NFL 100 – Walter Payton

10 Dec

Our subject for today’s NFL 100 feature was known as “Sweetness”. He is the late, great Chicago Bears running back, Walter Payton. He came out of Jackson State as a high first round draft pick and was an immediate success, being named to the Pro Bowl in his second season in 1976, and then winning Pro Bowl MVP. He followed that up by winning the NFL Most Valuable Player Award in 1977. In a memorable game that year he rushed for 275 yards against the Minnesota Vikings, despite having a 101 degree fever and the flu, breaking O.J. Simpson’s previous mark of 273 yards. Payton’s individual rushing success didn’t translate into wins for the Bears until they hired the fiery Mike Ditka as head coach in 1982. Payton continued to thrive under Ditka, and the Bears began to win consistently. “Sweetness” broke the career rushing record of 12,312 yards by Jim Brown in 1984. Emmitt Smith eventually took over the top career rushing yards spot, but Payton is firmly entrenched at #2. The Bears reached the top of the mountain in 1985 when they won the Super Bowl in convincing fashion, 46-10, over the New England Patriots. Ditka has said that one of his biggest regrets was that he didn’t allow Payton to score a touchdown in that game. (William “The Refrigerator” Perry DID score a TD).



“Sweetness” soars over the pile for a touchdown

Ditka has been quoted as saying that Payton was not only the greatest player he ever coached, but also the greatest human being. His abilities on the field were unmatched. Not only was he one of the greatest runners of all time but also excelled as a receiver and blocker. He threw for 8 career touchdowns on halfback option passes. He was an all around football player. His list of accolades is long: Super Bowl winner, nine-time Pro Bowler, NFL MVP and Man of The Year, member of the NFL’s All Decade Teams for both the 1970s and 1980s, and named to the NFL’s 75th and 100th Anniversary teams. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. Unfortunately, Payton became gravely ill, suffering from a rare liver disease, and died at the young age of 45 in 1999. He spent the last months of his life advocating for organ donation. His family has kept his memory alive through a charitable foundation that supports causes such as Christmas toy donations to underprivileged children , organ donation and fighting cancer. He is also remembered in the football world with 2 awards named for him. The NCAA gives the “Walter Payton Award” to the best offensive player in Division I-FCS and the NFL hands out the “Walter Payton Man of The Year Award”, honoring a player each year for his play and community service. That award is considered the most prestigious honor a player can receive among the players themselves.


The Walter Payton Man of The Year Award


Classic Team Logo of The Day

10 Dec


Logo of a college football team that plays in the Mountain West Conference, the New Mexico Lobos. Founded in 1892, the school has won 4 conference titles and appeared in 13 bowl games. Lobo alumni who have played professionally include Ben Agajanian, Paul Smith, David Sloan, Don Perkins, Glover Quin, Robin Cole, Preston Dennard, Andy Frederick, Terance Mathis, Don Woods and Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher.


Classic Sports Card of The Day

10 Dec


1984 Topps football card of former NFL fullback Matt Suhey, who played 10 seasons in the league for the Chicago Bears. His main role was to serve as a blocking back for Walter Payton during his career. They became close friends, and Suhey has been the executor of Payton’s estate since his death. He was a key member of the Bears’ 1985 Super Bowl-winning team.


NFL 100 – Paul Brown

09 Dec

He is the architect of the modern game of pro football, a true innovator who introduced many things into the game that are commonplace today. Our NFL 100 honored man today is Paul Brown, founder and head coach of the Cleveland Browns franchise in the All America Conference in the 1940s. His Cleveland teams won the AAFC Championship in all 4 seasons of the league’s existence, and when that league folded and they merged with the NFL, they proceeded to upset the Los Angeles Rams to capture the established league’s title. Brown’s innovations were both plentiful and ahead of their time. He invented the draw play, introduced classroom training and film study, and was the first to hire a full staff of assistant coaches. Also, he invented the first face mask, the practice squad, was instrumental in breaking football’s color barrier and was the first to call plays from the sideline to his quarterback through the use of “messenger guards”. He was also a tremendous innovator when it came to a franchise being organized and professional. He developed pass patterns that were designed to take advantage of weaknesses in a defense, held strictly timed practice sessions that included on-field practice and classroom study. He is credited with being the first coach to create the “passer’s pocket”, where the offensive line was strategically positioned to give the quarterback more time to find open receivers. He put together an organized system within the administration for scouting college talent, emphasizing the need to find intelligent players who could absorb his play book.



Paul Brown, classroom instructor

Brown’s organized ways would eventually lead to his undoing in Cleveland. He was not only organized but very strict and rigid in dealing with players. He was terse, would humiliate players in film sessions when they made mistakes, didn’t allow drinking or smoking and had a rule that prohibited players from having sex after Tuesday each week during the season. He was a miser when it came to negotiating contracts, and even refused to cede any authority to team owner Art Modell. By 1962 both Modell and the players had become disenchanted with Brown’s refusal to change with the times, and following the 1962 season Modell fired him and elevated Blanton Collier to the head coaching position. Collier wound up winning an NFL title in 1964, so Brown’s removal was vindicated. He missed being out of the game, however, so when the opportunity to build another team from scratch became available when the AFL decided to put an expansion franchise in Cincinnati, Brown became its’ founder. His stubborn ways still came out, though. He originally didn’t want to be involved in the Bengals’ franchise because they were to be part of the AFL, what he considered an inferior product. The merger with the 2 leagues meant that eventually the Cincinnati team would be in the newly structured NFL, so Brown came on board. It’s pretty much accepted that Brown chose almost exactly the same color orange as the Browns’ color for the Bengals as a tweak towards Modell. In the early years after the merger, when the two franchises became division rivals, it was hard to discern which team was which when they played each other. The innovations continued in Cincinnati. When star quarterback Greg Cook was injured, the Bengals turned to their backup, Virgil Carter, to lead the team. Carter’s arm strength was limited, so Brown and assistant coach Bill Walsh developed a short passing attack that would become the “West Coast” offense Walsh would use to great success years later with the San Francisco 49ers. Brown retired from coaching in 1975 but remained the Bengals’ team president, a role his son Mike took over, and still holds, upon Brown’s death in 1991. The legendary coach and innovator was honored with an induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967.


Paul Brown and protégé Bill Walsh


Classic Team Logo of The Day

09 Dec


An early logo of a professional football team that plays in the NFL, the Cincinnati Bengals. Founded by Paul Brown as an AFL franchise in 1968, they spent 2 seasons in the Western Division of that league until the league merged with the NFL in 1970. Brown coached the team for it’s first 8 seasons, and they were a highly successful expansion franchise, forging a winning record by their third year, with a roster of young talent that included 1968 AFL Rookie of The Year Paul Robinson, Bob Trumpy, Essex Johnson, Bob Johnson, Greg Cook, Lemar Parrish and Bill Bergey.


Classic Sports Card of The Day

09 Dec


1951 Bowman football card of former pro football fullback and linebacker Marion Motley, who played in the old All America Conference and the National Football League for 9 seasons, all but one with the Cleveland Browns. Along with Bill Willis, he became one of the first African American players to break the color line in pro football when he signed with the AAFC Browns. He was a major part of a Browns’ team that won the AAFC championship all 4 years of the league’s existence, and which also won the NFL title in 1950 when they were absorbed into that league. Motley was named to the All Decade team for the 1940s, the NFL 75th Anniversary team and it’s 100th Anniversary team. He became the  second black player to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he was enshrined in 1968.


NFL – Throwback Thursday: Santonio Holmes’ Shining Moment

05 Dec

This week’s Throwback Thursday feature will harken back to one of the most exciting Super Bowl games ever played. With the Pittsburgh Steelers taking on the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, we’ll go back to February 1, 2009 when these two franchises met in the Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa. The coaching matchup was between the Steelers’ Mike Tomlin and the Cards’ Ken Whisenhunt, who had been Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator. Like many other championship games, this contest started out as a feeling out process between teams relatively unfamiliar with each other, and the only scoring in the opening quarter was a short Jeff Reed field goal for the Steelers, who then expanded their lead to 10-0 early in the next stanza on a 1 yard run by Gary Russell. Arizona QB Kurt Warner kept his team close by leading a drive that cut the lead to 10-7 when he hit Ben Patrick from a yard out for a score. Warner, who had been a Cinderella story years earlier when he led the St. Louis Rams to an improbable championship, was in the process of driving his club to a go-ahead score when a game-changing play happened on the last play of the half. Steeler linebacker James Harrison intercepted a Warner pass at the goal line and returned it 100 yards to paydirt to give his team a 17-7 lead and serious momentum.

Reed kicked another field goal for the only scoring of the third quarter and at 20-7 it appeared that the Steelers were well on their way to their sixth Super Bowl victory. It didn’t turn out to be easy, however, as a couple of future Hall of Famers teamed up to make it a game. Warner finished another drive with a one yard TD toss to Larry Fitzgerald. Then, after the Steelers were called for holding in the end zone, resulting in a safety to cut Pittsburgh’s lead to 20-16, Warner and Fitzgerald went to work once more. The Cardinal signal caller found his favorite target on a pass over the middle, and Fitzgerald split the Steeler secondary and raced to a spectacular 64 yard touchdown to put his team ahead 23-20. With only a little over 2 minutes left to play, the Steelers found themselves behind for the first time in the game, needing a final drive to at least tie the contest and send it into overtime. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who had been basically a game manager in his team’s Super Bowl win in his rookie year, now had to be the main man to snatch victory back from the jaws of defeat. While Roethlisberger and his coaches plotted out a path to the end zone, another Steeler, wide receiver Santonio Holmes, was urging on his offensive teammates on the sideline and boldly stating that these were the moments when players truly proved their greatness. Roethlisberger did his job, marching the team downfield. Rather than go for the tie, Big Ben tossed a pass to the back corner of the end zone where Holmes extended his arms and did an amazing toe tap to stay in bounds, catching the winning touchdown throw of 6 yards to give Pittsburgh a 27-23 win. Holmes, who would struggle in his career with the Steelers and later the New York Jets and never match his feats achieved in this game, was named the game’s MVP. He had totaled 131 yards on 9 catches and scored the winning touchdown. It was another bittersweet loss for Warner, who had also lost as a Ram to New England on a late field goal years earlier. One of the highlights of this particular Super Bowl was the halftime show, put on by Bruce Springsteen and The E-Street Band. They performed “Working On A Dream” and “Glory Days”, which may have summed up the NFL career of one Santonio Holmes.



Santonio Holmes (10) toe-taps the Steelers to a Super Bowl win




Classic Team Logo of The Day

05 Dec


Logo of a small college football team that plays in the Missouri Valley Conference, the Northern Iowa Panthers. The school first fielded a team in 1895 and has won 33 conference titles. Notable former Panthers who have gone on to play pro football include Hall of Famer Kurt Warner, Mike Furrey, James Jones, Austin Howard, Brad Meester, Steve Wright, Dedric Ward, Bryce Paup and Chad Rinehart.


Classic Sports Card of The Day

05 Dec


1999 Donruss football card of former pro quarterback Kurt Warner, who played 12 seasons in the NFL for 3 different teams. He was a Cinderella story in that he became the St. Louis Rams’ starting QB in 1999 due to injury, then led his team to a Super Bowl victory and was the game’s MVP. He got the Rams to another Super Bowl and later in his career directed the Arizona Cardinals to the big game also. Warner was a four-time Pro Bowler, a two-time NFL MVP and won the Walter Payton Man of The Year Award in 2008. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017 and currently works as a studio analyst for the NFL Network.


NFL 100 – Charley Trippi

03 Dec

His name isn’t well known among younger fans of pro football, but the subject of our NFL 100 post today is one of the greats of all time. Playing in an era when rosters were small and there wasn’t the specialization that there is today, Trippi was more than the usual “triple threat” type of player common at the time. He was a “quintuple threat” who could run, pass, catch, punt and play defense. Drafted by the old Chicago Cardinals in 1945 as a “future” pick, Trippi joined the team in 1947, spurning offers from the All America Conference’s New York Yankees and professional baseball to sign with the Cards. He was an immediate success, leading the Cardinals to the 1947 NFL championship. He played mostly as a running back but over his career also played quarterback, defensive back, punter and kick returner. Trippi had been a star in college at Georgia, but like many men at the time his football playing was interrupted by service in the military. Chicago had drafted him with the agreement that he would finish his college career before joining the pros. When he finally joined the team, he completed their “Dream Backfield” along with Paul Christman, Pat Harder and Marshall Goldberg, with Elmer Angsman joining at a later date. The Cardinals won the Western Division title in ’47 and defeated Philadelphia in the championship game with Trippi making the biggest contribution. Wearing basketball shoes on an icy field, he totaled 206 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns on a 44 yard run and a 75 yard punt return.



Charley Trippi racks up yardage

His playing career lasted 9 years. After playing left halfback for his first 4 seasons he moved to quarterback in 1951, then moved back to halfback and later to defensive back, basically doing whatever his team needed him to do. His final season was in 1955, and it wasn’t a pleasant one. In the preseason he was injured while being tackled and suffered a smashed nose, concussion and a protruding bone behind his eye that gave him double vision. He played only 5 games that season and it was the least productive year of his career. His overall play ranked among the best of his generation however, as he was twice named All Pro, twice played in the Pro Bowl, was named to the NFL’s All Decade team for the 1940s and won championships in both college and the NFL. The Cardinal franchise is one the league’s originals, and even being in existence for all 100 years, Trippi is arguably the greatest player in team history. He also served the franchise as an assistant coach from 1957 until 1965, when they were in St. Louis. He was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968, and at 97 is the oldest living member of the Hall, and also the oldest living former number one overall draft choice.


Trippi, 97, the oldest living Hall of Fame member