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Classic Team Logo of The Day

03 Oct

fortvalleystwildcats

Logo of a small college football team that plays in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, the Fort Valley State University Wildcats. The school joined the conference in 1941, and Wildcat alumni who have gone on to play pro football include Greg Lloyd, Eddie Anderson, Rayfield Wright, Nick Harper and Tyrone Poole.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

03 Oct

66toppshadl

1966 Topps football card of former pro football quarterback John Hadl, who enjoyed a 16 year career in the AFL and NFL with 4 different teams, most notably the San Diego Chargers. He guided one of the AFL’s most prolific offenses with the Chargers, and was a 4 time AFL All Star. He led the league in passing yards and touchdowns in 1968. After retiring as a player he coached in various positions in both college and pro football, and is currently the associate athletic director at his alma mater, the University of Kansas.

 

NFL 100 – Chuck Noll

02 Oct

The subject of today’s NFL 100 feature is a man who almost singlehandedly turned around the fortunes of a struggling franchise, the Pittsburgh Steelers. That man was Chuck Noll, a no-nonsense, unassuming coach who disdained the spotlight. For that reason, he often gets overlooked in many discussions of greatest coaches of all time, but he certainly belongs there. Noll is considered a branch of the coaching “tree” of two of pro football’s most innovative minds – Paul Brown and Sid Gillman. He was an undersized offensive lineman while playing for Brown’s Cleveland Browns’ teams in the 1950s, and was used by Brown as a “messenger guard” to bring in plays from the coach to his quarterback, one of the legendary coach’s many innovations. Brown once said that Noll was a such a smart player that he could’ve just let him decide what play to send in rather than giving it to him. Brown’s “coaching tree” includes some all-time greats, namely Noll, Don Shula, Lou Saban, Weeb Ewbank and later in Cincinnati, Bill Walsh. Noll’s playing career lasted 7 years, all with the Browns, and included 2 championship seasons. He decided to retire at age 27 to hopefully begin a coaching career at his alma mater, the University of Dayton. To his surprise, Dayton didn’t offer him a job but the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers of the new American Football League, Gillman, asked him to join his staff as an assistant. That staff included 3 future Pro Football Hall of Famers in Gillman, Noll and Al Davis.

 

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1960 Chargers’ coaching staff – Gillman kneeling, Joe Madro, Chuck Noll, Al Davis, Jack Faulkner

Noll worked on the Chargers’ staff for 6 seasons, a stint that included 5 championship game appearances, before moving on to Baltimore to become the Colts’ chief defensive coach (they didn’t designate them as “coordinators” back then), under Don Shula. His star began rising quickly at that point and within 3 years he got the head coaching job with the Steelers in 1969. The franchise was one of the worst in the NFL at the time, and would be moving over to the American Conference in 1970 when the merger of the two leagues became final. He didn’t find instant success there, either, as his first 3 seasons ended with losing records, including a one-win season in his first at the helm. The club showed gradual improvement and Noll and the front office used that time to load the team up with future stars. They added Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris and in the 1974 draft they plucked 4 future Hall of Famers in Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Jack Lambert and Mike Webster. The franchise eventually turned the corner and became the dominant force of the league in the 1970s, winning an unprecedented 4 Super Bowls. Their “Steel Curtain” defense regularly shut down opponents and not only did they rule the decade, they never looked back to their losing ways in their early years. Noll coached from ’69 until he retired in 1991 but he set a standard for consistency and winning in the Steel City that still exists today. They’ve only had 2 more coaches since Noll – Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin, each of whom has also won a Super Bowl. The shy, unassuming coach, who passed away in 2014, should be remembered as one of the greats of the game in its’ first 100 years.

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Steeler legend Chuck Noll

 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

02 Oct

dayton14

Logo of the University of Dayton Flyers, a college football team that plays in the Pioneer Football League. The school’s program began in 1905 and they have won 12 conference titles and 2 Division III national championships. Notable Flyer alumni who have had careers in pro football include Jim Katcavage, Bob DeMarco, Bill Lange, Emil Karras, Fred Dugan and a pair of NFL coaching legends, Chuck Noll and Jon Gruden.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

02 Oct

84toppslambert

1984 Topps football card of former linebacker Jack Lambert, a ferocious member for 11 seasons of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ “Steel Curtain” defense. He was known for his physical style of play and once said that quarterbacks “should wear dresses”. His resume is long and full of honors – 9-time Pro Bowler, 4-time Super Bowl champion, NFL Defensive Rookie of The Year (1974), NFL Defensive Player of The Year (1976), and member of the NFL’s All Decade Teams for both the 1970s and 1980s. Lambert had a toothless snarl that gave his rugged image a boost, but the missing teeth were actually a result of taking an elbow in a high school basketball game. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990.

 

NFL – Throwback Thursday: Like Kissing Your Sister

26 Sep

It’s week 4 of the NFL season and two NFC East rivals, the New York Giants and Washington Redskins, face each other in a battle of teams struggling to establish themselves. We’ll feature a game between these 2 franchises that goes back to October 16, 1960 for this week’s Throwback Thursday post. There’s no historical significance to the game and it didn’t even produce a solid result. It ended in a 24-24 tie, which in this 100th NFL season reminds us of why the league eventually added overtime to decide deadlocked games in 1974. “A tie is like kissing your sister!” That statement has been used regularly to describe how a game that ends in a draw makes you feel. It was first credited to Navy coach Eddie Erdelatz after his team played a scoreless tie against Duke in 1953. In the NFL, the record for most tie games in a single season is held by the 1932 Chicago Bears, who tied 6 times, including 3 in a row, en route to a 7-1-6 season. Lots of sister kissing there, but the Bears wound up winning the league championship that season also.

Anyway, back to the featured throwback game for the week. It was played at Yankee Stadium and the Giants were unbeaten headed into the Eastern Division clash. The Giants looked like they would cruise to the victory for the first three quarters as all of their offense was provided by players who would go on to become football broadcasters after their playing days were over. Frank Gifford, who anchored Monday Night Football for many years, scored a pair of rushing touchdowns. Kyle Rote, who later teamed with Curt Gowdy on AFL broadcasts and coined the term “you can’t stop (insert great player’s name) you can only hope to contain him”, grabbed a 6 yard TD pass from George Shaw. Pat Summerall, who went on to become one of pro football’s most loved play-by-play men teaming with Tom Brookshier and later John Madden, kicked a 48 yard field goal and added the extra points on the touchdowns as the Giants built a 24-10 lead going into the final quarter.

 

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Frank Gifford rushes vs. Redskins

The Redskins hung in there and rallied in the final stanza behind some guys who were not, like the Giants’ stars, household names. Their only first half score was a short TD run by fullback Don Bosseler, and in the fourth they got scores from Johnny Olszewski, affectionately known as “Johnny O” and who wore the number “0” on his jersey, on a short run, and a 21 yard pass from Ralph Guglielmi to Jim Podoley. Neither team had a memorable season that year. The Giants, who had appeared in the previous 2 NFL Championship games, fell to third in the Eastern Division while the Redskins, the last totally segregated NFL team at the time, won only one game.

 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

26 Sep

brownbears9702

Logo of a college football team that plays in the Ivy League conference, the Brown University Bears. They are one of the oldest college programs in existence, having first played in 1878. The Bears have won 4 Ivy League titles over the years, and some of their alumni who have gone on to play pro football include Zac DeOssie, Steve Jordan, Don Colo, James Develin and Fritz Pollard.

 

Classic Sports Card of The Day

26 Sep

55bowmanguglielmi

1955 Bowman football card of former pro football quarterback Ralph Guglielmi, who played for 7 years in the NFL for 4 different teams. His longest stay was four seasons with the Washington Redskins. Although he was a college All American at Notre Dame and is in the College Football Hall of Fame, he didn’t have much of an NFL career, totaling 24 touchdown passes and 52 interceptions. Guglielmi passed away in 2017 at the age of 83.

 

NFL 100 – Giants of The 1960s

25 Sep

The title of this NFL 100 post is a little puzzling at first glance I suppose. Is it about men who played for the New York Giants? Or perhaps players who rose to greatness above all others in the 1960s? No, although one of them did play for the Giants for awhile, and they did all rise above their competition, but in a physical way. Today we’re featuring players who for the times were large physical specimens, intimidating figures when they lined up on the line of scrimmage on Sunday afternoons. Just like today, the star players – the quarterbacks, running backs and receivers – were celebrated in the 1960s, the era that I followed growing up that made me fall in love with the game. But there also was a lot of love and attention shown to the giant, mean snarling defensive players. When I say giant, I mean physically imposing size-wise. There were players like Dick Butkus, Sam Huff and Ray Nitschke who terrorized opposing QBs and runners from their linebacker positions, but I want to remember the guys who earned reputations as being fierce competitors and were held in high regard who were also massive human beings. I’ll start with Roger Brown, who was pro football’s first 300 pound player when he joined the Detroit Lions in 1960. A defensive tackle, he combined with Alex Karras on the interior of the Lions’ line to wreak havoc on opponents. In a Thanksgiving Day game in 1962 that became known as the “Thanksgiving Day Massacre”, he sacked Green Bay’s Bart Starr 7 times, including once for a safety, as the Lions handed the Packers their only loss of the season. He was traded to the Los Angeles Rams in 1967 where he joined their already famous “Fearsome Foursome” defensive line, replacing Rosey Grier. Grier himself deserves mention here also. He was a ferocious competitor on the field for the Rams and before that with the New York Giants. His personality off the field belied his reputation on it. He was an actor, did needlepoint as a hobby and was an ordained Protestant minister. He was serving as Robert Kennedy’s bodyguard the night he was assassinated. Grier actually tackled and captured the assassin.

 

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Rosey Grier shows off a needlepoint self-portrait

Speaking of the Fearsome Foursome, the next player I’d like to feature is another member of that group, David “Deacon” Jones. He was a player who opposing quarterbacks genuinely feared. He gained the nickname “Secretary of Defense” and regularly spoke of wanting to kill quarterbacks. He coined the term “sack” in an interview at the time, saying “You take the quarterback and all the offensive linemen and you put them in a burlap sack and you take a baseball bat and beat that sack. That’s what you’re doing, you sack the quarterback.” He was also credited with inventing the head slap, a maneuver he used to push aside offensive linemen which is now illegal.

 

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Deacon Jones terrorizes Johnny Unitas

The next player we want to recognize is a tragic figure who played most of his career in the wild and wooly days of the 1950s, but who I remember from the early ’60s. He is Gene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb, who was a towering 6’9″ 290 pound defensive lineman that helped anchor the line for back-to-back Baltimore Colts’ championship teams in 1958 and ’59. He was so massive that he would overwhelm much smaller offensive linemen of the day and break up plays in the backfield before they could get started. He was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1961 and enjoyed the same success there. He was named MVP of the 1962 Pro Bowl, but unfortunately it would turn out to be his final game as he died of a heroin overdose in May of 1963.

bigdaddy

“Big Daddy” Lipscomb towers over his opponents

Like many players of his era, Lipscomb had to work during the off-season at another job to supplement his football income. In his case, the other job was pro wrestling. A couple of other giants of that era did the same thing. One is Ernie Ladd, a 6’9″ 315 pound specimen known as “Big Cat”. Boston Patriots’ center Jon Morris, who had the unenviable task of trying to block Ladd in the 1963 AFL Championship game, described being consumed by the “Big Cat” : “I couldn’t see the linebackers, I couldn’t see the goalposts. It was like being locked in a dark closet.” The Chargers won that game, by the way, 51-10. To his credit, Ladd was one of the players instrumental in protesting racism at the 1965 AFL All Star game in New Orleans. The players staged a walkout and forced the game to be moved to Houston. Ladd’s wrestling career was both long and lucrative. He started doing it in the off-season in 1961, and over the years became a fan favorite and then transitioned into a villain, riling up the crowds with colorful insults aimed at his opponents. Ladd was successful enough at wrestling that he is actually in the WWE Hall of Fame.

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Ernie “Big Cat” Ladd, on the sideline and in the ring

One of the wrestlers that Ladd insulted during his “villain” days was another of our featured giants, Wahoo McDaniel, a Native American who Ladd called the “Drunken Indian”. McDaniel doesn’t belong on this list for his size, he was “only” 5’11” and 250 pounds, but he parlayed his mostly mediocre playing ability into becoming a fan favorite nonetheless. He played in the upstart AFL, where they were always looking for ways to keep the fans engaged. As a gimmick, when he made a tackle the PA announcer would say “tackle made by…guess who?” and the crowd would respond “WAHOO!!” The AFL even gave him permission to wear WAHOO as his name on the back of his jersey. He wrestled for many years and one of his famous matches was with Rick Flair that became known as the “table leg” fight. The two grapplers broke a table at ringside and Flair picked up one of the legs and hit Wahoo over the head, not realizing there was a nail sticking out of it. McDaniel was seriously injured but eventually recovered and continued wrestling long after his football days were over.

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Wahoo McDaniel, the “Drunken Indian”

 

The last two of the 1960s giants we feature are certainly not the least. They are Doug Atkins and Ben Davidson. Similar in stature, with Atkins at 6’8″ and 260 pounds and Davidson at 6’8″ and 275 pounds, they were both meaner than badgers when it came to their play on the field. Atkins was a member of the Chicago Bears’ “Monsters of The Midway” defense for 12 years, including championship teams in 1954 and 1963, and may have been the most imposing monster on that unit. One story about Atkins that highlights the difference between the 1960s era and today’s game: in the Pro Bowl once, Atkins burst through the line and put such a hard hit on Cleveland quarterback Frank Ryan that it essentially ended Ryan’s career. In the PRO BOWL! His explanation for the hit? He felt Ryan had embarrassed him and his team in a game years prior to then. Davidson also had a reputation for rough play that sometimes crossed the line. He once speared Chiefs’ QB Len Dawson while he laid on the sideline after running for a first down. Chiefs’ receiver Otis Taylor, a much smaller player, attacked Big Ben for the move, and a bench-clearing brawl ensued. Their reputations didn’t hurt either of them, as both are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame for their stellar play between the lines.

 

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Ben Davidson rocks Joe Namath’s world

 

 

Classic Team Logo of The Day

25 Sep

MESHawks

Logo of a defunct college football program, the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks. The historically black college had a storied program but the school discontinued football in 1980. From 1946 until 1970, the school’s gridiron team won 76% of their games so the disbanding of the program was a huge loss to the university and its’ alumni. Former Hawks who went on to distinguish themselves in pro football include Art Shell, Emerson Boozer, Roger Brown, Jim Duncan, Charlie Stukes, Sherman Plunkett, Johnny Sample, Carl Hairston, Gerald Irons and Mack Alston.