August 31, 2012

1947: Improved Bills Upset Yankees in Season-Opening AAFC Contest

The New York Yankees, defending champions of the All-America Football Conference’s Eastern Division, opened their second season on August 31, 1947 at Buffalo. New York, running a single-wing offense under Head Coach Ray Flaherty, had gone 10-3-1 before losing a close-fought title game to the Cleveland Browns to cap the AAFC’s first year. The Yankees lost veteran tailback Ace Parker to retirement but still had the league’s best running tailback in Spec Sanders. They also had plenty of talent across the board and had also added a talented rookie in the diminutive (5’5”, 170) but fast HB Buddy Young out of Illinois.

Buffalo was 3-10-1 in 1946 but had made some changes. While still coached by Red Dawson, the team’s nickname had been changed from Bisons to Bills. A promising rookie quarterback had been signed in George Ratterman (pictured above), mostly a backup to Heisman Trophy-winning Johnny Lujack at Notre Dame but a star in the College All-Star Game upset of the Chicago Bears, the defending NFL Champions (Young also was a key player for the All-Stars). He had good ends to throw to in holdover Fay King and newcomer Al Baldwin, and there was talent at running back, most notably up-and-coming HB Chet Mutryn.

There were 32,385 fans at War Memorial Stadium in what was at the time the largest pro football crowd in Buffalo history. A Sanders pass to FB Eddie Prokop reached the Buffalo four yard line to set up New York’s first touchdown of the game as Prokop then carried for the remaining four yards. However, later in the first quarter Buffalo LB Vic Kulbitski intercepted a Sanders pass to set up the home team’s first TD. Ratterman passed to Mutryn for 19 yards and finished the series with a one-yard quarterback sneak.

The teams traded touchdowns again in the second quarter, this time with Buffalo scoring first when Ratterman connected with King on a 39-yard pass play. Sanders ran for a 17-yard TD and, with all extra points successfully added, the halftime tally was even at 14-14.

In the third quarter, Buddy Young showed off his speed in the open field as he took a pass from Sanders for a 50-yard touchdown. Following the long scoring play, the Bills responded with a scoring drive. End Alton Coppage made two outstanding catches of Ratterman passes, the second moving the ball to the New York one from where HB George Koch powered in for the TD.

With the score tied at 21-21 heading into the fourth quarter, tailback Frank Sinkwich passed the Yankees into scoring territory and Harvey Johnson kicked a 15-yard field goal to put New York ahead.

Ratterman led the Bills back on a drive that concluded with a fourth down scoring pass of eight yards to Mutryn in the corner of the end zone with six minutes remaining. The touchdown proved to be decisive, but the finish was dramatic as the Yankees again drove into Buffalo territory with time running down. A pass from Sanders moved them to the 10 yard line but a throw intended for FB Lloyd Cheatham at the three fell incomplete as time ran out. The Bills pulled off the upset by a score of 28-24.

George Ratterman had a successful debut, completing 9 of 13 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns. For the Yankees, Buddy Young (pictured at left) rushed for 81 yards on 13 carries and added the 50-yard pass receiving TD.

The Bills continued to both play and draw well and were in contention until losing badly to the Yankees in New York by a score of 35-13 in the next-to-last week of the season. They finished second with a record of 8-4-2. New York was 11-2-1 to again top the East – and again fell to the powerful Browns.

Ratterman went on to have a solid rookie season, throwing for 1840 yards with 22 touchdowns. Chet Mutryn rushed for 868 yards while averaging 6.2 yards per carry and leading the AAFC in kickoff returns (32.9 avg).

Spec Sanders had a spectacular season, rushing for 1432 yards and scoring 19 touchdowns while generating 2265 all-purpose yards. Buddy Young put together a fine first year, running for 712 yards on 116 carries (6.1 avg.) and catching 27 passes for 303 more yards. His rushing total placed fifth in the league, behind the fourth-ranked Mutryn who also finished second to Sanders in total yards with 1933.

August 29, 2012

1975: Sun Defeat Bell in Highest-Scoring WFL Game

The Southern California Sun were off to a 3-1 start in the second World Football League season as they hosted the Philadelphia Bell on August 29, 1975. Under the guidance of Head Coach Tom Fears, the Sun were benefiting from the presence of rookie RB Anthony Davis, a local star out of USC who had spurned the New York Jets to become the troubled WFL’s lone high-profile rookie signing for ’75. It had been anticipated that ex-Raider Daryle Lamonica would take over at quarterback for departed 1974 co-MVP Tony Adams, but injuries kept him off the field and another rookie from Southern Cal, Pat Haden (pictured at right), stepped into the starting role after overcoming a preseason injury. But while the offense could put points on the board, there were concerns about the defense, especially when star DT Dave Roller was knocked out of action with an injury the previous week.

Philadelphia had undergone coaching turmoil during the preseason, but was now guided by ex-Green Bay Hall of Famer Willie Wood, a pioneering African-American head coach. The Bell had also picked up QB Bob Davis from the Florida Blazers, who beat out the flamboyant Jim “King” Corcoran for the starting job, as well as RB J.J. Jennings from Memphis and TE Ted Kwalick from the NFL 49ers. The Bell came into the contest at 2-2.

There was a paltry crowd of 17,811 on hand at Anaheim Stadium for the Friday night game. Philadelphia had the first scoring opportunity, but a 38-yard field goal by Bob Cooper was nullified by a penalty and the follow-up attempt was blocked.

On Southern California’s first play, Anthony Davis threw an option pass to wide-open WR Dave Williams that resulted in a 51-yard touchdown. Davis successfully ran for the action point (in the WFL, touchdowns were good for seven points and were then followed up by an “action point” that could not be kicked). It was the beginning of a big first half for the 10th-year veteran Williams.

The Bell evened the score when RB John Land ran for a two-yard TD to cap a seven-play, 54-yard drive, followed by Bob Davis throwing to Land for the action point, but the Sun came right back when Anthony Davis returned the ensuing kickoff 84 yards for another touchdown. While they failed to convert the action point attempt, the Sun had a 15-8 lead – and had run just one play from scrimmage.

Before the first quarter was over, Williams scored again to cap a 72-yard drive, this time on a pass from Haden that covered 37 yards. The Sun again failed to add the action point but still held a 22-8 lead.

The Sun poured it on in the second quarter, with FB Greg Herd scoring on a one-yard carry set up by a pass interference call in the end zone (followed by a successful action point conversion on a run by backup QB Mike Ernst), and Williams adding two more TD catches from Haden on plays that covered 15 and 38 yards. Ted Kwalick caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Bob Davis (and caught another pass to convert the action point), but Southern California maintained a solid 44-16 lead at the half.

The Bell didn’t give up as Davis tossed three more touchdown passes in the second half, of eight yards to WR Ron Holliday in the third quarter and, in the final period, of 13 yards to ex-Eagles veteran WR Ben Hawkins and 49 yards to a future Eagles special teams star, WR Vince Papale. Two of the action point attempts were successful.

The Sun added a one-yard TD carry by RB Bill Kramer in the third quarter and an eight-yard run by RB Gary Dixon in the fourth. Both action point attempts failed, but they weren’t needed as Southern California prevailed by a score of 58-39. To add insult to injury for the Bell, the local television station that was showing the game in Philadelphia pulled the plug on the telecast because it was running too late.

The 97 points scored made it the highest-scoring game in the WFL’s brief history. The Sun rolled up 508 total yards – with 233 coming on the ground – to 436 for Philadelphia, trying vainly to play catch-up throughout most of the game. Southern California also had the edge in first downs (25 to 22) while the Bell led in turnovers (3 to 2) and penalties (14, at a cost of 152 yards, to 10 flags for 96 yards thrown on the home team).

Anthony Davis (pictured below) had another noteworthy performance, rushing for 115 yards on 21 carries, throwing a touchdown pass, and returning a kickoff for another TD. Pat Haden completed 13 of 21 passes for 207 yards with three touchdowns and had one intercepted. Dave Williams was the receiving star with 6 catches for 179 yards and four scores.

For the Bell, Bob Davis was successful on 21 of 46 throws for 285 yards and four TDs along with two interceptions. John Land ran for 55 yards on 12 carries that included a touchdown and J.J. Jennings was right behind with 10 attempts for 52 yards. Land and Ben Hawkins each caught 5 passes (for 44 and 42 yards, respectively) and Ted Kwalick gained 93 yards on his four receptions.

“All week we talked about containing (Anthony) Davis,” said a disappointed Coach Willie Wood. “Then the first time the Sun has the ball he goes around end and throws for the 51-yard touchdown. We got flat, we lost concentration because of that play.”

Southern California compiled a 7-5 record and was in first place in the Western Division when the WFL abruptly folded in October. The Bell were at the bottom of the Eastern Division at 4-7.

Anthony Davis was outstanding, comfortably leading the league in rushing (1200 yards), rushing touchdowns (16), and scoring (133 points) after 12 games. He went on to play in the CFL, NFL, and USFL, but never came close to the same level of performance.

Pat Haden was off to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar before the league folded, but would return to pro football with the NFL’s Rams for six years. Dave Williams finished off his pro career by catching 21 passes, 9 of which were good for touchdowns. He gained 327 yards (15.6 avg.) and the scoring reception from Anthony Davis was his longest of the year. 

August 28, 2012

MVP Profile: Doug Betters, 1983

Defensive End, Miami Dolphins

Age: 27
6th season in pro football & with Dolphins
College: Nevada-Reno
Height: 6’7”    Weight: 260

A lightly-regarded sixth-round pick in the 1978 NFL draft, Betters started six games in place of injured star DE A.J. Duhe as a rookie and performed well. He became a regular starter in ’79 (Duhe was eventually moved to linebacker) and a stalwart part of a defense known as the “Killer Bees” due to the significant number of its members with last names that started with the letter B.

1983 Season Summary
Appeared and started in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Sacks – 16 [3, tied with Curtis Greer & Jacob Green]
Most sacks, game – 4 at Buffalo 9/4
Multi-sack games – 4
Interceptions – 0
Fumble recoveries – 4 
Forced fumbles – 0

Postseason (1 G – AFC Divisional playoff vs. Seattle)
Sacks – 0
Interceptions – 0
Fumble recoveries – 0

Awards & Honors:
NFL Defensive Player of the Year: AP
1st team All-NFL: AP, NEA, PFWA, Pro Football Weekly, Sporting News
1st team All-AFC: UPI, Pro Football Weekly
Pro Bowl

Dolphins went 12-4 to finish first in the AFC East while leading the NFL in fewest points surrendered (250). Lost AFC Divisional playoff to Seattle Seahawks (27-20).

Betters was less consistently outstanding in 1984, but still accounted for 14 sacks. He declined significantly in ’85, lost his starting job in 1986, and was finished after the ’87 season. Officially, he accumulated 43.5 sacks (added as an official statistical category in 1982) while playing for 10 seasons in all. While a starting member of the defensive line for most of that time, the 1983 season was clearly his peak.


MVP Profiles feature players who were named MVP or Player of the Year in the NFL, AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press, Pro Football Writers Association, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, Maxwell Club – Bert Bell Award, or the league itself). Also includes Associated Press NFL Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year.

[Updated 2/6/14]

August 26, 2012

Rookie of the Year: Carl Pickens, 1992

Wide Receiver, Cincinnati Bengals

Age: 22
College: Tennessee
Height: 6’2”    Weight: 206

With two choices in the first round of the 1992 NFL draft, the Bengals took QB David Klingler and DB Darryl Williams, and three picks later, in the second round, Pickens, who was coming out of college following his junior year. Considered to be a receiver of great potential, there were also concerns about his attitude. It was anticipated that he would be used as a third wide receiver as a rookie, but he ended up starting 10 games.

1992 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 26       
Most receptions, game – 4 (for 34 yds.) vs. Pittsburgh 11/29
Yards – 326
Most yards, game - 47 (on 2 catches) at Houston 10/25
Average gain – 12.5
TDs – 1

Punt Returns
Returns – 18
Yards – 229 [16, tied with Eric Bieniemy]
Most yards, game – 100 (on 2 ret.) at Green Bay 9/20
Average per return – 12.7 [2, tied with Kelvin Martin, 1st in AFC]
TDs – 1 [5, tied with eight others]
Longest return – 95 yards

TDs – 2
Points – 12

Awards & Honors:
NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year: AP

Bengals went 5-11 to finish fourth in the AFC Central.

Pickens improved to 43 catches for 565 yards (13.1 avg.) and 6 TDs in 1993, continuing to show great leaping ability and athleticism if not blazing speed. With Jeff Blake replacing David Klingler at QB during the ’94 season, Pickens’ numbers improved and he had six plays of 50 yards or more among his 71 receptions for 1127 yards (15.9 avg.) and 11 TDs. He reached his peak in 1995 and ’96, seasons in which he led the AFC in pass receptions and was selected to the Pro Bowl, catching 99 passes for a career-high 1234 yards and league-leading 17 TDs in ’95 and 100 for 1180 yards and 12 TDs in ’96. Pickens was limited to 12 games by injury in 1997, but returned to catch 82 passes for 1023 yards and 5 TDs in ’98. However, attitude problems combined with declining play and the arrival of younger receivers caused a decline in production to 57 receptions and 737 yards in 1999 and Pickens finished his career with Tennessee in 2000, where he signed as a free agent and caught 10 passes. Overall, he ended up with 540 receptions for 7129 yards (13.2 avg.) and 63 TDs (64 touchdowns overall with his one punt return TD).


Rookie of the Year Profiles feature players who were named Rookie of the Year in the NFL, AFL (1960-69), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press – Offense or Defense, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, or the league itself – Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year). 

[Updated 2/7/14]
[Updated 11/28/14]

August 23, 2012

MVP Profile: Johnny Unitas, 1959

Quarterback, Baltimore Colts

Age:  26
4th season in pro football & with Colts
College: Louisville
Height: 6’1”    Weight: 190

Unitas was chosen in the 9th round of the 1955 NFL draft by the Steelers, but failed to make the team in the preseason. After playing semi-pro football, he was signed by the Colts to back up starting QB George Shaw. When Shaw went down with a broken kneecap four games into the ’56 season, Unitas got his chance, showed potential, and held onto the job. He broke out in 1957, leading the league in pass attempts (301), yards (2550), TD passes (24), and yards per attempt (8.5). The Colts contended and Unitas was selected to the Pro Bowl and received MVP consideration. It set the stage for a championship season in ’58, with Unitas leading the NFL with 19 TD passes despite missing two games due to injury and then leading the Colts to a title with a memorable overtime win over the Giants. Unitas was chosen to a second Pro Bowl and was a consensus first-team All-Pro for the first time.

1959 Season Summary
Appeared in all 12 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 367 [1]
Most attempts, game – 41 vs. Cleveland 11/1
Completions – 193 [1]
Most completions, game – 23 vs. Cleveland 11/1
Yards – 2899 [1]
Most yards, game – 397 vs. Cleveland 11/1
Completion percentage – 52.6 [5]
Yards per attempt – 7.9 [3]
TD passes – 32 [1]
Most TD passes, game – 4 vs. Cleveland 11/1
Interceptions – 14 [5, tied with Norm Van Brocklin]
Most interceptions, game – 3 vs. Chi. Bears 10/3, vs. Cleveland 11/1
Passer rating – 92.0 [2]
300-yard passing games – 2
200-yard passing games – 10

Attempts – 29
Yards – 145
Yards per attempt – 5.0
TDs – 2

TDs – 2
Points – 12

Postseason: 1 G (NFL Championship vs. NY Giants)
Pass attempts – 29
Pass completions – 18
Passing yardage – 264
TD passes – 2
Interceptions – 0

Rushing attempts – 2
Rushing yards – 6
Average gain rushing – 3.0
Rushing TDs – 1

Awards & Honors:
NFL MVP: AP, UPI, Bert Bell Award, Sporting News
1st team All-NFL: AP, NEA, UPI, NY Daily News, Sporting News
Pro Bowl

The Colts went 9-3 to finish first in the Western Conference while leading the league in total yards (4458), passing yards (2753), scoring (374 points), and touchdowns (51). Won NFL Championship over New York Giants (31-16).

Unitas continued to excel, although the Colts went into a brief decline. An outstanding play-caller as well as passer with a quick release, he was adept at throwing long, short, or in between. The 1959 season was part of a record 47-straight-game TD passing streak that ended in 1960. Unitas set then-NFL standards for pass attempts (5186), completions (2830), yards (40,239) and touchdowns (290) in a career that extended until 1973. He was an MVP twice more, was named to 10 Pro Bowls, and selected to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time team. Unitas had his #19 retired by the Colts and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1979.


MVP Profiles feature players who were named MVP or Player of the Year in the NFL, AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press, Pro Football Writers Association, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, Maxwell Club – Bert Bell Award, or the league itself). Also includes Associated Press NFL Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year.

[Updated 2/7/14]

August 21, 2012

1974: Bob Gladieux Scores 4 TDs as NY Stars Rout Texans

The New York Stars of the World Football League were riding high (at least on the field) as they faced the Houston Texans on August 21, 1974. Coached by former pro quarterback Babe Parilli, the Stars had lost their first two games but then reeled off four straight victories. The offense was directed by QB Tom Sherman, included ex-Jets star WR George Sauer, and had the new league’s top-ranked rushing attack, led by a former Notre Dame standout in RB Bob Gladieux (pictured). The defense featured a line that was anchored by two more ex-Jets, DE Gerry Philbin and DT John Elliott. However, the club was forced to play its home games at the substandard Downing Stadium on out-of-the-way Randalls Island in the shadow of the Triborough Bridge, and attendance (not to mention credibility) suffered as a result.

The visiting Texans seemed to match up well with the Stars, for they boasted the top-rated rushing defense in the WFL. Coached by former Giants assistant Jim Garrett, Houston had a club laden with veterans. On offense, that included former AFL standouts in WR Don Maynard and FB Jim Nance, plus QB Mike Taliaferro and TE Willie Frazier. The defense had end Don Brumm, tackle Jim Kanicki, and LB Garland Boyette. Still, they sported a mediocre 2-3-1 record, largely due to an inability to score points.

There was a meager crowd of 12,042 at the poorly-lit Downing Stadium for the Wednesday night matchup. Things went wrong for Houston on the game’s third play when FB Mike Richardson fumbled and Philbin recovered for the Stars at the Texans’ 37. A 10-yard Tom Sherman completion to WR Al Young got the ball down to the one and Bob Gladieux scored on the next play. The action point failed (in the WFL, touchdowns counted for seven points and were followed by an “action point” that could not be kicked).

Another turnover gave the Stars the ball when CB Steve Dennis intercepted a pass at the New York 47. Sherman passed to WR Kreg Kapitan for 16 yards to the eight yard line and, from five yards out, threw to Gladieux for a touchdown. The Stars again came up empty on the action point attempt, but were ahead by 14-0.

The third New York score was set up thanks to a shanked 16-yard punt. Sherman passed twice to Young, for 24 and 7 yards, and then Young drew a 13-yard pass interference penalty. Gladieux scored another touchdown, plowing in from a yard out.

The Texans finally got on the board 30 seconds before halftime when Charlie Durkee kicked a 43-yard field goal, but Houston was in a deep hole at 21-3. A furious Coach Garrett berated his team at halftime and promised to rid the club of players that weren’t giving an adequate effort.

Garrett’s outburst failed to inspire the Texans in the second half. Bob Gladieux made it four touchdowns with a four-yard run in the third quarter to add to the home team’s lead. This time New York was able to convert the action point as Sherman passed to Young. The Stars had the game well in hand at 29-3. The contest became a rout before the period was over, this time with Sherman tossing a 25-yard touchdown pass to Kapitan. The action point failed, but it didn’t matter.

Houston scored its only other points of the game with just under nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter as Mike Richardson ran for a one-yard TD that was set up by QB Mike Taliaferro pass completions of 21 yards to Don Maynard and eight yards to TE Don Davis.

Sherman gave way at quarterback to rookie Gary Danielson, who completed two passes - to Kapitan for 16 yards and 23 yards to WR Tom Spinks to the Houston one yard line – and then scored on a quarterback sneak. Instead of a close battle, New York breezed to a 43-10 win.

The Stars rolled up an impressive 231 rushing yards and 405 overall to just 178 total yards for Houston. New York also held a huge edge in first downs, 25 to 11, and didn’t turn the ball over while the Texans suffered three, all of which proved costly.

Tom Sherman completed 10 of 20 passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns. Bob Gladieux was the most notable offensive star, rushing for 84 yards on 20 carries and catching one short scoring pass that gave him a total of four touchdowns. RB Ed White added 69 yards on 16 attempts and RB Dave Richards gained 63 on 14 rushes. Al Young caught 5 passes for 63 yards and Kreg Kapitan gained 64 yards on his 4 receptions that included a touchdown.

For Houston, Mike Taliaferro completed 12 of 25 passes for just 81 yards. Mike Richardson and FB Jim Nance each gained 26 yards rushing, on 11 and four carries, respectively. WR Rick Eber led the receivers with three catches for 39 yards.

“I can’t believe this game! I thought it would be close,” New York’s Gerry Philbin exclaimed afterward.

“We weren’t ready to play,” said a disappointed Coach Jim Garrett. “It was obvious in the warmup.”

It was the fifth straight win for the Stars, and also the high point for their season. They played the Texans again the following week in Houston and lost, in a contest best remembered for the legally abbreviated appearance by DE John Matuszak for the home team, and never won consistently again. Unable to draw in New York, the franchise was sold and moved to Charlotte, North Carolina where it concluded the season with a final record of 10-10.

The Texans also failed to complete the season where they started, ending up in Louisiana as the Shreveport Steamer and going 7-12-1.

Bob Gladieux led the Stars in rushing with 690 yards on 177 carries (3.9 avg.) and caught a total of 9 passes for 99 yards. Despite his four-TD performance against the Texans, he ended up with a total of 7 touchdowns (the pass receiving score was his only one of the year). It was the final season of a nondescript five-year pro career spent mostly with the Patriots in the AFL and NFL.

August 19, 2012

Rookie of the Year: Tommy Nobis, 1966

Linebacker, Atlanta Falcons

Age: 23 (Sept. 20)
College: Texas
Height: 6’2”    Weight: 230

Nobis, a two-time All-American and winner of the 1965 Outland Trophy, was the first overall selection by the expansion Falcons in the ’66 NFL draft and received a large bonus to keep him away from the Houston Oilers of the rival AFL, who also took him in the first round. He became the centerpiece of the new club’s defense, moving directly into the starting lineup at middle linebacker.

1966 Season Summary
Appeared in all 14 games
(Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20)

Sacks – N/A
Interceptions – 0
Fumble recoveries – 1

Awards & Honors:
NFL Rookie of the Year: NEA, Sporting News
Pro Bowl

Falcons went 3-11 to finish seventh in the NFL Eastern Conference.

Nobis followed up his noteworthy rookie season by achieving first-team All-Pro honors in 1967 from the Associated Press and New York Daily News as well as a second Pro Bowl selection. He was again a Pro Bowl selection in ’68, along with being a consensus second-team All-Pro, but knee injuries cost him most of the 1969 and ’71 seasons. When healthy, he was still a premier linebacker and was selected to two more Pro Bowls, following 1970 and ’72. Nobis played through 1976, a total of 11 years and 133 games, and ended up with 12 interceptions – two of which he returned for touchdowns – 13 fumble recoveries, and five Pro Bowl selections while playing for a team that never reached the postseason. The Falcons retired his #60.


Rookie of the Year Profiles feature players who were named Rookie of the Year in the NFL (including NFC/AFC), AFL (1960-69), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press – Offense or Defense, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, or the league itself – Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year). 

August 17, 2012

MVP Profile: Charles Woodson, 2009

Cornerback, Green Bay Packers

Age: 33 (Oct. 7)
12th season in pro football, 4th with Packers
College: Michigan
Height: 6’1”    Weight: 202

A versatile college performer who won the Heisman Trophy as a primarily defensive player, Woodson was taken by the Oakland Raiders in the first round of the 1998 NFL draft and moved quickly into the starting lineup. His impact was immediate as he intercepted 5 passes as a rookie and was chosen to the Pro Bowl for the first of four straight seasons. Outstanding in all facets of the cornerback position, Woodson also was a consensus first-team All-Pro in 1999. Injuries began to become an issue, however, and he missed time during each of the next four years as a result while also drawing criticism for inconsistent play despite his great ability. Joining the Packers as a free agent in 2006, he revived his career, intercepting 8 passes, and he was once again a Pro Bowl selection in ’08 despite playing with a broken toe.

2009 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Sacks – 2
Most sacks, game – 1 vs. Dallas 11/15, at Detroit 11/26
Interceptions – 9 [1, tied with Jairus Byrd, Asante Samuel & Darren Sharper]
Most interceptions, game – 2 vs. Cincinnati 9/20, at Detroit 11/26
Int. return yards – 179 [3]
Most int. return yards, game – 59 (on 2 int.) vs. Cincinnati 9/20
Int. TDs – 3 [1, tied with many others]
Fumble recoveries – 1
Forced fumbles – 4
Tackles – 65
Assists – 8

Kickoff Returns
Returns – 2
Yards – 30
Average per return – 15.0
TDs – 0
Longest return – 18 yards

Punt Returns
Returns – 1
Yards – 0
TDs – 0

TDs – 3
Points – 18

Postseason: 1 G (NFC Wild Card playoff at Arizona)
Sacks – 0
Interceptions – 0
Forced Fumbles – 1

Awards & Honors:
NFL Defensive Player of the Year: AP
1st team All-NFL: AP, PFWA, Sporting News
Pro Bowl

Packers went 11-5 to finish second in the NFC North and qualify for the postseason as a Wild Card while leading the NFL in rushing defense (1333 yards) and interceptions (30). Lost Wild Card playoff to Arizona Cardinals (51-45).

Woodson had Pro Bowl seasons in 2010 and ’11, again leading the NFL in interceptions in the latter year with 7. To date, he has intercepted 54 passes, returning 11 of them for touchdowns, and has been a consensus first-team All-Pro three times and selected to eight Pro Bowls.


MVP Profiles feature players who were named MVP or Player of the Year in the NFL, AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press, Pro Football Writers Association, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, Maxwell Club – Bert Bell Award, or the league itself). Also includes Associated Press NFL Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year.

[Updated 2/7/14]

August 15, 2012

1952: Rams Rally in Fourth Quarter to Defeat College All-Stars

There were 88,316 fans present at Chicago's Soldier Field on a rainy Friday night for the 19th College All-Star Game on August 15, 1952. What they saw was an error-filled struggle that came down to a fourth quarter rally by the defending pro champions.

The Los Angeles Rams, coached by Joe Stydahar, had been an offensive juggernaut in 1951. They boasted the quarterback tandem of Bob Waterfield and Norm Van Brocklin (pictured at right), outstanding receivers in ends Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch and Tom Fears, and a good stable of running backs.

The All-Stars were coached by Bobby Dodd of Georgia Tech and included future pro standouts in QB Babe Parilli of Kentucky, Washington HB Hugh McElhenny, and offensive end Billy Howton from Rice.  

The rain began shortly before the game started and continued, on-and-off, through the entire contest. The All-Stars took the lead in the second quarter thanks to a nine-play, 69-yard drive directed by Parilli that included passes to end Bob Carey of Michigan State and McElhenny. Getting down to the LA three yard line, HB Vic Janowicz, a Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State, powered into the end zone for a touchdown and then kicked the extra point.

Fumbles cost the All-Stars significantly as they missed out on opportunities to extend their lead. A 51-yard drive to the LA 26 came up empty when they fumbled the ball away, as did a similar 52-yard series that also reached the Rams’ 26. As a result, while the collegians kept the Rams off the scoreboard for three quarters, they were still only ahead by 7-0 heading into the final period.

Norm Van Brocklin had thrown two costly interceptions, but he and the Rams came alive during a drive that commenced in the third quarter and stretched into the fourth. The quarterback known as “The Dutchman” completed two passes, and there was a 30-yard pass interference call that moved the ball deep into scoring territory, on a 76-yard possession that was capped by his three-yard touchdown pass to FB Paul “Tank” Younger. Bob Waterfield successfully added the extra point to tie the game.

No sooner did Parilli connect with McElhenny for a 60-yard gain when another fumble by the All-Stars gave the Rams the ball in LA territory. Waterfield’s 24-yard field goal with seven minutes remaining put the Rams ahead, and another Parilli interception assured that the pros would win the sloppy contest, 10-7.

The All-Stars outgained LA on the ground (178 to 107) while the Rams had more yards through the air (170 to 104). The collegians also rolled up 33 first downs to just 18 for the Rams.

Splitting the quarterbacking as usual, Bob Waterfield completed 5 of 14 passes for 40 yards while Norm Van Brocklin was successful on just 8 of 23 throws for 106 yards and two interceptions as well as a TD.

Bobby Dodd used virtually every player on his roster. Babe Parilli (pictured below) completed 6 of 11 passes for 88 yards and was named All-Star MVP, but was intercepted twice and fumbled four times. California LB Les Richter, who would go on to play for the Rams, was a standout on defense for the All-Stars.

The Rams were widely derided for their poor play against the All-Stars and, following a season-opening loss, Coach Stydahar resigned and was replaced by assistant Hamp Pool. The team finished strong to tie the Detroit Lions for first place in the National Conference with a 9-3 record, although LA lost the resulting playoff game.

Babe Parilli went on to a 16-year pro career in the NFL, CFL, and AFL. Hugh McElhenny had his best seasons with the San Francisco 49ers on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame while Les Richter, enshrined in 2011, was selected to the Pro Bowl eight straight times as a mainstay of LA’s defense.

August 14, 2012

Rookie of the Year: Bobby Mitchell, 1958

Halfback, Cleveland Browns

Age: 23
College: Illinois
Height: 6’0”    Weight: 188

A track as well as football star in college, Mitchell was chosen by Cleveland in the seventh round of the 1958 NFL draft. After having an outstanding performance in the College All-Star Game against the Detroit Lions, he joined the Browns and was teamed with second-year FB Jim Brown to create an outstanding running tandem.

1958 Season Summary
Appeared in all 12 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 80
Most attempts, game - 13 (for 108 yds.) vs. Pittsburgh 10/19, (for 65 yds.) vs. NY Giants 11/2
Yards – 500 [12]
Most yards, game - 147 yds. (on 11att.) vs. Chi. Cardinals 10/12
Average gain – 6.3 [3]
TDs – 1
100-yard rushing games - 2

Pass Receiving
Receptions – 16       
Yards – 131
Average gain – 8.2
TDs – 3

Kickoff Returns
Returns – 18  [4]
Yards – 454 [4]
Average per return – 25.2 [3]
TDs – 1 [3, tied with Terry Barr, Willie Galimore & Leroy Bolden]
Longest return – 98 yards

Punt Returns
Returns – 14  [14, tied with Johnny Morris, Jimmy Sears & Jim Shanley]
Yards – 165 [4]
Average per return – 11.8 [2]
TDs – 1 [1, tied with Yale Lary]
Longest return – 68 yards

All-Purpose yards – 1250 [5]

TDs – 6
Points – 36

Postseason: 1 G (Eastern Conference playoff at NY Giants)
Punt returns – 1
Punt return yards – 2

Awards & Honors:
NFL Rookie of the Year: Sporting News

Browns went 9-3 to tie for first place in the Eastern Conference while leading the NFL in rushing (2526 yards). Lost Eastern Conference playoff to New York Giants (10-0).

With his great speed and moves, Mitchell continued to play well for the Browns for the next three seasons. He had a 232-yard rushing performance in a game against the Redskins in 1959 and was selected to the Pro Bowl in ’60. Traded to Washington for 1962 in a move that integrated the club, Mitchell was shifted to flanker and led the NFL in pass receptions (72) and yards (1384) and was a consensus first-team All-Pro. He was also chosen to the Pro Bowl for the first of three consecutive seasons. Mitchell led the league in receiving yards again in ’63 (1436) and TD receptions in 1964 (10). Consistent and a game-breaking deep threat, he was also used occasionally at halfback, especially in 1967 when he carried the ball 61 times, in an attempt to bolster Washington’s weak running game. Retiring after the 1968 season, his career totals were 521 pass receptions (third all-time in the NFL at that point) for 7954 yards (15.4 avg.) and 65 TDs. Adding in his rushing and kick returning, his 14,078 total yards also ranked third at the time and his 91 touchdowns were fifth. Mitchell was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1983.


Rookie of the Year Profiles feature players who were named Rookie of the Year in the NFL, AFL (1960-69), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press – Offense or Defense, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, or the league itself – Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year). 

[Updated 2/8/14]
[Updated 2/22/17]

August 12, 2012

1955: Weed’s 3 Field Goals Help College All-Stars to Edge Browns

The 22nd College All-Star Game on August 12, 1955 had a different twist than its predecessors in that a group of former pro coaches, led by Head Coach Curly Lambeau, directed the All-Stars rather than the usual college coaches. Lambeau, founder and long-time coach of the Green Bay Packers, had more recently coached the Chicago Cardinals and Washington Redskins. His assistants included Hunk Anderson, a noteworthy line coach with the Bears; Steve Owen, who coached the Giants for 23 years; and Hamp Pool, former head coach of the Rams.

The All-Star roster contained Notre Dame QB Ralph Guglielmi, Heisman Trophy-winning FB Alan “The Horse” Ameche from Wisconsin, and outstanding linemen in OT Jim Ray Smith of Baylor and Notre Dame C Dick Szymanski. But along with Guglielmi and HB L.G. Dupre of Baylor, the key player for the collegians would be diminutive (5’6”, 146 pounds) HB-PK Tad Weed of Ohio State (pictured above).

Representing the NFL were the Cleveland Browns, coached by Paul Brown. The team had dominated the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) before moving to the NFL in 1950, and added a second NFL title in 1954. But QB Otto Graham had retired and the Browns would be starting George Ratterman, the backup quarterback for the previous three seasons, in his place.

There were 75,000 fans present along with a national television audience. Weed started off the scoring in the first quarter with a 31-yard field goal for the All-Stars. The Browns responded with Ratterman sneaking over from a foot out for a touchdown.

The All-Stars came back quickly with a 48-yard kickoff return by Marquette HB Ron Drzewiecki. Dupre had a 19-yard run and the drive was capped when HB Frank Eidom from SMU ran for a three-yard touchdown. Cleveland put together a 10-play, 76-yard series that ended with HB Ray Renfro taking a pitchout and running 18 yards for a TD. The Browns were ahead again by 14-10.

The All-Stars once more drove to another score, highlighted by Dupre’s running. End Henry Hair from Georgia Tech caught a five-yard touchdown pass from Guglielmi and it was the collegians back on top at 17-14. Cleveland roared back as Ratterman threw to end Dante Lavelli for a 42-yard gain and then to Renfro for a 25-yard TD. Lou Groza’s extra point attempt was blocked but the Browns took a 20-17 lead into halftime.

Following the back-and-forth second quarter, there was just one score in the third quarter as Weed booted a 14-yard field goal to tie the game at 20-20. In the final period, Guglielmi passed to Dupre for a 19-yard gain to the Cleveland one that set up a touchdown carry by FB Mel Triplett of Toledo. QB Dave Leggett of Ohio State ran for the extra point and a 27-20 lead for the All-Stars. Weed made it a ten-point game with a 34-yard field goal that would prove to be decisive.

Late in the game the Browns put together an 80-yard scoring drive that concluded with HB Curly Morrison running for a five-yard TD, but time ran out on Cleveland as the All-Stars hung on to win by a score of 30-27.

The All-Stars outrushed the Browns, 200 yards to 163, and had an edge of 329 total yards to Cleveland’s 325. They also had more first downs, 20 to 15.

Ralph Guglielmi (pictured at left) played the full game for the All-Stars and completed 10 of 19 passes for 129 yards and had one picked off. L.G. Dupre rushed for 74 yards on 12 carries and gained another 39 on three pass receptions. Tad Weed kicked three field goals and two extra points.

For the Browns, QB George Ratterman was successful on 9 of 18 throws with two interceptions.

“This is the greatest offensive team I’ve ever had the pleasure of playing with,” said a triumphant Ralph Guglielmi. “Man, I never saw such blocking and tackling.”

“We have a lot to do,” said a disappointed Paul Brown in a quiet Cleveland locker room. “Our defense was poor but I thought George Ratterman did a pretty fair job. They got us. That’s the only thing to say. We were outplayed and soundly defeated. They had a great bunch of running backs and fine coaching, and earned everything they got.”

The Browns continued to struggle in the preseason until Otto Graham was persuaded to come out of retirement. Cleveland went 9-2-1 during the regular season and won another NFL title, after which Graham left for good.

The 30 points were the most for the All-Stars since the start of the series (a record they would exceed three years later). Curly Lambeau coached them for the next two years, but the All-Stars did not win again under his guidance.

Tad Weed played one season in the NFL with the Steelers, connecting on three of six field goal attempts and all 12 of his extra point attempts. Ralph Guglielmi, the first round draft choice of the Washington Redskins, had an undistinguished seven-year pro career. L.G. Dupre was drafted by the Colts in the third round and also played for seven years, contributing to a back-to-back NFL Championship team in Baltimore before finishing up with the fledgling Dallas Cowboys.

August 10, 2012

MVP Profile: Tom Brady, 2010

Quarterback, New England Patriots

Age:  33
11th season in pro football & with Patriots
College: Michigan
Height: 6’4”    Weight: 225

A lightly-regarded sixth-round draft choice by New England in 2000, Brady got his chance when starting QB Drew Bledsoe was injured in the second game of the ’01 season. With the young quarterback showing surprising poise and leadership ability, the team surged in the second half and ended up with a stunning win over the St. Louis Rams in the Super Bowl. Brady was selected to the Pro Bowl, as he also would be in 2004 and ‘05. The Patriots won two more championships over the next three seasons, and he led the NFL with 28 TD passes in 2002 and 4110 yards passing in ‘05. In 2007, he passed for a NFL-record 50 TDs while also leading the league in passing yards (4806), completion percentage (68.9), yards per attempt (8.3), and passer rating (117.2). He was a consensus first-team All-Pro for the first time as well as league MVP and the Patriots went undefeated in the regular season – however, they were upset in the Super Bowl by the Giants. Brady’s 2008 season ended prematurely due to a knee injury in the opening game. He came back to throw for 4398 yards and 28 TDs in 2009 and was selected to the Pro Bowl for the fifth time.

2010 Season Summary
Appeared and started in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 492 [11]
Most attempts, game – 44 vs. Baltimore 10/17
Completions – 324 [9]
Most completions, game – 30 at Pittsburgh 11/14
Yards – 3900 [8]
Most yards, game – 369 at Chicago 12/12
Completion percentage – 65.9 [5]
Yards per attempt – 7.9 [5]
TD passes – 36 [1]
Most TD passes, game – 4 at Detroit 11/25, vs. NY Jets 12/6
Interceptions – 4
Most interceptions, game – 2 vs. Baltimore 10/17, at NY Jets 9/19
Passer rating – 111.0 [1]
300-yard passing games – 4
200-yard passing games – 10

Attempts – 31
Most attempts, game - 5 (for 6 yds.) at Miami 10/4
Yards – 30
Most yards, game – 13 yards (on 3 carries) at Buffalo 12/26
Yards per attempt – 1.0
TDs – 1

TDs – 1
Points - 6

Postseason: 1 G (AFC Divisional playoff vs. NY Jets)
Pass attempts – 45
Pass completions – 29
Passing yardage – 299
TD passes – 2
Interceptions – 1

Rushing attempts – 2
Rushing yards – 2
Average gain rushing – 1.0
Rushing TDs – 0

Awards & Honors:
NFL MVP: AP, PFWA, Sporting News
NFL Offensive Player of the Year: AP
1st team All-NFL: AP
Pro Bowl

Patriots went 14-2 to finish first in the AFC East and gain the top playoff seed in the conference while leading the NFL in scoring (518 points) and touchdowns (65). Lost AFC Divisional playoff to New York Jets (28-21).

Brady had a seventh Pro Bowl year in 2011, leading the AFC with 5235 passing yards, 39 touchdowns, and a 105.6 passer rating. The Patriots won another AFC title but again fell short against the Giants in the Super Bowl.


MVP Profiles feature players who were named MVP or Player of the Year in the NFL, AAFC (1946-49), AFL (1960-69), WFL (1974), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press, Pro Football Writers Association, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, Maxwell Club – Bert Bell Award, or the league itself). Also includes Associated Press NFL Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year.

[Updated 2/8/14]

August 7, 2012

Rookie of the Year: Jim McMahon, 1982

Quarterback, Chicago Bears

Age:  23
College: Brigham Young
Height: 6’0”    Weight: 187

Following a record-setting career at BYU, where he operated in a pro style offense, McMahon was chosen by the Bears in the first round of the 1982 NFL draft (fifth overall) – the first QB taken by Chicago in the top round in over 30 years. While there were concerns regarding a knee injury and limited eyesight, as well as lack of ideal height, McMahon had also demonstrated outstanding leadership skills. Following the 57-day player strike in 1982, he was inserted into the starting lineup.

1982 Season Summary
Appeared in 8 of 9 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]

Attempts – 210 [19]
Most attempts, game – 33 vs. St. Louis 12/19
Completions – 120 [18]
Most completions, game – 19 at Seattle 12/12
Yards – 1501 [18]
Most yards, game – 280 at LA Rams 12/26
Completion percentage – 57.1 [13]
Yards per attempt – 7.1 [14]
TD passes – 9 [14, tied with Vince Ferragamo & Doug Williams]
Most TD passes, game – 2 vs. Detroit 11/21, vs. New England 12/5, at LA Rams 12/26
Interceptions – 7
Most interceptions, game – 3 vs. Detroit 11/21
Passer rating – 79.9 [9]
200-yard passing games – 2

Attempts – 24
Most attempts, game - 7 (for 23 yds.) at LA Rams 12/26
Yards – 105
Most yards, game – 24 yards (on 5 carries) vs. St. Louis 12/19
Yards per attempt – 4.4
TDs – 1

Punts – 1
Yards – 59

TDs – 1
Points – 6

Awards & Honors:
NFC Rookie of the Year: UPI

Bears went 3-6 to finish 12th in the NFC, with the divisions having been discarded due to the players’ strike.

Well known for his outlandish behavior as for skill on the field during seven years in Chicago, McMahon improved upon his promising rookie year, along with the team. The Bears went to the playoffs in 1984 and won the Super Bowl in ’85, a season in which McMahon was also chosen for the Pro Bowl. However, injuries were a constant issue. A smart, if quirky, quarterback who was adept at exploiting weaknesses in enemy defenses, the team went 46-15 in the regular season with McMahon behind center – but he missed a third of Chicago’s games along the way due to a series of maladies. Forced to sit out ever more time due to injury, and constantly feuding with Head Coach Mike Ditka, McMahon was dealt to San Diego in 1989 and moved on to a backup role with Philadelphia in ’90. He played well in relief of the injured Randall Cunningham in 1991, but again missed significant time due to his own injuries. He moved on to Minnesota for 1993, his last year as a full-time starter, and following a season in Arizona, ended up as Brett Favre’s backup in Green Bay for his last two years (1995-96). Overall, McMahon completed 58 percent of his passes for 18,148 yards with 100 TDs and his overall record as a starting QB was 67-30.


Rookie of the Year Profiles feature players who were named Rookie of the Year in the NFL (including NFC/AFC), AFL (1960-69), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press – Offense or Defense, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, or the league itself – Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year). 

[Updated 2/8/14]