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 […]

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. Photo of: Don Hutson. The Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL’s Brooklyn Dodgers both highly desired Minnesota All-American Stan Kostka in 1935. […]

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 […]

This Might Surprise You: Steve Largent

Several players held the NFL’s all-time reception mark after 1970. Don Maynard, Charley Taylor, Charlie Joiner and Art Monk are among the names who claimed the title before Jerry Rice. Steve Largent is another receiver who held that distinction. OLD SCHOOL THINKING Largent played his entire career with the Seattle Seahawks. He told Seahawks.com he appreciated his accomplishments on the gridiron, “But the thing I’m most proud of from my career in Seattle was that I played my entire career in Seattle….It gave me a special connection with the city and the people and the team that you just don’t find very often with professional athletes today.” IT ALMOST NEVER HAPPENED Largent made his way to the Seahawks by happenstance. The Houston Oilers drafted Largent in the fourth round of the 1976 NFL Draft. He didn’t impress the Oilers, and found himself on a bus headed home to Oklahoma after four preseason games. He thought his football career was over. Jerry Rhome, a […]

This Might Surprise You: Joe Theismann

Memories of Joe Theismann, with his thick eye black and bright single-bar facemask, are often synonymous with the Washington Redskins. But what if he hadn’t worn number 7 for the red and gold? That almost was the case as Theismann, a collegiate star for Notre Dame, was actually drafted by the Miami Dolphins in 1971. Theismann, however, declined Miami’s offer of $55,000 over three years. That’s right, $55,000 over three years. Theismann asked for that amount, but the stickler was a $35,000 bonus Theismann would owe back if he missed any of the three seasons. Joe opted for the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts. In 1974, the Redskins traded for Theismann’s rights and he jumped straight into the lineup – as a punt returner. He didn’t start at quarterback until 1976. WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN? At the time Theisman was drafted, Bob Griese had been the Dolphins’ starter since 1967. He led them to the playoffs in 1970 before three […]

The Story of the NFL Draft and Recent Super Bowls

Last week we looked at the starting lineups of last year’s Super Bowl teams, wondering how much the draft led to the Seahawks’ and Broncos’ success. We found that while the draft was important, it appears to be equally important to find talent from other sources, likely because the draft is only seven rounds. Now we take a look at Super Bowl teams (including the Seahawks and Broncos) from the past 5 Super Bowls, plus the first Giants/Patriots game after the 2008 season. Turns out last year’s teams were below the average number of starters to be drafted for the period, although the Seahawks were only slightly under (54.2%). Of the Broncos 22 starters only 10 were originally drafted by the franchise, a figure equaled by the 2011 Giants as the lowest in our survey. The 2010 Packers led all teams with 17 of their draftees in their Super Bowl lineup. Only the Seahawks and Packers won the Super Bowl […]

How Much Will the NFL Draft Help Your Team?

Like children going to bed at night on Christmas Eve are NFL fans in the weeks leading up to the NFL draft. Wishes of draftees dance in their heads. Mock drafts are read with excitement or worry depending on the prediction. Calendars get marked with plans days before the big event at Radio City Music Hall. And like Christmas, some fans go to bed afterward elated about receiving the main object of their desire while others lay down disappointed, unable to have telepathically communicated to their team’s general manager whom they should have drafted to ensure divisional championships for years to come. How important is draft day? Surely it’s quite important, but is it truly the watershed moment it’s built up to be? I started to ponder this question through fantasy football. I found that in seasons I reached the championship, several of my starters weren’t drafted. This year was no exception as Zac Stacy and Julian Edleman were two […]

BACK TO TOP