The Southwest Conference Hall of Fame Induction brought hundreds to the Governor’s Ballroom at the Austin Hilton. Inductees included four football players: Cotton Davidson of Baylor University, Eric Metcalf of the University of Texas, Bill Montgomery of Arkansas, and Dan Irons of Texas Tech. Other inductees included baseball’s Jose Cruz, Jr. of Rice University and Lance Brown of TCU,  track stars Carol Lewis from the University of Houston and Curtis Mills of Texas A&M, and basketball standout Rick Herrscher of SMU. The attendees included many outstanding athletes supporting their family members, teammates, and friends. Among them were Carl Lewis, Earl Campbell, Nolan Ryan, and Jose Cruz, Sr. Cotton Davidson. Cotton Davidson quarterbacked a highly-ranked Baylor squad in the early 1950s, persuading Weeb Ewbank to make him the Baltimore Colts’ first-round draft choice in 1954. Davidson described the Southwest Conference as a family. He said the closely-knit geographical region led to players playing against each other in high school, then becoming […]

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.     ORDER THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY ON AMAZON (ALSO ON KINDLE) ORDER THE GAME BEFORE THE MONEY […]

An Appreciation: Tom Landry

Phil 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 […]

Discussing Concussions and Other Brain Injuries with NFL Players

The Game before the Money: Voices of the Men Who Built the NFL introduced me to dozens of former NFL players. Many interviewed for the book, and I became acquainted with several others. Knowing that, people often ask me about concussions and the potential consequences of playing in the NFL. As stated in the book’s Afterword, the seriousness of some situations is quite real. Much of the book covers players’ golden moments, so I’m not claiming to be an expert. I have no medical experience, and I’m in no position to make claims or suggest solutions. My objective here is to discuss what I’ve personally seen and heard, and to inform readers about a couple of websites retired players frequent for information. This post isn’t meant to induce controversy. I discussed head injuries with several players. Buddy Lex, the man who set the NCAA single-season touchdown pass record in 1949, spoke about his college teammate Lou Creekmur in The Game before […]

Best I Remember — Gamers

What is a gamer? A guy who plays hard, every single down. A guy who gets back up when others would stay down. They are players you respect even though they play for the team you hate. Some are superstars. Some simply play several levels above their combine scores once the game starts. Earlier we discussed the 10 Best Running Backs I remember, and I explained how this category is completely subjective. These posts are in good fun, and based solely on my fading memory – not statistics. Perhaps I’ll forget the most obvious candidate, like when Cris Carter forgot to name Calvin Johnson in his top 5 current receivers on the Mike and Mike Show. I’ll take that risk, however, and hopefully we’ll all enjoy a few good football memories together. 10. Steve Tasker: The man who made the Pro Bowl 7 times as a special teams player. I don’t remember any player having such an impact on the other team’s starting […]

An Appreciation: Austin “Goose” Gonsoulin

 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 […]

The Making of “The Game before the Money: Voices of the Men Who Built the NFL”

My earliest memory of football is as fuzzy as the rabbit-eared reception of my grandparents’ television. The Los Angeles Rams lined up for a field goal. The kick was blocked and a mad scramble for the ball ensued. Research tells me that this was the 1976 NFC Championship, and the Minnesota Vikings returned the kick for a touchdown.  I was 6 years old. My next football memory is of my dad explaining that those same Vikings were playing the Oakland Raiders in something called the Super Bowl. Succeeding years cemented my lifetime love of sports. I followed everything from pro football to college hockey. I studied sports history as much as my teachers wished I had studied for their classes. Eventually I became that guy spewing lifetime batting averages on cue. Warmly written baseball anthologies were plentiful, but football books focusing beyond the game’s violence proved scarce. Directors produced sentimental baseball films like When It Was a Game and Ken […]

An Appreciation — Paul Hornung

(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 […]