruising guys he played with or against. This is what he wrote:
Defensive Back/Kicker—(Texas) New York Yankees 1949, New York Giants 1950-55; Coach—Dallas Cowboys 1960-89 [Pro Football Hall of Fame 1990]
He was a very methodical guy, and that's always been his great strength. He would also treat his players like professionals. His theory was don't expect me to pat you on the back and tell you what a great job you did. You're a pro, we expect you to do a good job, that's what we pay you for. Even today, if you watch him on the sidelines, when a guy scores a touchdown, or kicks a field goal, or makes a big play on defense, he never even looks at him coming off the field. Because of that, a lot of people think Tom Landry is unemotional, that he doesn't care about people. His own players have said that; Duane Thomas and that "plastic man" crap. That's because they don't know him. If they really did, they'd know he cares very deeply about his players—always has, always will.
Tom Landry is buried in Sparkman Hillcrest Memorial Park, Dallas, Texas.
See video clip of Tom Landry, whose demeanor doesn't convey humor, in some silly concocted segments about keeping order on the team. See video clip of Tom Landry in a sideline interview paying tribute to recently deceased coach George Allen in 1990; Earl Campbell is also interviewed at the beginning of the clip.
Defensive Back—(Scottsbluff Junior College) Los Angeles Rams 1952-53, Chicago Cardinals 1954-59, Detroit Lions 1960-65 [Little All-American 1947, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1974]
A receiver likes a certain pattern and after I watch for a while I'm able to decipher him, and I'm able to tell what he like to do. All of them, even the best men, have moves they prefer, an' while you wouldn't call it a habit, still you got a little percentage working for you. Now I go a little further. I think to myself, how would I play the play if I was the receiver. Now I'm working on him. I'm setting him up. He think he setting me up, but no, I'm setting him up. Now heah is how it work. I set the fellow up by baiting him just a li'l bit, giving him just a bit too much to the outside on the red coverage maybe, until this fellow goes back to his quarterback and he tells him in the huddle, "Lawd Almighty. I can beat Night Train to the outside, beat him like a drum," and he plead with the quarterback to throw him the ball out there, he practically get down on his knees asking for the ball. The quarterback may have been around a time, and maybe he smell a rat, especially when the talk is about Night Train's zone, but then he figure maybe there's no harm in trying a pass out there. So he says O.K. He calls the play. I watch my man as he lines up. He's trying to look the same as he always does, but he don't—there's something about him, something I can read, trotting out and standing there at the flanker, maybe by the way he curl his fingers, maybe a bit too casual, maybe something you can't even see, but just feel. Joe Schmidt calls the blue coverage, which is what I hope he does, and where before I don' move, I'm there, and that boy, who runs out there to make touchdown easy, why he's like to be in bad trouble. Maybe a Night Train interception. Let's say it is. So when he goes back to the bench, he's in worse trouble. That quarterback looks at him kinda hard, and he says to everybody, kind of scornful, "Well, thank you, gentl'm'n, but from heah on we stick to the game plan."
Dick Night Train Lane
This is the actual Dick Lane card that I got in a pack of cards (probably bought from Wolfe's Market) in 1956. How cool is that! How fortunate I am to still have all my old trading cards.
Watch a video clip documenting the career of Night Train Lane.
End—(Ohio State) Cleveland Browns 1946-56 [Pro Football Hall of Fame 1975]
Dante Lavelli thought he was wide open if he was an inch in front of his man . . . .A lot of today's receivers actually change their patterns and run something different than the play called in the huddle. A quarterback will throw the ball and miss a receiver by twenty yards . . . .We didn't have too much of that when I was playing, but Lavelli, who was one of my great receivers, would occasionally change one on me. Maybe he was supposed to go down to the corner, but it looked open at the post. He'd go there instead, and more than once we'd get a touchdown . . . .We had a lot of great receivers on the Browns but, when it came to great hands, there was nobody like "Old Spumoni." As a competitor, he had few peers.
Dante Lavelli is buried in St. Mary's Cemetery, Hudson, Ohio.
See video clip of Dante Lavelli (#86) in a December 26, 1955 game between the Cleveland Browns and Los Angeles Rams. The Browns won with a score of 38-14. See another video clip of Lavelli in the 1955 College All-Star Game. The Cleveland Browns lost to the All-Stars by a score of 30-27.
Fullback/Defensive Back/Quarterback—(Oregon/George Washington) New York Giants 1936-43 [#1 Rushing 1936, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1978]
Tuffy Leemans 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.
He is buried in Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Silver Spring, Maryland.
See video clip of Tuffy Leemans (#4) 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. Watch him make a run on the second play shown on the clip; it's a nice close-up view.
End—(Syracuse) Baltimore Colts 1963-71, San Diego Chargers 1972 [All Pro 1966-68, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1992]
John Mackey is a powerful tight end, a good runner, the best of any receiver, and a good blocker. He's about as hard a man as I ever had to tackle. It takes two or three men to stop him sometimes.
Mackey was a very serious competitor . . . .Mackey once explained to me how easy it was for him to get psyched up for a game: he just let himself get hungry. He ate a Saturday night meal, but skipped everything on Sunday and just sat around getting angrier as he got hungrier. He was an awfully good man to have on your side.
Shit, when I used to play against certain guys I knew were scared, first play I'd pop them upside their head. That was the end. I didn't have to worry about them the rest of the game.John Mackey
Watch a tremendous video clip of moments in Mackey's stellar career.
Owner/President—New York Giants 1965-2005 [Pro Football Hall of Fame 1997]
I'd go into the office to see Wellington Mara and before he even mentioned a [contract salary] figure he'd start telling me, "Geez, it's been a tough year. I just built a new house and I had a lot of unexpected expenses . . . ." By the time I left Mara's office I'd be feeling sorry for him. I'd sign for whatever figure he put in front of me. One year I decided to hold out. He called me up and asked me what I thought I was doing. He was very angry. I told him I thought I was entitled to more money and that I wasn't going to report until I got it. "Don't be silly," he told me, "just get the hell in here now." "Oh okay," I said, "if you put it that way." That was the way we negotiated in those days.
Watch a video clip of Mara's kindness in responding to letters from fans. I was one of his recipients in that regard. Watch a video clip of Mara telling his pro-life beliefs and a short documentary of his life.
Wellington Mara is buried in Gate of Heaven Cemetery, Hawthorne, New York.
Halfback—(San Francisco) Chicago Cardinals 1952,1954-58, Los Angeles Rams 1959-62, Detroit Lions 1963, Philadelphia Eagles 1964-66 [#1 Rushing NCAA 1951, #1 All-Purpose Running NCAA 1951, #1 Scoring NCAA 1951, All-American 1951, College Football Hall of Fame 1976, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1972; Olympic Games 1952: 400 meter—bronze medal, 1600 meter relay—silver medal]
I was All-Pro in 1952 on defense because Charlie Trippi was still playing. I didn't move to offense until he was done playing, but I didn't mind. I'd played it all my life. I loved it as much as offense. I got to hit instead of being hit. I had no idea the Cardinals were going to trade me, but I was very happy because the Cardinals weren't winning, There weren't a whole lot of fun moments with the Cardinals. We only won once in my six years with them [7-5 in 1956]. I was going back to California where I lived and I was going to a great Rams team. I was on a team that was just right for me.
Ollie was a superbly conditioned athlete who had won a bronze medal in the 400 meters at the Helsinki Olympics. At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, he was probably the fastest big man in the NFL. He was also a beautiful ball-carrier to watch. He was a smooth, long-striding runner who appeared to be uncomplicated—until he gave a little fake and turned on the afterburner, leaving a defensive player with his mouth open and his feet rooted to the ground. Ollie was the complete team player who played both offense and defense. He was also a quality human being.
He not only was big, he was fast. He'd be running fast, then just before being tackled, he'd run faster and score. He was amazing.
These Topps cards of Ollie Matson are the actual cards I bought when I was a kid (probably from Wolfe's Market). The 1957 and 1959 cards are in very good condition.
Ollie Matson autographed this pencil sketch that I drew of him in 1990. Click here to view a video clip highlighting Ollie Matson's career and life.
Halfback—(Duke) Chicago Bears 1940-41,1945-50, Jacksonville Naval Air Station Fliers 1942 [College Football Hall of Fame 1961, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1966]
I was late in signing with the Bears that first year, and they were already into training camp when I arrived. . . . I will never forget my first impression. I walked into camp—it was on a Sunday morning, and the Bears were having a scrimmage. The first thing I saw was Harry Clark catching a punt and running it back. Bill Osmanski came flying in and hit him and knocked Clark out cold. I said, Lord of mercy, what am I getting myself into? I made up my mind there and then that I would do everything in my power to run as fast as I could and be as elusive as I could.
This is one of two 1988 Swell cards autographed by George McAfee in my collection.
George McAfee autographed this 1941 Tom Paprocki cartoon.
Watch video clip of George McAfee (#22) making a defensive stop and some nifty running in a November 20, 1939, game between Duke and North Carolina. The Blue Devils won 13-3.
Linebacker—(Illinois) Green Bay Packers 1958-72 [All-Pro 1964,1966, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1978]
He was utterly ferocious . . . .The hardest I've ever been tackled (not hit, tackled) was by Ray Nitschke. I was with Pittsburgh at the time, and I didn't see him coming until the last instant. That brief flicker of an instant may have saved my life, allowing a precious microsecond to adjust to the impact . . . .it felt like he was tearing my head off. He hit me on the right side of my face and flattened me. It was the kind of hit that can break a man's back. I saw Nitschke as I was going down, and he had a wild look in his eyes. His mouth, incredibly, seemed to be foaming.
Ray Nitschke was cremated, but location of cremains is unknown.
See documentary video clip of Ray Nitschke with great action footage.
Defensive Tackle—(Minnesota) Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station 1943; San Francisco 49ers 1950-63 [All-American 1948-49, College Football Hall of Fame 1977, All-Pro 1952-54,1957,1959, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1969]
His hero was Bronko Nagurski, one of the game's all-time great fullbacks. Leo was an all-pro tackle but in his heart he always wished he had been another Nagurski.
Y. A. Tittle
This is the actual Leo Nomellini card that I got in a pack of cards (probably bought from Wolfe's Market) in 1956. How cool is that! How fortunate I am to still have all my old trading cards. Some people might devalue the card for being off center, but to me, this card is beyond price because I've had it for over fifty years.
Defensive Tackle—(Utah State) Los Angeles Rams 1962-76 [All-American 1961, Outland Trophy 1961, College Football Hall of Fame 1980, All-Pro 1966-70,1973, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1982]
A good defensive lineman has to be part charging buffalo and part ballet dancer. And he has to know when to be each.
I asked Olsen who was the roughest, most bruising player he played against. His respons: Jim Taylor of Green Bay.
My son, William, was about twelve years old in probably about 1990 when he drew this sketch of Merlin Olsen and sent it to him to be autographed.
This took some doing to gather all these autographs. Deacon Jones is one of the few autographs that I had to pay for and was the final signature for me on this photo. If I remember, Deacon may have charged me $5. As of this time (2010), Olsen and Lundy have passed away.
We took great pride in the fact that every year the Foursome was together we improved against the run. Everyone knew his role on that unit. A guy like Deacon, well, you just turned him loose. To ask him to play a reading defense would have been insane. Rosey, who played next to me, was perhaps the quickest off the ball, but if he saw that I was hung up, he'd just cover for me. Lamar, on the other side, was 6'7"; he could worry a quarterback, but he could also play traffic cop. It was very pretty, the way we worked together.
Tackle/Guard—(Ohio State) Baltimore Colts 1957-67 [All-American 1956, Outland Award 1956, College Football Hall of Fame 1974; All-Pro 1958-62,1964-65, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1973 ]
I was a helluva player. I not only beat most rushers I blocked, I annihilated them. I just beat the hell out of them. And I'm proud of it.
This is the actual Jim Parker card that I got in a pack of cards (probably bought from Wolfe's Market) in 1959. How cool is that! How fortunate I am to still have all my old trading cards.
Jim Parker is buried in King Memorial Park, Windsor Mill Manor, Maryland.
Halfback—(Jackson State) Chicago Bears 1975-87 [College Football Hall of Fame 1996; No. 1 Kickoff Returns 1975, No. 1 Rushing 1977, All Pro 1976-78,1980,1984-85, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1993]
When we were divisional rivals, I got to see Walter twice a year. I should say I got to watch Walter twice a year. For most of that period in the late 1970s, Payton was the Bears' only weapon, and he was still unstoppable. He was that rare player whose greatness was so obvious and so overwhelming that even if you were in a different uniform on the sidelines, you couldn't help cheering for him down deep inside. One time, Payton ran for 275 yards against us. He ran over every single guy in our defense at least once. Once in a while we gang-tackled him or drove him out of bounds, but that was about it. Before we watched the films the next day, I announced a "bounty." I said I hadn't seen the films yet, but I was going to pay a reward to anybody on the field who could actually claim that he had tackled Walter. I got these sullen looks from our defensive guys, but nobody could stand up and collect. Another extraordinary aspect of Walter was the way he got his yards. A lot of the great rushers, the guys with the big career numbers, were the fluid runners who just slipped by defenders like water running through their fingers . . . .But Payton was different. Usually he broke seven or eight tackles and got ten yards. He specialized in dirty yards. He was more of a Pete Rose than a Hank Aaron. In his career, Walter gained almost sixteen thousand "dirty" yards for a team that had more losing years than winning ones. It's a phenomenal statistic.
Walter Payton's cremated remains were given to family.
Fullback—(Compton J. C.) Alameda Naval Air Station 1947, San Francisco 49ers 1948-60,1963, Baltimore Colts 1961-62 [All-AAFC 1949, AAFC No. 1 Rushing 1949, No. 1 Rushing 1953-54, All Pro 1953-54, NFL Player of the Year 1954, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1969]
He was a top runner.
Y. A. Tittle
I'm telling you, when that guy gets a handoff, his slipstream darn near knocks you over. I've never seen anybody get such a fast start. He's strictly jet-propelled.
These Topps cards of Joe Perry are the actual cards I bought when I was a kid (probably from Wolfe's Market). The 1957, 1958, and 1959 cards are in excellent condition.
Pete "Big Dog" Pihos (1923-2011)
End—(Indiana) Philadelphia Eagles 1947-55; Coach—Tulane 1958-60 [All-American 1943,1945, College Football Hall of Fame 1966, #1 Receiving 1953-55, All-Pro 1948-49,1952-54, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1970]
Pete wasn't a great pattern runner, and he wasn't exceedingly fast. But there was no one who could beat him getting out in the open and grabbing a pass. This was due to his amazing strength, determination, and self-confidence. Nobody ever took the ball away from Pihos, although Pihos took the ball away from a lot of other people.
Norm Van Brocklin
The Philadelphia Eagles had Steve Van Buren running behind Pete Pihos. It was like a freight train coming at you, so [coach] Hunk Anderson moved me out from tackle and said, “Wherever Pihos goes, you go. If he takes a drink of water, you take a drink of water. If he goes to the bathroom, you go to the bathroom.” The first play, Van Buren goes 37 yards for a touchdown. The second play, we stop him and go on to win 38-21. That's how the three-linebacker set began.
He was a great receiver.Bosh Pritchard
He was buried in Bethel United Methodist Church Cemetery, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
Linebacker—(California) Los Angeles Rams 1954-62 [All-American 1950-51, College Football Hall of Fame 1982, All Pro 1956, Pro Football Hall of Fame 2011]
Les Richter and Don Paul were two men who could take more pain and punishment and still play, than any men I have ever known. They played with broken jaws, with a cheek smashed in. Broken bones just didn't seem to bother them at all. And they hit!
Sure I play rough. But that's what the Rams pay me for, and that's what the fans pay to see. If you don’t like to knock somebody down, you have no business in this game.
This is the actual 1956 Topps card that I bought in 1956. Still in pretty good condition.
Center—(Syracuse) Green Bay Packers 1953-63, Philadelphia Eagles 1964-67; Coach—Buffalo Bills 1976-77 [Pro Football Hall of Fame 1981]
The day Vince asked Ringo to come in and discuss his contract, Ringo showed up in Lombardi's office with another man. "Coach," Ringo said, "I'm not very good at negotiating for myself. This is my agent. He'll discuss my contract with you." Lombardi asked to be excused for a moment. He left his office, walked down the hall and came back in a few minutes. "I'm afraid you're negotiating with the wrong man," he told Ringo's agent. "Jim Ringo has been traded to the Philadelphia Eagles."
This is the actual Jim Ringo card that I got in a pack of cards (probably bought from Wolfe's Market) in 1958. How cool is that! How fortunate I am to still have all my old trading cards.
Jim Ringo is buried in Fairmount Cemetery, Phillipsburg, New Jersey.
Andy Robustelli (1925-2011)
Defensive End—(Arnold College) Los Angeles Rams 1951-55, New York Giants 1956-64 [Pro Football Hall of Fame 1971]
If we had a smart mouthed kid on the squad, Andy would take him alone in a corner and when they came back the kid would be shaking and he'd call everybody "sir" for the next year or so.
Watch Andy on the field and you'll be studying a real master. Terrific speed of mind, hands, and feet make him the best. But without burning desire, he would be just an average football player.
I thought I might be drafted by the Giants, who were the closest team, but they didn’t show much interest. The Pittsburgh Steelers seemed the most interested in me. But when it got down tot he nineteenth draft choice in 1951—in those years they had thirty picks, unlike the twelve of today—the Rams took me. They told me later that that far down in the draft they were merely looking for special features in a player. Well, I had blocked a lot of punts and, as they told me, they felt anyone who could block punts well was worth taking a look at. Basically I was drafted on that alone. . . . I signed with the Rams—no signing bonus, just a plane ticket to get out there. My first-year salary was $4,250, about $350 a game.
in 1956 we got Andy Robustelli, a wonderful defensive end. The thing about Andy was that he was such a smart player. . . . The nature of our defense demanded very disciplined football players. And the one who so often pulled them all together, kept them together, was Andy Robustelli. He was a natural team leader on the field. It was because he was so smart. He always took such good advantage of the keys we used.
Andy Robustelli was really the leader on the field for our defense. I used to have some fun with him. We called him “The Pope.” You’d put your arm around a girl, and he’d be over in a minute next to you, saying, “Quit that—get your hand off her.” Sometimes I’d kneel in front of him and ask if I could kiss his ring. I’d play some mind games with him too. One time we were having one helluva tussle out there and he came over to me and said something about you’re not covering right, you’re not doing this, you’re not doing that. I said, “Why don’t we just switch positions. I’ll play end, you come out here and see what you can do.” I’d do it just to get him going. Don’t get me wrong—I always thought the world of Andy. He was a great leader and a fine guy, and I’d do anything for him. But we liked to have a little fun too.
He had surprisingly deceptive strength and great hands and was always a guy who would come up with the big play for you. It would be third and seven and he'd be in the huddle saying, "Okay now, we gotta get 'em right here," and damned if he wouldn't bust in there and sack the quarterback or block a field goal and make a big play.
These Topps cards of Joe Perry are the actual cards I bought when I was a kid (probably from Wolfe's Market). The 1957 and 1959 cards are in excellent condition.He is buried in St. Johns Catholic Cemetery, Darien, Connecticut.
Commissioner—(San Francisco) National Football League 1960-89 [Pro Football Hall of Fame 1985]
Pete Rozelle and I were forwards on the same basketball team in Compton and he wrote for the newspaper, the Tartar Shield. My wife was with him the day he went ice skating and fell and lost his two front teeth.
He is interred in El Camino Memorial Park, San Diego, California.
See a video clip of Pete Roselle in 1967 discussing Cincinnati gaining a pro football franchise.
President—Dallas Cowboys 1960-89 [Pro Football Hall of Fame 1991]
Tex's volatile feelings often bubble, or even burst, through the surface. A lost football game sometimes hit him like the death of a friend. Big wins could prompt a volcanic eruption of exuberant cheer. He could often be a warm, gregarious, and compassionate gentleman. At other times he seemed to revel in red-faced shouting matches with anyone—friends as well as foes—who disagreed with him.
Tex Schramm is buried in Restland Memorial Park, Dallas, Texas.
Defensive End—(Oklahoma) Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1976-84 [College Football Hall of Fame 1988, No. 1 Draft Choice 1976, All Pro 1979-80,1982, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1995]
At halftime I told the coach my deepest secrets. I said I never wanted to be buried at sea, I never wanted to get hit in the mouth with a hockey puck, and I didn't want to go out and play that second half against Lee Roy Selmon.
I obtained this autograph in a trade.
See a televised news report paying tribute to Selmon upon his death.
Defensive Tackle—(Boston College) Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station 1943; Pittsburgh Steelers 1950-63 [Pro Football Hall of Fame 1969]
When I roomed with Ernie we had some great times. Wednesday night at midnight was when Ernie and me would stop partying. We were always ready for the game. I don't care what the gossips say. Of course, some games we were readier than others. I'll never forget Ernie the day the doctor got in late and was supposed to give him Novocain for his shoulder and he grabbed the wrong bottle and gave him enough Demerol to kill a horse. Ernie almost died. They took him to a hospital and he was in a coma for a while. I went to see him. Ernie talked like he was going to die. Finally, he said he needed a priest. The good man arrived and Ernie kinda croaked to him, "Father, forgive me for I have sinned. This is my confession. Father, there ain't much time so I'm just sort of gonna hit the high spots . . . ."
This is the actual 1956 Ernie Stautner card I bought (probably from Wolfe's Market) when I was a ten year old kid.
Watch a video clip of Stautner when he was coach of the Frankfurt Galaxy.
Ernie Stautner is buried in Sacred Heart Cemetery, Rowlett, Texas.
Tackle—(Pittsburgh, West Virginia) Chicago Bears 1936-42, 1945-46; Fleet City Naval Training Station 1944 [Pro Football Hall of Fame 1967]
Joe Stydahar played at 255, but he could have played at three hundred. He went to three hundred as soon as he quit playing and he wasn't fat at three hundred. Of course, in our time there wouldn't be but two or three in the whole nation that would weigh three hundred pounds.
I obtained this 3x5 autograph in a trade with a collector specializing in 1940-41 Bears football autographs in November 2010. I traded a Joe Maniaci 3x5 for it.
Quarterback—(Louisville) Bloomsfield Rams (Steel Valley Conference) 1956, Baltimore Colts 1956-72, San Diego Chargers 1973 [Pro Football Hall of Fame 1979]
I had spent years reading quarterbacks, but I couldn’t read Unitas. He was the consummate poker player, using his eyes as diversions instead of windows into his thoughts. He’d hunch behind the center, his eyes moving but never resting on any particular spot. Then he’d take the ball and start stepping back with that patented shoulder swing copied by every teenage quarterback in America, his head steady on its base, the eyes seeming to see all and nothing at the same time. Then, as if in response to some inner rhythm, he would launch the ball toward its target. If it wasn’t caught, it usually wasn’t his fault. Number 19 was very good.
These are the actual John Unitas cards I bought (probably from Wolfe's Market) in 1958 and 1959 when I was twelve and thirteen years old.
I received this autograph from Unitas in November 1988.
John Unitas is buried in Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens, Timonium, Maryland.
See video clip of John Unitas in a short interview in 1966. Watch a video clip of Unitas loosening up throwing a football at the 1961 Pro Bowl. See a video program featuring the unbeatable passing combination of John Unitas and Raymond Berry.
Guard—(Texas A & I) Oakland Raiders 1967-81; Executive Director—NFL Players Association 1983-2008 [Pro Football Hall of Fame 1987]
The Raiders' Gene Upshaw was huge—six-foot-five and 265 pounds—and he was as nasty as they come. The thing I liked best about Gene was that he shared my protect-the-quarterback-at-all-costs philosophy. Ken Stabler loved him for it, of course, because it was Snake's ass he was so bent on protecting. During one game between Oakland and Cleveland, Joe "Turkey" Jones, the Browns' homicidal defensive end, blind-sided Stabler long after he released a pass. Upshaw plotted his revenge in the huddle, and on the very next play, Jones wound up on his knees. Gene then gave him a taste of his own cheap-shot medicine and the "Turkey" was cooked, leaving the field on a cart and never returning the rest of the day.
Watch a video clip tribute to Gene Upshaw.
Coach—(San Jose State) San Francisco 49ers 1979-89 [Pro Football Hall of Fame 1993]
I never gave anything short of 1,000 percent for Bill, and I never received a compliment from him, never a touch of humanity . . . .I respect Bill as a coach, but as a person on and off the field, he confuses me . . . .Bill is a complex fellow, but one thing that has remained a consistent part of his personality is his sharp sense of humor. When he's on and in a good mood, he always leaves us laughing.
Bill Walsh was cremated and his ashes scattered in Monterrey, California.
See video interview with Bill Walsh.
Defensive Tackle—(Washington) New York Yankees 1948, Brooklyn-New York Yankees 1949, New York Giants 1950-53, British Columbia Lions (CFL) 1954-55 [Pro Football Hall of Fame 1984]
When the Giants selected me, they sent me a letter that said something to the effect that they were happy to have me and that they were proud to offer me a contract. Only thing was, the contract offered $6,400 for the year. The year before, with the Yankees, I’d made $10,000. So I wrote back and I told them that I wasn’t interested because I wouldn’t play for any less than I had the year before. The banter went back and forth over phone calls for some time. I had gone back to Seattle, and the Giants were in training camp. By this time I’d gone to work for the Aetna Life Insurance Company. They called again and said they really wanted me to come back and talk contract. I said I would if they provided me a first-class, round-trip airline ticket. They did. The Giants were in training up at Saranac Lake, New York. So I went up there. It was around lunchtime when I arrived, and they suggested I go have lunch with the players and that we would get together afterwards. So I set my bag in the hall of the lodge there . . . and had lunch. A couple of former teammates with the Yankees, Tom Landry and Otto Schnellbacher, were sitting with me, and they were telling me that they were badly in need of tackles. That reinforced my resolve for the upcoming meeting. I met with Wellington Mara and the coach, who was Steve Owen at the time—the only coach they’d had over the previous twenty years. I told them that under no circumstances would I play for any less than $10,000 the first year, $11,000 the second, and a two-year, no-cut contract. A no-cut contract in those days was unheard of. They said they simply weren’t going to do that. I said, “Well, that’s fine. I haven’t even unpacked my bag, and so I’ll be on my way.” And I got up. They said, reluctantly, “Okay, we’ll write up the contract.”
Halfback—(Colorado) Pittsburgh Pirates 1938, Detroit Lions 1940-41 [#1 Rushing NCAA 1937, #1 All-Purpose Running NCAA 1937, #1 Total Offense NCAA 1937, #1 Scoring NCAA 1937, All-American 1937, College Football Hall of Fame 1954]
In 1938 I did something I thought would bring a little class to the game. I signed Whizzer White out of Colorado University for a salary of $15,800, which was easily the highest salary pro football was paying. White was very hard to sign . . . .Anyhow, the fifteen [thousand dollars] got pro football a lot of publicity, and of course White was an asset to the game, an extremely high-class fellow . . . .Everybody on the team respected White highly. If he had been bigheaded, he could have got himself in a lot of trouble, but he fit in right. He was a fine back, and he was right with the boys. So we didn't mind paying him the highest salary in football.
This is the actual Whizzer White card I bought in 1955 when I was nine years old.
Byron White autographed this 1936 Bishop cartoon. I also have a signed 1937 Art Krenz cartoon.
He is buried in St. Johns Episcopal Cathedral, Denver, Colorado.