Letters To A 1950s NFL Prospect

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 […]

Legendary Insights — Eric Metcalf

The Southwest Conference Hall of Fame recently inducted Eric Metcalf, along with eight others. Eric excelled in both football and track for the University of Texas. He followed his father Terry Metcalf‘s quick footsteps into the National Football League. The Cleveland Browns drafted Eric 13th overall in the legendary 1989 NFL Draft. He earned All-Pro honors twice, and made the Pro Bowl three times. Eric, you grew up in a pro football environment. What did you learn from your dad that helped you succeed later on? The hard work. A lot of people are very athletic and are able to play sports at any level. But I saw my dad — being as good as he was — still training like he had never done anything on the field. It was instilled in me that even though you have athletic ability, you still have to work to be the best. And you always want to be the best.   Watch […]

Legendary Insights — An Afternoon with Cotton Davidson

  Saturday December 6th was a great day for fans at the Texas Sports Hall of Fame’s Lone Star Tailgate preceding the Baylor/Kansas State game at nearby McLane Stadium. Besides hearing live music and downing tasty barbeque, fans were treated to an opportunity to meet Baylor and NFL legend Cotton Davidson. Cotton graciously greeted fans, including the rival Kansas State fans who sauntered in. He spun stories of his outstanding 12-year pro football career. Originally a first-round draft choice of the Baltimore Colts in 1954, Cotton lost his opportunity to be the Colts franchise quarterback before the 1955 season when the U.S. Army drafted him. Cotton claimed he didn’t do much in the service other than play football and baseball. While Cotton marshalled Uncle Sam’s football squads, the Colts signed Johnny Unitas. Before Cotton returned to the Colts, Unitas cemented himself as a NFL star. Can you imagine Andrew Luck or Johnny Manziel drafted into military duty while the Colts […]

Legendary Insights — An Evening with Doug English

An excited crowd of football fans congregated at BookPeople bookstore in Austin, Texas on November 13, 2014, celebrating the release of The Game before the Money: Voices of the Men Who Built the NFL, and relishing a chance to meet NFL All-Pro and College Football Hall of Fame inductee Doug English. English shared tremendous stories about his days at the University of Texas and his outstanding 10-year career with the Detroit Lions. Fans were given an opportunity to ask Doug questions, and a chance to purchase a copy of The Game before the Money autographed by English and author Jackson Michael (that’s me). COLLEGE CAREER English arrived at Texas in 1971, immediately after the Longhorns were voted national champions in back-to-back seasons. When asked what he learned from legendary Texas head coach Darrell Royal, English recalled a time that Royal pulled him aside to discuss Doug’s on-field personality. “Doug, you’re a nice guy,” Royal said. “You know what happens to […]

Legendary Insights — Carl Eller on Jim Marshall’s Wrong Way Run, 50 Years Later

Fifty years ago this week, on October 25, 1964, Jim Marshall of the Minnesota Vikings pulled one of the NFL’s ultimate blunders. He recovered a fumble, rumbled downfield, and crossed the goal line – for a safety. Many remember the play a farce at Marshall’s expense. But how justified is the amusement? I discussed the play with Marshall’s Hall of Fame teammate, Carl Eller. I first, however, asked about a seldom known fact: Carl returned a fumble earlier that quarter for a touchdown. A surprised Eller said, “Most people remember the wrong way run by Jim Marshall during my rookie year, and a lot of people only remember that. What people don’t remember is that I returned a fumble for a touchdown right before that….John Brodie was the (49ers) quarterback. I think Jim (Marshall) hit him and the ball snapped out. I picked up the ball and ran for a 45-yard touchdown in Gale Sayers–like fashion. [Laughs.]” Eller then recalled the […]

Letter From a Champion — Robert Kahler of the 1944 Packers

We tracked down Bob Kahler a while back. At the time he was the last surviving member of the 1944 World Champion Green Bay Packers. He requested we asked questions via snail mail rather than by phone. True to his word, Mr. Kahler promptly wrote us back. Here are his responses in his own outstanding penmanship. (Click to view larger.) Perhaps Kahler’s speed impressed Coach Lambeau. Bob set an American indoor record on the 70-yard low hurdles at Nebraska, making it to the finish line in 7.8 seconds. The Packer’s “high school facilities” paled in comparison to Nebraska’s, but what perhaps surprised Bob most was the cigarette smoking in the Packer locker room. Even Don Hutson, whom Bob had the unfortunate assignment of covering during practice, puffed away. Kahler, who was born in 1917, passed away in April of 2013 at the age of 96. He was one of only a handful of men alive who played for Curly Lambeau in Green Bay. Those Packers […]

Legendary Insights — Eric Hipple: Depression affects many after NFL career ends

My father-in-law and I recently heard former Detroit Lions quarterback Eric Hipple speak. Hipple, who quarterbacked the Lions to the 1983 NFC Central Division title, reviewed his career and shared about his current work at the University of Michigan Depression Center. He noted that 50% of NFL players battle depression after retirement. ALMOST DIDN’T SURVIVE ACCIDENT BEFORE COLLEGE Hipple accepted a scholarship to play at Utah State. A serious dune buggy accident nearly ended everything for him about six weeks before leaving for Logan. His vehicle flipped, and Eric suffered a fractured skull and separated shoulder. His doctor told him he’d never play football again. Eric’s father promptly fired that doctor, and Hipple began recovering under another doctor’s supervision. Hipple recovered well enough that he led the Aggies to conference championships his junior and senior years. He placed sixth in the NCAA for passing his senior year. The Detroit Lions drafted him as the first pick of the fourth round […]

Legendary Insights: Don Maynard Part 3

This is the final post in a three-part series recounting my recent chat with New York Jets legend modified game equipment and the Jets passing attack. Today we take a look at the Jets magical run to Super Bowl 3 and their historic victory. FEWER SACKS = MORE WINS Most quarterbacks dropped back about 8 yards to throw. Jets quarterback Joe Namath usually backed up 10-12 yards, compensating for a lack of mobility from chronic knee problems. The few extra yards gave Namath more time to throw, and his sack total is one of the lowest in NFL history. Maynard credited much of the Jets success to an usually low sack total, allowing the passing game to flourish. 1968 AFL CHAMPIONSHIP The Jets played the Oakland Raiders in the 1968 AFL Championship, a few weeks after their famous “Heidi Bowl” debacle. Maynard guffawed suggestions that the Jets thought about the Heidi Bowl during the championship. “Any game you’ve played has nothing to do with […]

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