An Appreciation: Bart Starr Part 1

(Painting by Robert Hurst)

Before I had the privilege of meeting Bart Starr, I repeatedly heard the same things from his teammates and others who had met him. “Oh, he’s the nicest guy you’ll ever meet.” “Bart’s the perfect man.” “Salt of the earth.”

Bart’s one of those rare people that all those good things you hear about him beforehand turn out to be true. I first met him at a Tri-Star autograph show in Houston, hoping to interview him for The Game before the Money. He didn’t have time that day to interview, but gave me a number to reach him at later. He did, however, have time to chat with everyone who wanted to meet him. He granted everyone who wanted to meet him a good amount of time, and was kind and respectful to all. He and I had a pleasant conversation about Wisconsin, the people and the weather there.

I could do a post on how great a quarterback Bart was, the record number of NFL championships, and the rest of his football accolades, and I will in a future post. Today, however, I think it’s important to appreciate Bart Starr the man. The day I met him in Houston I keep thinking, “You know what? He is the nicest guy.

Nice doesn’t always have the best reputation for a compliment, especially in football. More to the point, Bart’s respectful and considerate to all. So much so that you realize it immediately upon meeting him. Like the Dalia Lama of sports, he is present with every person he interacts with.

When Bart survived two strokes and a heart attack recently (how’s that for toughness?), the comments beneath the news articles often noted instances of Bart’s kindness, something he had done for a child or a neighbor. Indeed, he raffled off the Corvette he won as MVP of Super Bowl 1 to raise funds towards establishing a ranch for at-risk youth.

People talk a lot about character and leadership these days. The epitome of such things is Bart Starr. In an age where it’s easy to spot a football star or other celebrity getting in trouble and setting a bad example, Starr continues to be the man he always was and always will be. He looks for ways to assist, ways to lead, ways to give. He’s the classic example of prioritizing what you contribute over the recognition you receive for those contributions.

There’s a reason why Brett Favre postponed his number retirement ceremony in Green Bay so that Bart could attend. When you think about it, that’s pretty incredible. Here’s a man, one of the greatest quarterbacks and largest personalities of his generation, shelving his own party until the man he respects most can attend. That’s respect, and an excellent example how when a man like Starr is so respectful of others, the amount of reverence he himself garners is immense.

Read the stories of 40 NFL legends including Bart Starr in The Game before the Money.

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A Brief History of… Goal Posts

We see them every game, cast in their photogenic stance. Fans love to tear them down. But what is the story behind those fabled goal posts? The information’s pretty tough to find, but I’ll put as much of it together here as I can.

EARLY YEARS

In football’s earliest days – and we’re talking Pudge Heffelfinger, pre-1900 days – a field goal was actually more valuable than a touchdown. Under those rules, Stephen Gostkowski’s field goals would notch 5 points, Marshawn Lynch’s TDs only 4. Soon both plays were worth 5 points, and gradually moved to modern-day scoring by 1912.

In the NFL’s earliest days — days before the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles existed — the league followed the NCAA rule book. Goal posts were on the goal line. When the NCAA moved them to the end zone’s backline in 1927, the NFL followed suit. In 1933, however, the NFL adopted its own rule book and placed the goal posts back on the goal line. NFL goal posts stayed there until 1974, when they were moved to the back of the end zone.

Not much happened in terms of design and placement for about 30 years. Perhaps the 30-year gap in development is why goal post history isn’t well documented. The goal posts were basically white, “H” style goal posts made of wood or metal.

MAKING HISTORY

The goal posts made NFL history at least a couple of times in those years. Goal posts determined the outcome of the 1945 NFL Championship Game, but not in the manner of a missed field goal. The game featured perennial contender Washington against the surprising Cleveland Rams. The Rams hosted the affair, played in sub-zero temperatures (-8 degrees). The quarterback matchup featured the great Sammy Baugh against a breakout rookie, Bob Waterfield.

Baugh threw from his own end zone early in the game. He had a wide-open receiver to his left, and that receiver had a blocker in front of him. Cleveland’s defense featured a 12th man, however. The goal posts knocked down Baugh’s pass. By 1945 rules, that counted a safety for the Rams.

Baugh suffered an injury after completing only 1 of 6 passes. Frank Filchock took over for the Redskins and threw a 38-yard touchdown pass early in the 2nd quarter to put Washington ahead 7-2. Waterfield countered with a 37-yard strike to give Cleveland a 9-7 halftime lead, the goal post’s safety being the difference.

Each team scored a TD in the second half, the Rams extra point failing in the frozen conditions. The Rams won by a 15-14 tally. The number of writers who voted the goal posts MVP is lost to history.

  Sammy Baugh’s “Safety” Valve is at the 14 second mark

The goal posts also factored in the result of the 1965 Western Division Playoff between the Colts and Packers at Lambeau Field. Vince Lombardi signed kicker Don Chandler away from the Giants, ensuring better accuracy than Paul Hornung and Jerry Kramer had provided. Lombardi may have smiled as Chandler lined up to take a last-second attempt to tie the score against the Colts.

The kick went well over the 10-foot upright. NFL rules to this day state that if the ball goes OVER the upright, it’s still good. The refs called the kick good, much to the dismay of the Colts. Chandler’s kick looked quite ugly, and had the goal posts been at the back of the end zone like today, the kick would have been at least 6-feet wide. The posts sat on the goal line in those days, and it’s impossible to tell from the film whether the ball crossed over the upright. The Colts were sure it didn’t. The Packers sided with the refs, who always have the final say. The game became the second-ever playoff to go into overtime (after the 1958 NFL Championship), and the Packers prevailed.

Packers - Packers - Bart Starr holds for Don Chandler in the Green Bay Packers vs. Baltimore Colts football game in 1965. Negative # 653794 PUBLISHED: 12-27-1965, Milwaukee Journal

Bart Starr holds for Don Chandler in the Green Bay Packers vs. Baltimore Colts football game in 1965. Negative # 653794 PUBLISHED: 12-27-1965, Milwaukee Journal

The disputed field goal caused enough controversy that the NFL extended the uprights to 20 feet starting in 1966, and offset them from the goal line a bit. The extention wasn’t much different than what the league did a couple years ago after a disputed Justin Tucker field goal topped the Patriots, and the league extended the uprights to 35 feet.

JOEL ROTTMAN’S CLAIM TO FAME

Ever broken the middle prongs out of a plastic fork? Joel Rottman did one day over lunch, and visualized a concept for goal post improvement.

Added inspiration came while Rottman drove along the highway and noticed curved street lamps. He designed the now famous “sling-shot” look with a curved base. Rottman, a Florida resident, sold the University of Miami on the idea. The goal posts debuted at the Orange Bowl in September, 1966.

Jim Trimble, a former Eagles coach who moved to the Canadian Football League, bought into the idea as a partner. He connected Rottman with NFL Commisioner Pete Rozelle. Rottman later told the story to the Sun Sentinel: “”There was a fellow in the lobby with these orange pylons, but Rozelle wanted to see the goal-post guy first,” Rottman laughed. “He said, ‘Oh, God, we’ve had a committee working on this thing for three years and want to put it back from the goal line to the end line. You show me a picture with 20-foot uprights instead of 10 and I’ll give you a list of all the owner’s names.’ ”

The goal posts made their NFL debut in 1967, with all teams bought in. Super Bowl 3 was the first Super Bowl to sport the new posts. Rottman sold his idea to the Rose Bowl for the 1971 Grandaddy of them All, but with one stipulation.

The Rose Bowl didn’t want to spend $1,775 on goal posts only to see them tore down at the end of the game. Rottman guaranteed his goal posts would endure. When jubilant fans spilled onto the field after Jim Plunkett led Stanford to a 27-17 victory over Ohio State, they were in for a big surprise.

Rottman coated the goal posts with STP motor oil. Not even the brilliant Stanford kids could figure out ways to topple the slippery goal posts.

SINCE THEN

In 1974, the NFL moved the goal posts from their offset position to the back of the end zone. Although player safety was a concern, much of it was to discourage long-range field goals. In 2015, the league experimented by narrowing the goal posts for the Pro Bowl. No word on whether the narrower goal posts will become standard.

EXTRA POINTS — FURTHER READING

1967 Canadian newspaper article on Trimble and Rottman

Rottman’s patent application for goal post padding

 

FOOTBALL HISTORY THROUGH THE EYES OF 40 NFL LEGENDS — THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY: VOICES OF THE MEN WHO BUILT THE NFL 

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Thinking Out Loud: Ken Stabler and the Pro Football Hall of Fame

My first NFL memories involve Ken Stabler. My dad sat me down in front of the television during Super Bowl 11 and explained the meaning of the NFL’s biggest day while Stabler led the Raiders to ultimate victory. The Holy Roller play remains a cherished memory, and one of the first epic plays I witnessed live on television.

Stabler helped characterize the 1970s NFL. His bearded face symbolizes Raider football. The Hall of Fame has yet to induct “The Snake,” a position defended by Sports Illustrated writer and Hall of Fame voter Peter King.

Many fans, however, disagree. Count me in that group. King argues that statistics and career consistency don’t land in Stabler’s favor. I get that, and statistics play a huge part. Being great for 5 years is much different than being great for 10 or 15.

Yet we call it the “Hall of Fame.” The moniker implies the word “famous,” and nobody can deny #12’s fame throughout his career. Similar to the old E.F. Hutton commercials, when Stabler played, people watched. His exciting play energized fans of rival teams. He stood both a beloved favorite and a “love to hate” guy. Fan favorite isn’t a tallied in box scores, but in my humble opinion that should count for something on Hall of Fame ballots.

When I think of the top quarterbacks of the 1970s, three instantly come to mind: Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach, and Ken Stabler. After a few seconds Fran Tarkenton and Bob Griese pop in, but Stabler comes beforehand. Not saying that he’s better than Tarkenton and Griese, but he’s certainly in that class. All those other quarterbacks made the Hall.

StablerPaper

He doesn’t fit in with Jim Hart, Joe Ferguson, Ken Anderson, Steve Bartkowski, Billy Kilmer, Ron Jaworski, and Steve Grogan, guys who had long careers but clearly aren’t Hall of Famers. Like Stabler, those quarterbacks were the faces of their teams. Stabler, however, was one of the most recognizable figures in the entire league.

For that, he’s clearly Hall of Fame material.

There was only one Ken  Stabler.

There was only one Ken Stabler.

 

READ THE STORIES OF 40 NFL LEGENDS IN THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY: VOICES OF THE MEN WHO BUILT THE NFL:

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Letters To A 1950s NFL Prospect

Before the NFL Combine and NFL scouting departments, teams sent questionnaires to prospects to gather information before the draft. This continued at least through the late 1960s. 

 

In the summer of 1982, I attended a Milwaukee Brewers game against the Baltimore Orioles with my Little League teammate Chuck Hable and his dad. Three things stick out about that day: 1) Ben Oglivie hit a late double, spurring the Brewers to a 9-7 victory. 2) Retroactive research shows Cal Ripken was less than two weeks into his consecutive games streak. 3) Chuck brought along his dad’s binoculars. The case bore an emblem that said, “Rose Bowl Particpant.”

Chuck’s father, Burton Hable, played safety for the University of Wisconsin. His senior season, 1952, marked the Badgers first Rose Bowl appearance. Hable tied for the Big 10 lead in interceptions, making three in the regular season finale against Minnesota.

Several NFL teams sent Hable inquiries. I’ve always wanted to see a questionnaire after Bob Skoronski and Rocky Bleier both discussed them in The Game before the Money. Teams created their own forms, and it’s interesting to note the differences. All asked about potential military obligations.

CHICAGO CARDINALS
The Chicago Cardinals were only a few years removed from back-to-back championship game appearances when they contacted Hable. They sent a formal letter, requesting Hable’s marital status in the postscript. The letter addressed the popular notion that pro football was a step down from college by stating, “Professional football is a very fine game and the spirit on our Cardinal club is as good as there is on any college in the country.”

Chicago Cardinals letter

CLEVELAND BROWNS
The Cleveland Browns were among the league’s elite in the 1950s. Coach Paul Brown and quarterback Otto Graham led them to several championship games, three against the Detroit Lions. The Browns sent prospects like Hable postcard and a note from assistant coach Weeb Ewbank. The card, pre-addressed and stamped, asked if the player’s speed was “Fast, Average, or Slow,” and requested a 100-yard dash time. The Browns also put prospects to work as team scouts, asking for the names of outstanding teammates and opponents. We don’t see that on the other questionnaires we have here. Perhaps that was one factor in the Browns acquiring great talent in those days.

Cleveland postcard 1

Cleveland postcard 2

 

GREEN BAY PACKERS
The Packers letter came directly from their head coach, Gene Ronzani. Note the color of the letterhead. The team colors are still the blue and gold Curly Lambeau chose when he founded the team, copying the colors Lambeau wore for Knute Rockne at Notre Dame. (Vince Lombardi would later change the colors to the current green and yellow.) Ronzani spends an entire paragraph explaining the Packers policy to not recruit players with college eligibility remaining. Perhaps this dates back to the days when Lambeau faced stern penalties for using college players illegally, nearly causing him to lose the team. The Packers left space for player comments, and what a treat it would be to read what Bart Starr, Forrest Gregg or Jim Taylor might have written on theirs.

Green Bay Packers letterPackers questionnaire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WASHINGTON REDSKINS
Washington apparently used lower quality typewriter ribbons than other teams, as this form is quite faded. Whereas the Cardinals claim to have followed Hable closely, the Redskins simply say, “You have been recommended as a prospective professional football player,” and employ a cold “Dear Sir” salutation. The letter came from Herman Ball, a former Washington head coach turned head scout. The form seems to have little to do with football, asking more about marital and military status. The club only asks for age, size, and position played as relevant athletic information. One can conclude that the questionnaires provided much more pertinent information to the winning Cleveland franchise than the perennial lackluster Washington squad. This perhaps led to better drafts for the Browns.

Redskins letter

HABLE BECAME A HALL OF FAME HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL COACH

Today’s NFL prospects envision huge dollar signs while the NFL draft approaches. Things were much different in The Game before the Money era. Prospects factored in many life circumstances when deciding on pursuing a pro football career.

Hable, like many college standouts, spurned pro football for a variety of reasons. He and his wife were expecting their first child, and Hable sought more than the unpredictable employment the NFL offered. The wages required getting a second job in the off-season, and traveling to road games would take time away from his family. Like many, he held the college game in higher stature than the pro game. Badger home games regularly attracted 50,000 fans to Camp Randall Stadium. Conversely, the Packers only drew about 20,000 to their games to City Stadium, and dressed in a high school locker room.

Hable didn’t respond to the NFL teams’ letters, and accepted a history teaching job at Madison West High School. Head football coach Fred Jacoby asked Hable to be an assistant during the first year of what would be a 40-year teaching career. Jacoby soon left for the college ranks, and later served as commissioner of the Southwest Conference. Hable assumed the head coaching duties at Madison West.

Hable commanded the team for 35 years, coaching many players to Division I scholarships and the National Football League. Stu Voigt, Jim Bakken, Tim Van Galder, and Tim Stracka all played high school ball for him. Hable also coached hockey in the 60s and 70s. His players included Olympic superstar Eric Heiden and best-selling author David Maraniss (When Pride Still Mattered). The Wisconsin Football Coaches Association inducted Coach Hable into their Hall of Fame in 1996.

SUMMARY
Hable was eligible for the 1953 NFL Draft. Four of his teammates were picked: guard Bob Kennedy by the Packers; tackle Charley Berndt by the Cardinals; halfback Harland Carl by the Bears; and guard Dave Suminski by Washington. Only Carl and Suminski saw regular season NFL action. Hable’s teammate Alan Ameche, a sophomore during the Rose Bowl season, proved to have the most successful NFL career. He scored the famous game-winning touchdown in the 1958 NFL Championship for the Baltimore Colts.

Hall of Famers drafted in the 1953 NFL Draft include Doug Atkins (1st rd, Cle), running back John Henry Johnson (2nd rd, Pitt), tackle Bob St. Clair (3rd rd, SF), two-way lineman Stan Jones (5th rd, Bears), center Jim Ringo (7th rd, GB), linebacker Joe Schmidt (7th rd, Det), and tackle Rosey Brown (27th rd, Giants).

San Francisco drafted Georgia receiver Harry Babcock with the first-overall pick. Injuries unfortunately truncated his career. Wally Butts, Georgia’s legendary football coach, called him both the best receiver and best blocker he ever coached. The Steelers drafted Babcock in the 21st round of the 1952 draft, accidentally wasting the pick on the ineligible junior.

Special thanks to Coach Hable’s son Chuck for sharing these letters.

 

BadgerTeamPhotoThe 1952 Rose Bowl Bound Badgers. Burton Hable is #21, seated 3rd row, 4th from left.

Color footage of the 1953 Rose Bowl between Wisconsin and USC.

Read stories from NFL legends in The Game before the Money: Voices of the Men Who Built the NFL.

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Remembering Chuck Bednarik

Chuck Bednarik is recognized as the last full-time 2 way player in the NFL. He excelled at both center and linebacker.He made a championship saving tackle of fellow Hall of Famer Jim Taylor at the end of the 1960 NFL Championship.

Sonny Jurgensen and Al Wistert both fondly remembered Bednarik in The Game before the Money.  Jurgensen said Chuck gave him a valuable piece of advice as a rookie. Bednarik told Jurgensen to put his helmet on running to the locker room after Jurgensen quarterbacked the Eagles to a home victory in his first home start. The Philly fans started throwing full cans of beer at the players. “What happens if I lose a game?” Sonny joked.

Many others fondly remember Bednarik in this excellent video we found on YouTube. They include Hall of Famers Sam Huff, Bobby Mitchell, and Tommy McDonald.

 

 

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This Might Surprise You — The NFL’s Coaching Elite (Pt 1)

In “QB Reality – Why Most Teams Stand No Chance,” I pointed out that a small number of quarterbacks own the majority of championship rings. Today I’ll tell you about an even grander elite class – the championship coaches club.

Of the first 30 Super Bowls, only 4 winning coaches won only one Super Bowl. Free Agency seemingly levels that statistic out at first glance — with the next 19 Super Bowls handing the Lombardi award to 11 one-time winners. Dig deeper, however, and you’ll find that very few coaches even make the Big Game, let alone win it.  A total of 49 coaches have coached in the 49 Super Bowls, averaging one compounded appearance per game.

The vast majority of coaches who make a championship game make multiple appearances, or they played for or worked under one of those frequenting Super Bowl Sunday. When I say vast majority, I mean just about every single head coach. The trend dates back to when the Detroit Lions were the Portsmouth Spartans. Sounds crazy? We’ll take a quick look in this post before fully submerging next week.

PotsyClark

Potsy Clark coached the Portsmouth Spartans in the first NFL Championship Game.

Vince Lombardi’s name symbolizes championship football. He won 5 championships in 7 years with the Green Bay Packers, leading them to 6 championship games in 8 years. Lombardi didn’t just pop out of nowhere to land the Packers in championship games. Lombardi previously served as an assistant on the New York Giants, who won the NFL Championship in 1956, and made the NFL Championship Game in 1958.

VinceandJerryII_crop_exact

Lombardi on top of the world with Jerry Kramer and Forrest Gregg.

The Giants head coach was Jim Lee Howell, who won the NFL championship as a player in 1938 under the great Steve Owen. Owen’s Giants earned 7 NFL Championship Game appearances, Howell’s 3. Owen’s playing career also included a title with the 1927 Giants. Tracing Lombardi’s championship bloodlines date back to the league’s first decade. Tom Landry’s do likewise,  serving with Lombardi on the same Giants coaching staff.

LandryGiants

Lombardi and Landry with the Giants.

Steve_Owen_(American_football)

Steve Owen with Frank Filchock.

Turns out that nearly every single coach to win an NFL title – or even finish second – meets at least one of three criteria. The phenomenon dates back to the 1920s. In our next post we’ll point out the criteria, go over NFL champions by decade, and demonstrate the resilient stranglehold a superior set of coaches have on NFL title games.

nfl_a_brown_300

Paul Brown.

 

NollTrophy

Chuck Noll.

 

Don-Shula

Don Shula.

READ THE INSIDE STORIES OF SUPER BOWLS AND NFL CHAMPIONSHIPS FROM THE MEN WHO PLAYED THE GAME.

THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY: VOICES OF THE MEN WHO BUILT THE NFL

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A Brief History of — The NFL Draft

Enormous media coverage surrounds today’s NFL draft. It wasn’t always that way. Bob Griese told us he didn’t know the draft had taken place – even though he was the fourth-overall pick. Players from The Game before the Money era often learned their pro football destinations through newspapers, college coaches, and friends. It apparently wasn’t until the 1970s that teams called players during the draft.

YEARS BEFORE THE DRAFT

Chaos often surrounded acquiring talent before the draft existed. Don Hutson signed with both the Green Bay Packers and the NFL’s Brooklyn Dodgers after his college career at Alabama ended. NFL President Joe Carr awarded Hutson to the Packers since the Packers mailed their contract just a few minutes before the Dodgers. Hutson helped lead the Packers to 3 NFL titles and still holds NFL receiving records 8 decades later.

6979-Don_Hutson

Don Hutson.

The Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL’s Brooklyn Dodgers both highly desired Minnesota All-American Stan Kostka in 1935. Kostka deftly fueled a bidding war, signing a sparkling $5,000 contract with Brooklyn. Philadelphia owner Bert Bell didn’t like being outbid, and scoffed at a rookie’s salary rivaling superstar Bronko Nagurski’s. Bell proposed a player draft to keep rookie salaries down, and to give lower-tier teams a better chance at top-tier talent.

Bell’s draft proposal passed, and the NFL held its first draft in 1936. The Eagles selected Heisman winner Jay Berwanger, who opted for a higher salary in foam-rubber sales. The Boston (now Washington) Redskins selected Riley Smith.

The draft succeeded in keeping salaries down. Smith signed for $250/game, far below Kostka’s deal. The draft, however, failed to balance out talent. The Packers, Giants, and Bears won 7 out of the last 9 championships before the draft, and also won 7 out of the first 9 championships after the draft’s initiation. Curly Lambeau apparently scouted players at bowl games, as Nolan Luhn and Bob Kahler told us he approached them after the Orange Bowl and the Rose Bowl, respectively. Other teams didn’t scout as well, some drafting ineligible players who were still in college.

The first NFL draft netted 4 Hall of Famers – Wayne Millner, Tuffy Leemans, Dan Fortmann, and Joe Stydahar. Brooklyn selected coaching icon Paul “Bear” Bryant in the fourth round.

NFL DRAFTS AFRICAN AMERICAN ATHLETES

Pro football integrated in 1946, with Kenny Washington and Woody Strode playing for the Los Angeles Rams, and Hall of Famers Bill Willis and Marion Motley suiting up for the Cleveland Browns of the AAFC. They all, however, signed as undrafted free agents. The Chicago Bears made George Taliaferro the first African American to be drafted in 1949. “I thought it was the most incredible thing that could happen,” Taliaferro said when interviewing for The Game before the Money.

George_Taliaferro

George Taliaferro.

Taliaferro signed with the AAFC’s Los Angeles Dons before the NFL draft, however, and honored that contract. He earned AAFC Rookie of the Year honors. The NFL later held a dispersal draft of AAFC players after the AAFC’s demise, and Taliaferro was the second-overall pick. The Lions snatched future Hall of Famer Lou Creekmur in the dispersal draft.

 

THE BONUS PICK

The NFL instituted the “Bonus Pick” in 1947. Paul Hornung explains in The Game before the Money: “First pick of the draft in those days was a bonus pick. Each team put their name in a hat, and you drew them out. Four­teen teams; here comes the bonus pick. After that the draft starts in predetermined order: 1, 2, 3, 4. Next year, the thir­teen remaining teams were eligible for the bonus pick.”

paul-hornungND

“The Golden Boy” at Notre Dame.

Congress investigated the NFL, among other pro sports leagues, for antitrust violations in the 1950s. Congress declared the “Bonus Pick” too close to a lottery and suggested the NFL halt the practice. The NFL did so after the 1958 draft, conveniently after each team had selected one “Bonus Pick.”

The Congressional pressure demonstrates societal changes. What was unacceptable in 1958 is now celebrated as part of today’s NBA draft. Teams covet “Lottery Picks” and sports fans eagerly watch the “NBA Draft Lottery.”

AMERICAN FOOTBALL LEAGUE EFFECTS

The American Football League held their first draft in 1960. Some players were drafted by both leagues, and the two leagues warred over players.

Teams used scouts as “babysitters” to protect their draft interests. The babysitters would travel to a prospective draft pick’s college, wine and dine them, and do their best to keep the athlete from signing with the rival league. Walt Garrison said a Rams scout took him and his friends out to dinner, bought him a pair of boots, and then stayed in a hotel room with him during the NFL draft. The scout left the instant the Cowboys beat the Rams in drafting Garrison.

Tony Lorick signed with the Baltimore Colts, although the Colts hesitated in drafting him. The Colts heard a rumor that Lorick had already signed with the Oakland Raiders as their first-round pick. Unsurprisingly, Raiders owner Al Davis proved to be the source of the rumor.

Davis wouldn’t lose out on Fred Biletnikoff the next year, however. He signed Biletnikoff on the field at the Gator Bowl, national television cameras all around. Fred’s Florida State team had just defeated Oklahoma. It wasn’t the first time Davis signed a Hall of Famer on the field. He signed Arkansas standout Lance Alworth to a contract beneath the goal posts following the 1962 Sugar Bowl.

FredGatorBowl

Biletnikoff flying high in the Gator Bowl.

The shenanigans surrounding Chiefs legend Otis Taylor depict the lengths babysitters would go to protect draft interests. A group of NFL scouts took Taylor and several other draft prospects to a motel in Richardson, Texas, checked in under assumed names, and hoped to keep the draft picks there to keep them from signing with the AFL. A Chiefs scout close to the Taylor family learned Taylor’s whereabouts, and tried to sneak into the hotel as a journalist, using a camera as part of his disguise. An NFL scout recognized the Chiefs scout, and subsequently called police reporting the Chiefs scout as a suspicious person. Despite threats from the police, the Chiefs scout snuck Taylor out of the NFL scouts’ motel at 3:30 in the morning, promising a new Ford Thunderbird.

The battles changed the course of destiny for teams. Imagine Taylor playing alongside Hall of Famer Tommy McDonald, catching passes from Eagles quarterback Sonny Jurgensen. Picture Hall of Famer Ron Mix next to Jim Parker on the Baltimore Colts offensive line. The Bills won back-to-back AFL titles after losing Hall of Famers Carl Eller and Paul Warfield to the NFL. Would the championship run have lasted longer and into the Super Bowl era?

The two drafts provided leverage to rookies drafted in both leagues. Some players, like Joe Namath, Donny Anderson, and Jim Grabowski, negotiated huge contracts. Namath famously collected over $400,000, Anderson scored $600,000.

Namath

Namath and the Bear.

Not all players based decisions on money. Garrison said he wanted to stay close to his Texas roots, and preferred the Dallas Cowboys to the Kansas City Chiefs. Eller enjoyed Minnesota, and was happy to sign with the Vikings rather than create a bidding war between Minnesota and Buffalo.

The two leagues merged in 1966. Grappling over draft picks stood as a large contributing cause.

SUMMARY

The draft now gets dissected and diced in ways Bert Bell would have never imagined. The NFL Combine tests prospects where a mere index card asking for player stats in the 50s and 60s served the same purpose. Bob Griese learned the Dolphins drafted him when an assistant coach off-handedly mentioned it while crossing paths in the hallway. Now players sit by the phone with their agents and friends, watching the draft unfold on ESPN.

Some teams built their dynasties and legends around drafts. The Steelers 1974 draft produced Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Jack Lambert and center Mike Webster – all Hall of Famers. The Packers scored Forrest Gregg, Bart Starr and Bob Skoronski in 1956, then Jim Taylor, Ray Nitschke, and Jerry Kramer in 1958. The Bears netted Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus with back-to-back first round picks in 1965. Dallas selected Roger Staubach, Bob Hayes, and Mel Renfro in 1964.

RogerStaubach

Staubach quarterbacking the Navy Midshipmen.

Drafts remembered for being especially rich include the 1983 draft. Known for producing legendary quarterbacks John Elway, Dan Marino, and Jim Kelly in the first round, Hall of Famers Bruce Matthews, Darrell Green, Eric Dickerson and Richard Dent also entered the league. The 1957 draft launched 9 Hall of Famers, including 4  of the first 8 picks. The 1964 draft contained a record 10 Hall of Famers. Many declare the 1989 draft the best modern draft. Four of the first five picks – Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas, and Deion Sanders – all found their way to Canton.

 

READ THE NFL DRAFT STORIES OF NFL LEGENDS IN THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY

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List of Super Bowl Winners and Super Bowl MVPs

Just to make it easy for you to locate, here is a list of Super Bowl winners and MVPs.

Super Bowl                                                                               MVP

1. Green Bay Packers 35, Kansas City Chiefs 10                Bart Starr

2. Green Bay Packers 33, Oakland Raiders 14                   Bart Starr

3. New York Jets 16, Baltimore Colts 7                                 Joe Namath

4. Kansas City Chiefs 23, Minnesota Vikings 7                    Len Dawson

5. Baltimore Colts 16, Dallas Cowboys 13                           Chuck Howley

6. Dallas Cowboys 24, Miami Dolphins 3                             Roger Staubach

7. Miami Dolphins 14, Washington Redskins 7                   Jake Scott

8. Miami Dolphins 24, Minnesota Vikings 7                         Larry Csonka

9. Pittsburgh Steelers 16, Minnesota Vikings 6                   Franco Harris

10. Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Dallas Cowboys 17                   Lynn Swann

11. Oakland Raiders 32, Minnesota Vikings 14                   Fred Biletnikoff

12. Dallas Cowboys 27, Denver Broncos 10                         Harvey Martin & Randy White

13. Pittsburgh Steelers 35, Dallas Cowboys 31                    Terry Bradshaw

14. Pittsburgh Steelers 31, Los Angeles Rams 19                 Terry Bradshaw

15. Oakland Raiders 27, Philadelpia Eagles 10                      Jim Plunkett

16. San Francisco 49ers 26, Cincinnati Bengals 21               Joe Montana

17. Washington Redskins 27, Miami Dolphins 17                John Riggins

18. Los Angeles Raiders 38, Washington Redskins 9          Marcus Allen

19. San Francisco 49ers 38, Miami Dolphins 16                   Joe Montana

20. Chicago Bears 46, New England Patriots 10                  Richard Dent

21. New York Giants 39, Denver Broncos 20                        Phil Simms

22. Washington Redskins 42, Denver Broncos 10                Doug Williams

23. San Francisco 49ers 20, Cincinnati Bengals 16               Jerry Rice

24. San Francisco 49ers 55, Denver Broncos 10                   Joe Montana

25. New York Giants 20, Buffalo Bills 19                                Ottis Anderson

26. Washington Redskins 37, Buffalo Bills 24                        Mark Rypien

27. Dallas Cowboys 52, Buffalo Bills 10                                   Troy Aikman

28. Dallas Cowboys 30, Buffalo Bills 13                                   Emmitt Smith

29. San Francisco 49ers 49, San Diego Chargers 26              Steve Young

30. Dallas Cowboys 27, Pittsburgh Steelers 17                       Larry Brown

31. Green Bay Packers 35, New England Patriots 21            Desmond Howard

32. Denver Broncos 31, Green Bay Packers 24                      Terrell Davis

33. Denver Broncos 34, Atlanta Falcons 19                             John Elway

34. St. Louis Rams 23, Tennessee Titans 16                           Kurt Warner

35. Baltimore Ravens 34, New York Giants 7                         Ray Lewis

36. New England Patriots 20, St. Louis Rams 17                    Tom Brady

37. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48, Oakland Raiders 21              Dexter Jackson

38. New England Patriots 32, Carolina Panthers 29               Tom Brady

39. New England Patriots 24, Philadelphia Eagles 21            Deion Branch

40. Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Seattle Seahawks 10                    Hines Ward

41. Indianapolis Colts 29, Chicago Bears 17                            Peyton Manning

42. New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14                 Eli Manning

43. Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23                    Santonio Holmes

44. New Orleans Saints 31, Indianapolis Colts 17                   Drew Brees

45. Green Bay Packers 31, Pittsburgh Steelers 25                  Aaron Rodgers

46. New York Giants 21, New England Patriots 17                  Eli Manning

47. Baltimore Ravens 34, San Francisco 49ers 31                    Joe Flacco

48. Seattle Seahawks 43, Denver Broncos 8                            Malcolm Smith

49. New England Patriots 28, Seattle Seahawks 24                Tom Brady

50. Denver Broncos 24, Carolina Panthers 10                         Von Miller

INTERESTING SUPER BOWL FACTS

No team has been shut out in Super Bowl history, although two offenses have been shut out. The Redskins and Giants each scored their touchdowns on special teams in Super Bowls 7 and 35, respectively……Chuck Howley is the only Super Bowl MVP from a team that lost (SB 5)…..Only 8 defensive players have been Super Bowl MVP…..The NFL pays for the championship rings, up to $5,000 per ring…..The Vikings never had a lead in any of their 4 SB appearances…..The lowest halftime score was 2-0, a lead the Steelers took into the locker room in SB 9……Don Shula was the first coach to lose two SBs, losing SB 3 with the Colts and SB 6 with the Dolphins…..Steve Tisch, chaiman of the New York Giants, is the only person to win a Super Bowl ring and an Oscar (as producer of Forrest Gump.)…..

Interested in football history? Check out The Game Before the Money: Voices of the Men Who Built the NFL.