An Appreciation: Bart Starr Part 2

An Appreciation: Bart Starr Part 2

NameThe Game before the Money(Starr painting by Bart Starr Appreciation Part 1 located here. Bart Starr remains the only quarterback to win 5 NFL championships. Tom Brady’s closing in with four, and Otto Graham might have won 5 NFL championships had the Browns started in the NFL rather than the AAFC. Regardless, Starr stands alone with 5 rings, and is also the only quarterback to win 3 straight NFL championships. Yet in the “Greatest of All-Time” discussion, many garner more attention. People often mention  Joe Montana, Johnny Unitas, Terry Bradshaw, and Peyton Manning first. Even quarterbacks without championships – Dan Marino comes to mind – often find themselves introduced into the conversation before Starr. The situation isn’t unusual to Starr. Although listed in the heritage of great Alabama quarterbacks, his college career differs greatly from Tide icons like Joe Namath and Ken Stabler. Starr played a considerable amount in his freshman and sophomore years, but an injury knocked him out […]

An Appreciation: Bart Starr Part 1

Name(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 […]

An Appreciation: Tom Landry

NamePhil Simms named his Top 5 Coaching Innovators during last week’s CBS Thursday Night Football broadcast. Being a Wisconsin native, I happily concurred with Vince Lombardi finishing number one. While I understand the difficulty of compiling such lists, the glaring omission of Tom Landry surprised me. To right that wrong in my little corner of the blogging universe, I humbly spotlight Coach Landry’s valuable contributions to the game. THE ROAD TO COACHING Landry attended the University of Texas. He played fullback and defensive back for the Longhorns. Like so many others playing college ball in the 1940s, World War II interrupted his NCAA career. He flew over two dozen difficult combat missions before returning home. Landry later stated that surviving the war built his confidence. He broke into professional football with the New York Yankees of the All-American Football Conference, playing one season with the team before the league folded. The New York Giants picked up Landry, employing him mostly […]

An Appreciation: Austin “Goose” Gonsoulin

Name Austin “Goose” Gonsoulin passed away early Monday morning, September 8, 2014. I had the good fortune of getting to know him. We spent several hours on the phone together over the past couple of years, Goose spinning yarns about the old days. He was tremendously friendly, open, jovial, and I’m very grateful that I had a chance to connect with him. Austin picked up the “Goose” moniker in college: “We had a coach named Hayden Fry, who went on after Baylor to other colleges. My senior year, I was running a punt back and he hollered, ‘Come on, Goose!’” he explained. Goose wasn’t particularly fond of the name at first, but over the years he came to appreciate it. The Dallas Texans scooped up Gonsoulin in the first ever AFL draft in 1960. The San Francisco 49ers selected him in the NFL draft. He signed with the Texans for $8,500. The Denver Broncos promptly traded for him, and he’s widely […]

An Appreciation — Paul Hornung

Name(Painting by Robert Hurst) Stories of Paul Hornung’s lifestyle often overshadow those of his football career. Many question how he won the Heisman Trophy on a 2-8 Notre Dame team. One blogger even wrote an exhausting article questioning Hornung’s Hall of Fame credentials. The “Golden Boy” might not live up to the standards of bloggers who never saw him play, but Vince Lombardi and Hornung’s teammates declared him essential. COLLEGIATE CAREER Hornung grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. Bear Bryant made a strong pitch for Paul to attend Kentucky, but Hornung’s Catholic upbringing gave Notre Dame the edge. Legendary coach Frank Leahy left after Hornung’s freshman year and Hornung never played for the coach who recruited him. The Irish finished with the worst record in school history Hornung’s senior year. Many games must have seemed like it was 11 on 1. “I played every down in college. I led Notre Dame in rushing, passing, punt returns, and kickoff returns. I kicked off and […]

An Appreciation: Al Wistert

NameMany football websites discuss deserving players left out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Al Wistert’s name often pops up in these conversations. Personally, I love the Hall and am not here to question their choices. I will, however, appreciate the career of a man named All-NFL for 8 seasons on both offense and defense. BORN TO PLAY  One might say Al was born to play for the Philadelphia Eagles. He was born on December 28, 1920, the exact same day as future teammate and Hall of Famer Steve Van Buren. Tragedy also coincidentally paired him with another future Hall of Fame teammate. Al’s father, a Chicago policeman, was shot and killed when Al was 6 years old. Pete Pihos’ father was also murdered while Pete was growing up. COLLEGIATE CARREER Al played his college ball at Michigan, but football wasn’t his reason for attending.  In fact, although Al played baseball and basketball in high school, he hadn’t played […]

An Appreciation: Johnny Lujack

NameJohnny Lujack painting by Robert Hurst: www.ADamnFineArtist.com   SEVENTY YEARS AHEAD OF HIS TIME? When people think of Johnny Lujack, they often think of Notre Dame, the Heisman Trophy, or his shoe-string tackle of Doc Blanchard in the original “Game of the Century” (watch below). The Irish lost only one game in the three years he started at quarterback, and Lujack led them to 3 national championships. Few football fans recognize his exceptional — albeit very short – pro career. World War II interrupted Lujack’s college career after the 1943 season, causing him to miss the ’44 and ’45 seasons. George Halas’ Chicago Bears drafted Lujack in the first round of the 1946 NFL Draft, but Lujack elected to play out his eligibility at Notre Dame. “In those days you could be drafted on what the normal four years would have been,” Lujack told The Game before the Money. “I entered Notre Dame in ‘42, so my graduation year would have been […]

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