Players whose career began before 1950
Chuck Cherundolo – Chuck played for the original Cleveland Rams in 1937, and tackled Bronko Nagurski in his first game. Welcome to the NFL, kid. Chuck’s outstanding career landed him on the Steelers Legends Team. We lost Chuck in December 2012, at the age of 96.
Ace Parker (HOF) – Truly one of the early greats, Parker won the 1940 NFL MVP award. Ace also played major league baseball, and you’ll find his name on the list of players who homered in their first at bat. Sonny Jurgensen credits Ace for discovering his passing skills during Ace’s stint as Duke’s backfield coach. At 101, Ace is unable to interview, but his close friend Buddy Lex stood in proxy.
Buddy Lex – Dozens of programs offered Buddy scholarship offers, but he was drafted by Uncle Sam straight out of high school. After fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, Buddy led a highly-ranked William and Mary squad, setting the single-season NCAA touchdown pass record in 1949. He eschewed a chance at pro football to become an FBI agent, earning a higher salary. He tells his story along with Ace Parker’s in The Game Before the Money.
Bob Kahler – Bob won the 1944 NFL championship with the Green Bay Packers. The former Nebraska standout retired after his third season to serve our country in World War 2.
Al Wistert – One of Michigan’s famed Wistert brothers, Al anchored a Philadelphia Eagle defense that recorded shutouts in back-to-back championship games. An eight-time All-Pro at both offensive and defensive tackle, his number hangs in the Eagle’s Ring of Honor.
Nolan Luhn – Curly Lambeau needed a right end, and noted Nolan’s contributions to Tulsa’s victory in the 1945 Orange Bowl. The Packers drafted Nolan, Don Hutson picked him up at the train station, and Luhn started opposite Hutson in the legend’s final season. Nolan himself led the Packers in receiving in 1947. Luhn coached at the JuCo level in his later years, mentoring such future standouts as Brandon Jacobs, Ron Springs, Mel Gray and Heisman winner Mike Rozier.
Charley Trippi (HOF) – Charley, the first overall pick in the 1947 NFL draft, caused a ruckus by signing a four-year contract worth $100,000. The deal paid off, as Charley led the Chicago Cardinals to the 1947 NFL title. Charley played in five College All-Star Games, winning two as a college player.
Johnny Lujack – Johnny won three national championships quarterbacking Notre Dame, claiming the Heisman Trophy in 1947. Many remember Johnny as an outstanding college player, but his pro career is also remarkable. A two-way player, he led the league in interceptions, rushing touchdowns and passing yardage. He owned the single-game passing yardage record before Norm Van Brocklin’s imoortal day in 1951.
George Taliaferro – George earned 1949 AAFC Rookie of the Year honors. The three-time All-American from Indiana played his college ball alongside Pete Pihos and baseball star Ted Kluzewski. George broke down barriers by being the first African-American drafted by an NFL team, and broke down defenses with his athleticism. Browns players claim George was the only man Paul Brown created special defenses to stop.
* HOF denotes Pro Football Hall of Fame Inductee