The PFRA honors the 1964 Cleveland Browns

On Friday, June 6 and Saturday, June 7, 2014, members of the Professional Football Researchers Association (PFRA) gathered for their Biennial Meeting in Cleveland, Ohio. They traveled from all over the country, and were also joined by two members from Mexico City and a member from Canada. Hosted by the Cleveland Browns, the meeting was dedicated to honoring the 1964 NFL Championship team of the Browns. "The PFRA meetings are always great, but meeting as guests of the Cleveland Browns was unprecedented. The organization has come a long way," said PFRA president Mark L. Ford.

The PFRA is a non-profit, educational organization dedicated to pro football history. Incorporated in 1979, the PFRA has steadily grown to over 400 members in 10 countries. Six times a year, they publish a magazine called The Coffin Corner. In it, the PFRA tells the stories of the players, teams and leagues that made professional football the game that it is today.

The Friday night festivities started at the Cleveland Browns’ practice facilities with a speech from longtime Cleveland Sportswriter and Radio/TV analyst Tony Grossi. Currently, Grossi is a Browns and NFL analyst with WKNR 850/ESPN Cleveland, SportsTimeOhio and ESPNCleveland.com. Prior to that, he was the Browns beat writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Since 1994, he has been a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. Grossi took time to talk about his career and the Hall of Fame selection process. The bulk of the questions from the audience were directed toward the Hall of Fame.

The next guest speaker was Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Dave Robinson, who currently lives in Ohio. Robinson played for the Green Bay Packers from 1963 through 1972, before finishing his career with the Washington Redskins. He was selected to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1960s. Robinson talked extensively about his career under Lombardi, as well as the Hall of Fame. Robinson is on the Board of Directors for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The final speaker of the night was Gregg Ficery, who spoke on The Birth, Death and Resurrection of Pro Football. It was a discussion focused on his great-great grandfather – Bob Shiring – who played for the strongest teams of early professional football.

The evening ended with a tour of the Cleveland Browns’ practice facilities. The Browns gave the group unprecedented access to their facilities, including access to the weight room, locker room, both the indoor and outdoor practice fields, and the administrative offices. Tour guide Tony Dick provided incredible stories on the construction of the facility, the filming of Draft Day (featuring Kevin Costner), and other items throughout the facility.

Saturday morning, the group met at First Energy Stadium in downtown Cleveland for the business portion of the meeting. Topics of discussion included an update on membership, an update of PFRA Football Publications and a discussion of the PFRA’s Hall of Very Good. It concluded with a discussion of the next meeting location: Green Bay, Wisconsin. The meeting will be held in 2016, but the exact date has yet to be determined.

The session continued with a speech by Cleveland Plain Dealer sports columnist Terry Pluto. He is a nine-time winner of the Ohio Sportswriter of the Year award and has been inducted into the Cleveland Journalism Hall of Fame. He is also the author of over 20 books, including Browns Town 1964, a history of the Browns’ 1964 championship season. His presentation focused on the history of the team, with a focus on the 1964 NFL Championship team.

Pluto was followed by Jonathan Knight, the author of The Browns Bible: The Complete Game-by-Game History of the Cleveland Browns. Knight is also a columnist for TheClevelandFan and is a regular contributor to Cleveland radio station WKH’s The Sports Fix. He discussed his efforts to write and research The Browns Bible, as well as his difficulties in obtaining information on the early teams.

The afternoon session honored the Browns’ 1964 NFL Championship team with a roundtable discussion with members of the team, as well as the viewing of a highlight film for the 1964 Browns and a viewing of the 1964 NFL Championship game film. In attendance for the panel discussion were linebacker Jim Houston (1960-72 Cleveland Browns) and tackle Dick Schafrath (1959-71 Cleveland Browns). The discussion was moderated by veteran Cleveland sportscaster and sportswriter Dan Coughlin. He covered the 1964 NFL Championship game for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The discussion was very informative and gave the attendees a look into the team and what it was like to play for legendary coach Paul Brown.

Heavy underdogs heading into the title game against Baltimore, the Browns did not feel intimidated. They had a strong offense and a tenacious defense. The Browns limited Johnny Unitas to just 95 yards passing and two interceptions. With the score 0-0 heading into the second half, the Browns’ offense exploded. Quarterback Frank Ryan connected with receiver Gary Collins three times for scores. With two field goals by Lou Groza, Cleveland took the game 27-0. The 1964 Browns were the last to win a championship for the city of Cleveland.

The last speaker was collector Danny Tharp, who spoke on his project The Greatest Day in Cleveland Sports, an audio recreation of the 1964 NFL Championship game. Copies of the project were distributed to the attendees.

The meeting ended with a tour of First Energy Stadium. As with the tour of the training facilities, the Browns gave unprecedented access to the stadium, including the press box and locker rooms.

Fun Fact: Nobody is allowed to use the Cleveland Browns’ locker room except the Cleveland Browns. There are two visitors' locker rooms in the stadium. When two college teams play at the stadium, they use the two visitors' locker rooms.

The PFRA would like to thank the Cleveland Browns for an incredible weekend of events. 

Photos courtesey of Mark Palczewski – Professional Football Researchers Association

Where are they now: Nick Lowery

Before landing the kicking job in Kansas City, Nick Lowery was cut eleven times by eight teams in his young professional football career. However, after he unseated future Hall of Famer Jan Stenerud, Lowery went on to become the Kansas City Chiefs’ all-time leading scorer (1,466 points) and earned a bust in the Kansas City Chiefs’ Hall of Fame.

Not knowing if he would ever make it as an NFL kicker, Lowery focused on his education. According to Lowery, “I had a chance to go to some of the big colleges, but I was fortunate to go to a wonderful school called St. Albans school in Washington, D.C. I was able to really focus on my education, knowing that the chances of making it in the NFL for anyone wasn’t that high. I figured that if I was a good placekicker, I would be able to count whether I had a good percentage and did well. I got into Princeton and Dartmouth, and went to Dartmouth. My goals were to get a good education. I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to study. I started off in theatre.”

Lowery continued, “That was the era of Watergate in the Washington, D.C. area. Growing up next door to a Supreme Court justice named Byron ‘Whizzer’ White, who led the NFL in rushing twice (1938 and 1940), and the award named for humanitarian work by players is named after Justice White. That was my next door neighbor.”

He added, “I was inspired out of that Watergate era to think about, ‘Gosh, what is missing in government?’ That was also six years after Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were killed, and the Vietnam War and that era. I was thinking about leadership and I switched to a government major and interned for Senator John Chafee of Rhode Island. He was the last of a generation of Republicans and Democrats who could work together. It is kind of a tragic thing to say. He was a Republican in a Democratic state, was able to get Clean Water Act passed, and the Clean Air Act. He just knew how to pass legislation that would improve the quality of life; more important than political party. I can’t express how highly I respected Senator Chafee. What a great role model he was. That is what I was aiming to do if I didn’t make it in the National Football League.”

While working with Senator Chafee, Lowery mentioned, “I worked on Carter’s Energy Program. Even back in the mid-70s, you might remember that we were thinking about how much we were dependent on foreign oil. I worked on coal conversion for Senator Chafee as an intern. I actually worked under the steam pipe tunnels, under the Capital in the summer of 1976 with Jim Rehnquist. He was the son of Chief Justice Rehnquist of the Supreme Court.”

But, he had aspirations of making in in the NFL. Lowery’s journey was one of persistence. Lowery recalled, “I went through a lot of rejection before I finally made it.” He continued, “I graduated in 1978. I signed with the Jets. I did well, but I screwed up in the third preseason game and they cut me. I went up to Dartmouth to do some theatre and language stuff. I got a job as a waiter. The opportunity with the New England Patriots came.” Patriots’ kicker John Smith suffered a thigh injury and was out. After he finished his shift at the restaurant, Lowery drove to Foxboro. Lowery continued, “I literally showed up on their doorstep in the fading light at Foxboro. Luckily, [head coach] Chuck Fairbanks was still there. I convinced him to take a look at me. I kicked lights out. A week later, they signed me. I played two games for the Patriots. We beat Oakland, in Oakland. It went down to the last few minutes. A guy by the name of Steve Grogan ran 22 yards down to the two-yard line with about a minute left. We scored a touchdown. Otherwise, I would have had to try a 42-yard field goal to beat the Raiders. We won both games, the next week against San Diego. But, I wasn’t ready for prime time yet, and they cut me. A lot of my story, to me, is how if you keep putting yourself out there, that is the only way to make it in the NFL. Whether you are a number one pick, or if you are somebody who didn’t even get drafted, like myself. It takes a while to get used to that level of pressure. You have to learn a lot about yourself.” Lowery was replaced by David Posey.

After being cut by the Patriots, Lowery returned to government work. “I got a job again with Senator Chafee. I worked on the Title V Regional Commissions with the Environment and Public Works Committee, which he was the ranking minority on.”

Lowery never gave up on his dream to kick in the NFL. “I didn’t know if I was going to make it [in the NFL]. The plan was that I was going to work in the U.S. Senate, and then try out for a bunch of teams the next year in 1979. One was Cincinnati [Bengals]. I remember Homer Rice, their coach, saying, ‘I don’t remember seeing you miss any field goals. Ever.’ I said, ‘Then why did you cut me?’ But, they did. Then the [Washington] Redskins signed me. I came back home. I played two games with the Redskins. The long and the short of it is that each time in the 1979 season, I tried out with San Diego. I almost made it when Rolf Benirschke was near death.” In 1978, Benirschke was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a form of colitis that forms ulcers on the large intestine. While returning from a road game, Benirschke collapsed on the team plane. After having two surgeries to remove his large intestine, Benirschke returned to the field the following year.

Lowery continued to list the teams where he received tryouts: “With New Orleans. Again with the Baltimore Colts. Each of these times, I was getting so much closer and out-kicking guys that I was not clearly out-kicking the year before, so I knew I was getting better. But, I didn’t make it.”

Lowery went back into government. “I got a permanent job with the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. There were eleven attorneys, and me and a lady by the name of Chris Wilkes. We were the only non-attorneys. That was what I was going to do. I was going to work on the Senate Committee, which is great. If you know about a Senate Committee, if your Senator loses the election, you do not lose your job. You are still on the committee. If you worked for a Senator, if he or she loses, you are done.”

While with the Committee, Lowery worked on airline seat safety. “I could go into chapter and verse on that. Things that 30 or 40 years later, still have not been addressed. Aviation seat regulations are one-sixth as stringent as cars. If you plane has an issue, and your plane is not going 60 miles-per-hour, but going 250 to 350 miles-per-hour, those seats are going to come apart. That was the last thing I was working on.”

Lowery left his work on the committee after getting a tryout with the Kansas City Chiefs. “I left in May. They brought me out several months early. I got to train. I got to get over that intimidation factor and to prepare earlier. It was tough to give up a job like that in Washington. Those kind of jobs are jewels. As I look back, I am glad that I did.”

Lowery recalled how he got the opportunity in Kansas City. “Right after the season, I will never forget, it was the Saturday of the first wildcard games. A guy by the name of Jim Schaaf, then the general manager of the Chiefs, called up and said, ‘I am sorry, but I just had back surgery. Marv Levy, our coach, really believes in special teams and we think that you have some real potential.’ I said, ‘Thanks, but I have this great job,’ and I hung up. I think about how many of us have those moments of truth, where the path can go one of two ways. As I hung up, I was thinking, ‘What a minute. Why did I just hang up?’ I had to find him back in his hospital room. Meanwhile, I turned down offers from t
he Colts and the Cleveland Browns. But, something about the tone of voice of this guy said that I should trace him back. I didn’t know how to spell his name. I called the directory and started asking for hospitals. I finally said, ‘Where would he be if he had back surgery?’ I found him at Research Hospital. I kind of impressed him that an hour after he called me that I was able to find him. We talked for an hour. A week later, they flew me to Kansas City to get the physical and to meet with Marv Levy and Jim [Schaaf]. They gave me a $2500 bonus, which today would be something of a joke for a lot of players, but for me it was a sign to try just one more time.”

But, Lowery needed to beat out mainstay and future Pro Football Hall of Famer Jan Stenerud. “Jan was the heart of the team.” Lowery continued, “He was the last member of the Super Bowl champions that was still on the team. Jack Rudnay had been a backup on that team, but Jan was the star on that team. He was kind of a father figure. He was 37 and going into what would have been his 14th year with the Chiefs.” Lowery won the job.

Lowery said, “Needless to say, he didn’t like me a whole lot when he was cut, but now, all of these years later, we are friends. Now, he sees how that rejuvenated his attitude on how to prepare, and if you look at his career in Green Bay and Minnesota, he kicked really well. He got a little more practice snaps during the week, which head coaches back in the 70s didn’t understand how important that was. He finished his career with a flourish. Jan was, career-wise, 58-percent at Arrowhead Stadium. I was 85-percent at Arrowhead Stadium. It was good for Jan to leave Kansas City in the long-run, and I think he agreed with that. It was hard, because he had his whole life there. It was hard for me after 14 years to leave for the Jets. I knew it would be a great challenge, but I knew I was ready and I think that I proved that.”

He recalled how persistence helped him win the job: “What is interesting is that if you pay your dues and you work as hard as you possibly can, what may seem impossible or hard to understand from other people, can seem more natural. I felt that I had paid so many dues. I had so much heartache. Being cut by the Patriots. Being cut by the Jets. Outkicking Mike Wood in San Diego, and yet he got the job in San Diego. Outkicking the kicker in New Orleans, Russell Erxleben. He was supposedly the new god of kicking, the first number one pick of a kicker. I will never forget coming into the showers afterwards and here is this guy, who is supposed to be the ultimate kicker, going, ‘How do you kick the ball so far and so high?’ I just knew that I was getting better and that I paid the price. By the time that I got to Kansas City, I knew that I had to outkick Stenerud every day, at everything. I was really clear about that. I had noticed how much better I had gotten. I had just turned 24. Everyone on the outside, and probably some on the inside like my family members, thought I was crazy. I just knew that it was my time.”

He recalled how he improved over the years: “You have to learn to get the ball up more quickly and you had to get the ball off more quickly. Back then, the goal posts were almost 25-percent wider. Those are adjustments that you have to make. The biggest adjustment is believing that you belong there. There was physically getting stronger. I was skinny. I was 6’4 ½” and 187 pounds. I finished my career at about 225 pounds. I am very proud to say that it was from hard work. You get older and your metabolism slows down. Dave Reading was our conditioning coach in 1989. By 1989, I was 33. In 1989 and 1990, Dave said, ‘Stop running distance. As a kicker, you are not a marathon runner. You are doing sprints.’ I went that year from about 205 pounds to about 217 pounds. I got a lot stronger and led the NFL in scoring that year [139 points] and hit 24 field goals in a row going into the playoffs. I hit 21 in a row the next year and was 22 for 24 the next year. I don’t know how many kickers have had those types of years in a row. That process of constantly working to get better, that to me was what was refined. Realizing through all of those rejections: eight teams and eleven rejections. You never stop working to improve. You can never take things for granted. As Jan would say, it is always a phone number away for a kicker as a replacement. Learning that you always have to work to get better. Also, making the connection that you can do all of the physical training in the world, but you also have to do that mental training – particularly as a kicker – so that you are in the right place for those very few seconds you have to be totally on.”

Now – as he had throughout his adult life – Lowery spends his time giving back to his community and helping others. That sense of community and helping others goes back to his time living next door to Supreme Court justice Byron ‘Whizzer’ White. According to Lowery, “There are different types of mentors. Some mentors are with you every day, or almost every day, like Dick Johnson who was my mentor in kicking. He was a retired stockbroker and kept saying, ‘It is not how many times you fall down, but how many times you get back up.’”

Lowery continued, “I had a different kind of mentor. A Mount Rushmore figurehead human being. I will never forget. We moved in the same day. Byron and Marion White, and next door was Sidney and Hazel Lowery and their family. I remember the very next day, there was Bobby Kennedy with what I think was a Labrador retriever next to him. He walked over from Hickory Hill, which was about three miles away. Byron, unlike some of the Supreme Court justices today, was very careful about what he talked about that might reflect on any decision that he would have before the court. The discussions we would have would be about history and who he admired. He really admired Lincoln. If you look at Byron White, he was a guy that finished number one at Yale Law School the same year he led the NFL in rushing. There is a lot of weight behind every single word a man like that had. When he offered an opinion, it really counted. I asked him – in the midst of being cut by all of those teams – his advice. He said, ‘You will be respected not by anything you say, but by being a consistent performer on the field. Just learn to shut up and do your job, and that is how you will gain respect.’ Byron White just helped me have higher goals. I think that without Byron White, I would not have thought, ‘Why not? Why not try to make it in the NFL?’ Those are the things that help you stay with it, even when the other teams in the NFL are saying that you are not good enough.”

According to Lowery, “I see the work I do as doing what the government used to do, to some degree, and what the best of our leaders called us to do. John F. Kennedy being one of the most famous.” He continued, “The notion of service and the idea of solving problems that need to be solved. For me, it’s inspiring kids to realize when they are sitting at that desk in the classroom, that they are working toward a purpose that is unique to their God-given gifts and that they deserve to have a life and that they do great things that are an extension of their God-given abilities. When kids feel that purpose, they feel powerful, and they feel meaningful and important in the best way, not in an ego-based way. Giving that gift to kids, which pro football players can do. That encouraging few seconds of time that we have with a fan can change a life sometimes. I really admire the Walter Paytons of the world. Deron Cherry of my team and Albert Lewis were that way. They had a really great understanding of making a difference.”

Lowery continued, “What I do today is an extension of that. The NFL can do more, but it
does a lot of great things in the community. I would like to help the NFL do more programs in the area of creating a leadership culture among varsity athletes. If you look at the school shootings that happened at Columbine and other places – not all of them, but a hauntingly high percentage of them – had a toxic environment where the varsity football players were a bit too cool. To me, when you interrupt the pattern with varsity athletes in general, you say that a true champion shares his power with others and doesn’t take it away. Those are wonderful things that are consistent with Commissioner Goodell’s vision that the players today have a privilege, they are stewards of the game, just like the owners are. Everything that we can do to express that sense of gratitude for having such a fantastic career in America’s best game, giving the kids that sense of power and purpose is the least that we can do. I think that a lot of players get it and I am hoping that maybe if we start encouraging kids when they start to be recognized early in their lives, that it becomes a habit. If you look at people like Steve Largent and other great NFL Hall of Famers that got it early, all of those lessons helped them become better football players. They had congruency in how they lived their lives on the field and off of the field. Government and charity. To me, it is about how we can give to everyone that we meet in our lives, in the few seconds that we have – if not more – the sense that their lives matter and that we can help encourage them to make the world a better place. That is what life is about.”

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The first NFL draft

Today, the NFL Draft is a prime-time event. The multi-day extravaganza is preceded by months of mock drafts, dedicated draft publications and people making a living solely analyzing the draft. However, the first NFL draft was held in relative obscurity.

Bert Bell, the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles and future NFL Commissioner, came up with the idea as a way to keep the league from going broke. He introduced the concept at the league meeting in May of 1935. His thought was that the stronger teams would always attract the best college football players. Since Bell’s team had struggled – they had only won 9 games since their inception in 1933 – he wanted a shot at top collegiate talent.

The official league minutes state:
SUNDAY, MAY 18, 1935 at the Fort Pitt Hotel, in Pittsburgh: Motion by Bell, seconded by Marshall, that the following rule relative to the selection of players entering the National League for the first time become operative beginning with the season of 1936:
(1) At the annual meeting in February and each succeeding year thereafter, a list of first year eligible players to be presented by each club and their names placed upon a board in the meeting room for selection by the various clubs. The priority of selection by each club shall follow the reverse order of the championship standings of the clubs at the close of the preceding season; for instance, the club which finished last in either division to be determined by percentage rating shall have first choice; the club which finished next to last, second choice, and this inverse order shall be followed until each club has had one selection or has declined to select a player; after which the selection shall continue as indicated above until all players whose names appear on the board have been selected or rejected.
(2) Any first year player who was not chosen or whose name does not appear on the list referred to above is eligible to sign with any club in the league.
(3) If for any valid reason it would be impossible for a player to play in the city by which he has been selected, or the player can show reasonable cause as to why he should be permitted to play in a city other than that designated for him than through such arrangements as can be made by sale or trade with another club, he shall be permitted to play in the city he prefers if the president of the league approves his reasons as valid. (The fact that a job is to be secured for a player in any city as an added incentive to sign a contract shall not be considered sufficient reason for his transfer from the club by which he has originally been selected.)
(4) In the event of controversy between a selected player and a club, the matter shall be referred to the president and his decision shall be accepted by all parties as final.
(5) In the event a player is selected by a club and fails to sign a contract or report, he shall be placed on a Reserve List of the club by which he was selected.

(ALL CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY)

The first draft was held February 8-9, 1936 at the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia. Approximately 90 players were on the board. After the first five rounds, Bell moved that the draft continue for an additional four rounds. George Preston Marshall of the Boston (now Washington) Redskins seconded the motion. The motion carried unanimously.

The Eagles had the first draft pick, as a result of their 2-9-0 record in 1935. They selected Jay Berwanger, the All-American halfback from the University of Chicago. Berwanger won the Downtown Athletic Club Trophy after the 1935 collegiate season. That trophy was renamed the Heisman Trophy, after the club’s athletic director: John W. Heisman, who passed away in 1936. Along with the trophy, he won a trip for two to New York City. According to the National Football Foundation, Berwanger said, “No one at school said anything to me about winning it other than a few congratulations. I was more excited about the trip than the trophy because it was my first flight.”

However, the Eagles had a problem with their first pick. Berwanger was hesitant to play professional football. First, he wanted to finish his studies at Chicago. Next, he wanted to maintain his amateur status in order to try out for the 1936 U.S. Olympic team. He had aspirations of becoming a decathlete at the Summer Games. According to the Associated Press, Berwanger said, “I haven’t decided what I will do. I may play professional football next fall, because of its practical advantages. I might take a coaching job, although it is my ultimate intention to enter business in preference to making a career in professional athletics. For the time being, I am mainly interested in finishing my courses at Chicago, graduating next June, and then trying to win a place on the Olympic team.”

After failing to make the Olympic team, Berwanger started negotiating to play professional football. Rumors leading up to the draft had Berwanger asking for $1,000 per game. The average at the time was approximately $200 to $250 per game. The Eagles’ best offer was $150 per game. Failing to reach an agreement, the Eagles traded his rights to the Chicago Bears for tackle Art Buss. A report came out in 1948 that the trade was actually arranged before the draft. According to the report, Halas knew that the Eagles needed players and would not be able to pay Berwanger his asking price. Halas would send a player or two to Philadelphia if the Eagles drafted Berwanger. In exchange, the Bears would get the local star.

Now that the trade was finalized, it was George Halas’ turn to try and reach a deal with the star player. Berwanger reportedly asked for $25,000 per year to play for the Bears. Halas balked. After additional negotiations, Berwanger dropped his asking price to $15,000 per year. Halas never went above an offer of $13,500 per year. A deal was never reached and Berwanger never played professional football.

From 1936 through 1939, Berwanger coached football at the University of Chicago. He also wrote a column for the Chicago Daily News. He died of lung cancer in 2002, at the age of 88.

Over the history of the NFL draft, Berwanger was one of only two first picks to not play a down in the NFL regular season. The second was Ernie Davis, the Syracuse star running back. In 1962, Davis was selected by the Washington Redskins, as well as the Buffalo Bills of the rival American Football League. He was diagnosed with Leukemia in 1962 and passed away in 1963.

The second selection of the draft (and the first draft pick to play professional football), was Riley Smith out of Alabama. The versatile All-American could play practically any position. He was selected by the Boston Redskins. According to Bob Barnett of the Professional Football Researchers Association, Smith said, “I signed because I wasn’t ready to quit playing ball. I just wanted to keep playing. I signed for $250 a game and a little bonus. We won the Eastern Division championship twice and made the NFL championship once in the three years I played and the most I ever got was $350 a game. I made more money in the off-season. I quit in 1938 and took a coaching job at Washington and Lee for a lot more money. But we had it good because some of those fellas down in Philadelphia were playing for $60 and $70 a ball game.” Smith’s career was cut short by injury. After retiring from coaching football, Smith became a real estate developer. He passed away in 1999.

The Eagles failed to sign any of their 1936 draft picks. After going 1-11 in the 1936 season, they again had the first draft pick for the 1937 draft, which they used to select Sam Francis out of the University of Nebraska. He did not sign with the Eagles, either. Their second pick was used to select Fran Murray out of the University of Pennsylvania. He did sign, as well as their third pick Drew Ellis out of TCU. The remaining seven selections never played a down of profes
sional football in the NFL.

Four future Pro Football Hall of Famers were selected in 1936: Joe Stydahar, Tuffy Leemans, Wayne Millner, and Dan Fortmann.

In 1976, Halas was quoted to have said, “The National Football League college draft has been the backbone of the sport and is the primary reason it has developed to the game it is today.”

Here is how the 1936 NFL Draft played out:

Ken Crippen is the former executive director of the Professional Football Researchers Association. He has researched and written about pro football history for over two decades. He won the Pro Football Writers of America’s Dick Connor Writing Award for Feature Writing and was named the Ralph Hay Award winner by the Professional Football Researchers Association for lifetime achievement on pro football history.

Follow Ken on Twitter @KenCrippen

Where are they now: Gino Marchetti

Gino Marchetti was one of the greatest defensive ends in pro football history. Most historians rate him in the top four, along with Reggie White, Deacon Jones, and Bruce Smith. Selected to eleven straight Pro Bowls, Marchetti only missed playing in one Pro Bowl due to injury. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972.

As a high school senior, Marchetti joined the Army. According to Marchetti, “They had a program there that if you joined the service, they would give me my [high school] diploma. One day after school, I drove over to Pittsburgh and I joined. I was only 17 or 18.” Marchetti continued, “I was in the 69th Infantry Division, the 273rd Regiment, 4th Platoon. I was a machine-gunner, and our company was the first company to make contact with Russian soldiers during the end of the war.”

After the war, Marchetti still had the itch to play football. He formed a semi-pro team called the Hornets in his hometown of Antioch, California. He elaborated, “When I got out of the service in 1946, I still had an urge to play football, but I could not go to college to play football. I really was not good enough. Me and my buddies from Antioch High [School] got together and formed a semi-pro team. We started playing local teams around the Bay area and Antioch, just to play. It was a lot of fun and good experience.”

That lasted for about a year, until he had a chance to go to Modesto Junior College. Marchetti said, “This is interesting. We were going to play San Rafael on one Sunday afternoon. I was driving a ’41 Chevy. It only held three passengers. I took my brother with me. At that time, he was a hell of a lot better football player that I was. Also, a receiver by the name of Nick Rodriguez, who was an excellent football player. There were three of us. We were driving out of town and I happened to look up Seventh Street to see my house and saw someone there. We stopped at the house to see who it was. It was a coach from Modesto Junior College named Josh and a line coach named Stan Pafko. They really wanted my brother and Nick to go. That is who they were trying to recruit. We were sitting around and they were talking to them about going to Modesto. They said that they would be interested in going. Everyone started to leave the room and all of a sudden, this guy Stan Pafko comes up to me and says to me in a joking way, ‘You look like you are big enough, why don’t you tag along?’ I said, ‘I just might do that.’ On the way up, I talked about it with my brother and Nick, and I decided to go. When we got there, Nick and my brother made first string after the first week. Then, we had a home game. I hadn’t played a lick. I started to improve. The defensive tackle got hurt. I got in and never went out. I played well enough in the game. The coach called me in and said that I will be starting at left defensive tackle. I stayed there and I finished the season.”

Marchetti’s football luck continued, “I then went home and I was going to stay home. I was working for my brother as a bartender. One afternoon around three o’clock, a guy came in. I served him a beer. He then asked, ‘Do you know a kid by the name of Gino Marchetti?’ I said, ‘Yeah. Why?’ He said, ‘I am interested in giving him a scholarship to the University of San Francisco.’ I will never forget it. I was smoking a cigarette. I threw it on the ground. They didn’t care if you smoked a cigar. I said, ‘That’s me.’ So, we talked and he said, ‘Come up and look around and let me know if you would be interested.’” Marchetti continued, “I drove up to San Francisco, which was about 40 miles from where I lived. I saw Brad Lynn again and he took me in to see Joe Kuharich. So, Brad Lynn told me after his meeting with Kuharich that Kuharich said, ‘Where did you get that hookie? He don’t know nothing about football.’ Brad talked him into bringing me up there. So, I went up there. They put me in at the first scrimmage. I wasn’t dumb. I knew that they would run away from me to see if I was fast enough, or at me to see if I was strong enough. I did that pretty well. He invited me to stay and I stayed for three years. It was the best time of my life.”

It was the 1951 season that would go down in college football history. The team went undefeated with a 9-0-0 record. That put them into a position for an Orange Bowl bid. Marchetti explained, “We were playing our last game against Loyola. We played our next to last game against the College of the Pacific. Eddie LeBaron was their quarterback. He was a good quarterback and played a few years in the NFL. They were undefeated. The rumor was going around that if we went undefeated, we would get a Bowl bid. We beat them 47-14. The following week, we beat Loyola 20-2. That gave us an undefeated season.”

However, attitudes at the time, especially in the South, were still racially divisive. According to Marchetti, “It came back that we would not get invited to a Bowl game unless we left the black players home. We had six or seven on the team, but the two they meant were the best guys you would ever meet. One was Burl Toler and the other was Ollie Matson. I said ‘Hell no!!’ I served in the Army with Burl and he was one of my best friends on the team. So, we voted it out. The thing that I love the most about it, nobody complained about it. I never heard to this day, nobody ever said ‘Hey, do you ever wonder how things would have turned out if we had changed our vote?’ Never thought about it for a minute, because I would never do that. Nobody on that team ever said that they regretted the decision that we had made. It was 100 percent in favor of not playing. So, we didn’t go. I went home and went back to work.”

That team is famous for other reasons, as well. Eight players from that team went on to play pro football. Five of them earned Pro Bowl nominations and three were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Also, athletic news director Pete Rozelle became one of the most influential commissioners in NFL history. Burl Toler became the first African-American referee in the NFL and officiated games for almost 25 years.

Marchetti never really considered playing professional football. “I never had a thought when the 49ers played at Kezar Stadium. I was not that big, really. I was 6’4” or 6’5”, but I only weighed 215 [pounds]. What I had going for me was I had the desire, that’s for damn sure. I was also fast and strong for a guy that weighed 215.”

However, he received a chance when he was drafted by the Dallas Texans in 1952. Some consider the Texans to be an offshoot of the New York Yanks, who folded in 1951. That is an easy assumption to make, since thirteen of the Yanks players made it to the Texans’ roster. However, Yanks owner Ted Collins sold his franchise back to the league for $100,000 after the 1951 season. The league then awarded a franchise to Dallas. Halfway through the 1952 season, the owners gave the franchise back to the NFL. To confuse things even more, When Baltimore was awarded a franchise in 1953, they were awarded a NEW franchise, not the Dallas franchise. However, they were awarded all of the players, even though only twelve of them played for the Colts that inaugural season.

Marchetti discussed his time with the Texans: “I was so excited about going to play professional football. However, I went to the most disorganized camp in the world. The equipment manager burned all of the ankle wraps. He didn’t know what they were. We didn’t practice for six or seven weeks. When [head coach] Jimmy Phelan called practice, we really didn’t practice. We would play volleyball – with a football – over the goal posts. Two-hand touch. We did a lot of running and fooling around, bu
t I never saw a professional film. I am thinking, ‘Is this really professional football?’” Marchetti continued, “I had just gotten married and I was thinking about giving it up, because that is not what I expected. We only had three coaches. The trainer was the line coach. If you got hurt, you went to see the line coach.”

However, not all memories were bad from his days with the Texans: “The first touchdown I ever scored was in the Coliseum. Some of the old guys hid, because they did not want to go in and possibly get hurt. So, Phelan turned around and asked, ‘Who here can play tight end?’ So, I raised my goddamn hand. He said, ‘Come here. Go in for [Stan Williams],’ who had gotten hurt. The quarterback was Hank Lauricella. I went in the huddle and Hank said, ‘What are we going to call?’ I said, ‘Well, we have been practicing that thing where you throw the ball up as high as you can and as far as you can. I’ll chase it. They may not cover me, because I just play defense. We ran the play. The ball bounced around. I caught it and scored a touchdown. I was as happy as can be. The announcer said, ‘Touchdown. Six points by Gino Marchetti.’ I felt pretty good. Then, I heard the announcer say, ‘And now, the score is L.A. 42, Dallas 6.’ We were so bad, but that was one of my good experiences.”

After a miserable 1-11 season with the Texans, Marchetti moved to the Baltimore Colts. Marchetti commented that compared to the Texans, “It was better.” However, head coach Keith Molesworth placed Marchetti at offensive left tackle. He commented, “I started one year in Baltimore under Molesworth. I was the most unhappy guy the whole year, but I played the position. He had planned on me playing it the next year, but he got fired and Weeb [Ewbank] came in. Weeb saw some film and said I was going to be third on the depth chart at defensive end. I felt so good there, I am not sure that if he had asked me to go back there, that I would have. At tackle, I would have been small. At defensive end, I was small, but big guys never scared me. I was quick and agile. Playing tackle helped me become a better defensive player. I would think about all the guys that I blocked against. [Norman] ‘Wildman’ Willey. Goddammit, that guy must have thrown me around like a baseball. I took everything down, including what hurt me the most. I practiced stuff that would help me against guys like that. I had to neutralize his speed. I played against Don Joyce. He was easy. Why was he easy? He just tried to bowl me over. He wouldn’t give me moves. The guys that would give me moves were trouble. When I went back to defensive end, I tried to learn new moves and study the film to see what would help me.”

Marchetti continued his comments on Ewbank: “When it really got good was when Weeb Ewbank came in. He was on the Cleveland Browns’ staff. He was so organized, I couldn’t believe it. Everything, we had to write down. How to tackle. How to block. The right way to position your feet. The position of your hands. We had to keep notebooks. We had to show him that we took all of the notes, then he would let you go to town or do what you wanted to do on your day off. That was a shock. I joked with Fatso (Art Donovan), that if I had done this at USF (University of San Francisco), I would have graduated. Our meetings were an hour-and-a-half in the morning and an hour-and-a-half in the evening. There were two-a-day practices. He worked you.”

Under Ewbank, the Colts continually improved and won championships in 1958 and 1959. The 1958 game has been called “The Greatest Game Ever Played.” Marchetti commented, “To be honest, it wasn’t the ‘Greatest Game Ever Played. I think that it was the most important game played in the NFL. People like to say it was the Greatest Game, but it really wasn’t.” There were 17 Hall of Famers in some way associated with that game, from players to coaches to owners.

Unfortunately for Marchetti, he did not see the entire game. He sustained an injury late in the fourth quarter. He commented, “Usually, they leave me alone on sweeps. It was about a minute and 10 seconds left. If they punt it, then we get a chance. If they do not kick it and we stop them, we really had a chance. They decided not to kick it. When they were going around, I happened to be there and made the tackle. Then, ‘Big Daddy’ [Lipscomb] comes across and he didn’t want the guy to go an inch further. He drives him. Today, they call it ‘head spearing.’ He stopped him, but also broke my ankle. It was a guy on my own team that broke my ankle. Then Frank Gifford yelled, ‘Get up Marchetti. God dammit. The play is over. Get up. Get up.’ I said, I can’t get up. I can’t walk.’ I couldn’t. Now every time I see him, he tells me that he made the first down. They proved it. They took us to New York and showed us how he made it. They did a hell of a job. So, every time he says that he made the first down, you know what I tell him? ‘Hey, who got the ring?’ That shuts him up pretty quick.”

When asked about why it was so important to be on the field to see the game, Marchetti joked, “I played on such shitty teams.” He continued, “It was so much fun to be out there. I may never get here again. I wanted to see whether they won or lost. They wouldn’t let me. In sudden death, they put me in a stretcher and walked me around to the other side of the field. I told them to put me down. I saw the kickoff. The next thing I knew, they had about four or five policemen around me. They took me in. I said, ‘Why? I ain’t hurting nobody.’ They said, ‘Just think of it. If the Colts win, we will never get you off the field.’ They were probably right.”

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Where are they now: Tommy Nobis

When you hear ‘Mr. Falcon,’ you immediately think of Tommy Nobis. A graduate of the University of Texas, Nobis was named to five Pro Bowls during his career. He is also part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s All-Decade team for the 1960s, a team that includes Hall of Fame linebackers Dick Butkus, Ray Nitschke and Dave Robinson.
Nobis was an All-State football player in high school. That continued into his time at the University of Texas, where he played both offensive guard and linebacker. Nobis won All-American honors twice, once as a linebacker and once as an offensive guard. He also won the Outland Trophy (1965, awarded for college football’s best interior lineman) and the Maxwell Award (1965, awarded to the best college football player in the country), and was named All-Southwest Conference three consecutive years. “Linebacker was a little more fun,” recalled Nobis. “Offensive line is very important to what your team was going to do. We had a really good offensive line when I played there, and I was proud of being a part of that. But the excitement for me was stopping a guy for no gain, or knocking a guy to cause a fumble. Playing linebacker, there were opportunities to really help your team and the excitement was there.”
He recalled the defensive schemes employed at Texas; “We shifted around a little bit. It was probably a 5-3, but it could have been a 5-4. The linebackers shifted around pretty good. We would bring in different secondary. At times, you would have five defensive backs. Other times, you might only have three defensive backs. The conference was naturally more running than passing. There were teams that would pass a good bit, but most of it was running.” He continued, “With Texas, I was more of an inside linebacker. We didn’t have what I grew to know as a middle linebacker in pro ball in a 4-3 defense. We didn’t play a lot of that defense at Texas. We geared up toward the run and you put in more linemen.”
Nobis also commented on his coach at Texas; “Coach [Darrell] Royal was real good at talking about priorities and what they need to be. When you are playing a team sport, your number one priority needs to be geared toward the team. We were coached that way and most of us thought that way. That is how we were coached and really, how I was brought up with my dad. He talked a whole lot like Coach Royal. He taught me that if you are going to play a team sport, you need to hold up your end of the deal. That is what I always try to do.”
In 1966, Nobis was drafted by both the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League and the Houston Oilers of the American Football League. He chose to sign with the Falcons. Nobis recalled, “Back then, the two leagues were still in existence and competing against one another. I always wanted to be in the NFL, because it had a little more prestige when it came to pro football. If I could do it, I wanted to take a shot to make it with the so called ‘better teams.’ That was a dream come true for me when Atlanta chose me and I was able to work that out.”
He was named NFL Rookie of the Year after the 1966 season. It is said that Nobis recorded 294 tackles that season. However, that cannot be confirmed as tackles were not an official statistic.
Nobis entered the league as a middle linebacker during the time of Dick Butkus and Ray Nitschke. He commented, “I knew who those guys were and knew that they were good football players. We used to have 16mm film that we would watch on the opposing team coming up from week to week. Our coaches would have film built up on different players, and if I could find film that had a Butkus or a Nitschke, that was a film that I really studied. They were outstanding during that time and they would probably be outstanding any time. If they were playing today, I am sure that they would be dangerous because of their will to be a good player.”
Norb Hecker was the coach with the Atlanta Falcons his rookie season. “I got along with Norb very well,” recalled Nobis. “It was going out and doing your job to the best of your abilities. Coach Hecker was a good coach and he certainly wanted to win, just like any coach. He probably did not have the players. He probably had too many players like myself that had the desire, but maybe didn’t have the top abilities to go all the way and to do something like win a Super Bowl.”
In 1968, after just slightly over two years as head coach of the Falcons, Norb Hecker was replaced by Norm Van Brocklin. Over the 31 games coached by Hecker, he had a record of 4-26-1.
Nobis recalled, “Norm was an old-school guy. You did things his way.” He continued, “You worked hard and you listened to the coaches. You learned and you progressed through the season, then you would be alright with Coach Van Brocklin. If you deserved to be treated like a man, he was going to treat you like a man. If you didn’t, then it was going to be hard to deal with Norm Van Brocklin.”
The team improved under Van Brocklin, posting their first winning record in franchise history, but it faded quickly. The 1973 team went 9-5, but quickly dropped to 3-11 in 1974. He was replaced by defensive coordinator Marion Campbell after eight games through the 1974 season. The team went 4-10 in 1975 and 1976.
Nobis called it a career after the 1976 season. “I had played eleven years,” he said. “The old body had taken a pretty good beating. If you think about major college football, and you think about pro football, and you think about the position I played, which was a contact position, there were not many plays where there was no contact involved. Most guys know when it is time. The smart ones go ahead and close it out and move on to whatever is next in line for them.”
Nobis wanted to get into coaching after he retired as a player. He recalled, “I was a physical education major in college and I always wanted to be a coach. But, if I couldn’t be a coach, then I wanted to work in a professional organization around the coaches, and learning and succeeding in that area.” However, the opportunities did not exist for Nobis. Instead, he joined the front office of the Falcons. “Mr. [Rankin] Smith was the owner of the team. I always had a good relationship with him. He made a statement along the way that when I decided to retire, that he would like to talk to me about staying with the organization. That was something that I really welcomed. It was just a potential opportunity at that time. It worked out well, I would like to think, for the Falcons. It certainly worked out well for the Nobis family.”
He had various roles within the organization. “Over the years, I did all kinds of things,” recalled Nobis. “I never coached. I would help some at practice with holding dummies and things. I did help some with the coaching, but I never really was a coach. I did scout. I was on the road for a period of time. I am talking about several years. I would look at the upcoming graduating classes and write up reports. The travel and writing up reports is certainly very important to the success of any professional team. You need to have a good scouting program. It is something that does not get the credit that it deserves. When I was scouting, we had about five men that did nothing but scout. It was exciting for me at the time, but the thing that I didn’t like about it was the travel. One day you might be at the University of Texas, and the next day at the University of Oklahoma or at the University of Southern California. That travel took a toll on me, so I got out of that after a while. My wife and I were building up a family, and to be on the road for four or five days a week was not the ideal situation. Thank goodness the Falcons went along with my decision.”
After scouting for the Falcons, Nobis moved into the marketing department. “There is a real marketing effort that each team does in selling their logo and their identity. Teams that win, obviously, have an easier time with selling that relationship. At the time, going out and selling the Falcons was tough. But, it was the NFL and it was a way for the businesses in the Atlanta area to become associated with the team. There were some people, win or lose, that were true Falcons fans. A lot of those fans were business people. Thank goodness, because it made my job a lot easier.”
After marketing, Nobis moved into the pro scouting department. He recalled, “That was where we were dedicated to scouting players on the other NFL teams. There would be time when teams would cut a player or teams would try to trade a player, and you would need information if your team was going to get involved. I was one of the people in our organization and did that for a couple of years. That was a real good challenge.”
Currently, Nobis has no official role with the organization. “I have been a season ticket holder, and certainly a Falcon fan. There are times that I will do something for the franchise and there are times that the franchise will do something for me. We still have a relationship, but it is more like a friendship. I am still a big Falcon fan.”
Nobis had always been active in the community, including during his playing days with the Falcons. In the mid-1970s, he started the Tommy Nobis Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing job training, as well as vocational and employment support for people with disabilities. The Center is now called Nobis Works. According to Nobis, “Nobis Works is strictly non-profit. I never took a salary from them. I was a volunteer and worked in a non-profit, but it was a real profit for me by helping people who needed help. Most of these people were young, and in a lot of cases school-aged.” He continued, “The big thing with a non-profit is to have a need that is truly there and is really a need. The need was that there are people that wanted to work, but they couldn’t get a job unless they had some kind of training. It just all made sense. You take a young man or young lady out of high school, and they are not quite ready on their own to go out and get a job or hold a job without some additional employment-type training. That is what the center was. We were that step that they could take that would help them go out and get a job and keep a job.”
He was also heavily involved with the Georgia Special Olympics. “For years, I was on the board and had the title of State Coach. The Special Olympics is what got me involved with young people that needed help in some way. The Special Olympics is a recreational organization for people with disabilities, and I can certainly relate to that because recreation was a big part of my life with sports. I saw what it could do for me, and here you had people who needed opportunities to have recreation and in a lot of cases, were not getting it. That is why I got involved and I saw the good things that could come out of it. The principles of having a good team. If you follow those principles and are a good team player, then more than likely, you will be able to go out in your own life and take care of things that are required of you to be successful.” His work with the organization earned him the Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Award.
When asked if he thought that he would ever be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he joked, “If you have got a vote, I would appreciate it.” He continued, “That is not a mystery to me. I see people that are inducted annually. In most cases, I feel that it is well deserved. You think about the number of men that played the game, and the number of men that had outstanding careers, and the number of men that really deserve that kind of recognition and haven’t received it, there are a lot of guys out there. I may be one of them, depending on what you think of my abilities and what I did. I may not be one of those. The fact that you asked that question, it is important to me and the NFL was a big part of my life. If somebody wants to recognize me for having that type of commitment, it would certainly make me feel good. You don’t always have to receive a paycheck or receive a gift, but recognition of some sort is very meaningful. I find that to be more meaningful to me than putting a dollar in the bank or whatever.”
In 2005, Nobis was inducted into the Professional Football Researchers Association’s (PFRA) Hall of Very Good. The Hall of Very Good is the PFRA’s way of honoring players who have had excellent careers, but are not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. When the topic of the Hall of Very Good came up and this author mentioned that the Professional Football Researchers Association felt that his career was worthy of recognition, Nobis responded, “That type of statement is certainly very, very meaningful to me.” He continued, ‘To hear that the people of the organization think enough about me to voice the opinion that you voiced, I feel very good about that. That is what keeps me ticking. I know where I have been and I know what I have done. If other people want to recognize me for that, then I am very grateful and thankful.”
When asked what he is doing now, he joked, “Talking to you on the phone.” He continued, “It is interesting that you ask that. From time to time, I have different projects that I get involved with. Most of them are non-profit. I have friends that have different things that they are involved in. Most of my friends have helped me over the years, so I try to help them. But, I do not have to look too far to get involved with things.”
Nobis currently enjoys retirement in Georgia with his wife Lynn.
Teams:

  • Atlanta Falcons (1966-76)

Awards:

  • NFL Rookie of the Year (1966)
  • Named to the Pro Bowl (1966, 1967, 1968, 1970, 1972)
  • Inducted into the Texas Longhorn Hall of Honor (1976)
  • Named to Sports Illustrated’s All-Century Team (1869-1969)
  • Named to the Football News’ All-Time All-America Team
  • Named to the Walter Camp Football Foundation All-Century Team
  • Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame (1981)
  • Inducted into the State of Texas Sports Hall of Fame
  • Inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame (1983)
  • Inducted into the San Antonio Sports Hall of Fame (1995)
  • Inducted into the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame
  • Inducted into the Atlanta Falcons Ring of Honor (2004)
  • Inducted into the Professional Football Researchers Association’s Hall of Very Good (2005)
  • Inducted into the Thomas Jefferson High School Alumni Hall of Fame (2007)
  • Named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s All-Decade Team of the 1960s

Ken Crippen is the former executive director of the Professional Football Researchers Association. He has researched and written about pro football history for over two decades. He won the Pro Football Writers of America’s Dick Connor Writing Award for Feature Writing and was named the Ralph Hay Award winner by the Professional Football Researchers Association for lifetime achievement on pro football history.
Follow Ken on Twitter @KenCrippen

Where are they now: Ken Riley

When asked about the top defensive backs not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Ken Riley’s name is always on the list. However, he never received the recognition that he deserved during his playing career. In his 15-year tenure with the Cincinnati Bengals, he led the league in interceptions three times and is currently ranked fifth all-time in career interceptions. Riley felt that his demeanor may be the reason for his exclusion. “I am low key. I always thought that if you go out and do your job, you will get rewarded. Unfortunately, if you do not go out and be flashy or do some things that bring attention to yourself, your stats do not mean anything.”

Riley was not always a defensive back. Throughout high school and college, he played quarterback. He was the starter at Florida A&M from 1966 through 1968, and in 1968, he led the team in points scored and touchdowns.

He was drafted by the Bengals in 1969. Riley recalled his time with the team, “It was a great experience for me. Having been a quarterback in high school and college, and from being from a small school, and being a black quarterback at that time, it was gratifying.” Riley continued, “My first goal was to go to college and get an education to better myself in life. Then, this opportunity came along. I was drafted in the sixth round [of the 1969 NFL Draft]. Back then, they had 17 rounds. I was at a basketball game and someone came up to me and said that the Bengals wanted to talk to me. They are thinking about drafting you in the next round. Paul Brown gave me an opportunity and I was able to take advantage of it. They drafted Guy Dennis in the fifth round. They drafted me in the next round. I was their quarterback-slash-defensive back-slash-wide receiver. I was probably one of the first ‘slashes’ of that time. A lot of black quarterbacks at that time were converted to other positions.”

When asked if he thought he would play quarterback for the Bengals, he responded, “I did not know at the time. When I got to training camp, Coach Brown said that I was going to be a cornerback. I was put in that position and I had never played it before. I think that was good, as I did not have any bad habits. They felt that I had the quick feet and could change direction. They took a chance on me and it worked out well. I never looked back. I was just happy to have the opportunity.”

Riley had a lot of respect for Paul Brown. “It was a great experience. He was small in stature, but he could carry a big stick. I had a lot of respect for him. I learned a lot.” He continued, “There were a lot of things I questioned back then, but when I became a coach, I could see why he did what he did. He revolutionized football.”

Riley expanded on his impressions of Brown: “He believed in being punctual. If the meeting started at five o’clock, everybody would be there thirty minutes before. He didn’t believe in you being late. He talked about life. He cared about his athletes. If you got out of line, he would discipline you. If you didn’t do your job, he got rid of you. That was his philosophy. Do what you are supposed to do and do not get into trouble. Then, he would believe in you. You took tests. If you couldn’t do it on paper, you couldn’t do it on the field. We had classrooms and a playbook. You were assigned responsibilities. You had to know your position first. Then, you had to know what everyone around you was doing. You became a student of the game, which I thought was good.”

Riley retired from the Bengals after the 1983 season. During his tenure, the Bengals made the playoffs five times and appeared in the Super Bowl (a 26-21 loss to the San Francisco 49ers).

After retiring as a player, Riley went into coaching. He commented, “Forrest Gregg was my coach. I retired in ’83. When I went home, I thought I would be an administrator in the school system somewhere. He asked me if I wanted to coach pro ball. I told him that I wanted to give the Bengals an opportunity. I contacted the Bengals. They said ‘Yeah. You would be working with Dick LeBeau in the secondary.’ Forrest Gregg said, ‘No. I want you to be my secondary coach. Period. I think that you are ready. I want you to come and take over the secondary.’ I went with him. I thought that I was too close to the [Bengals] players and that I needed to get away.”

He coached with the Green Bay Packers for two years, before moving on to a head coaching position with Florida A&M. Riley remembered, “I got summoned by my [college] coach Jake Gaither. He wanted me to come back to Florida A&M and be the head football coach there. I had my eyes set on being a head coach in the NFL. At that time, they said that most of the black guys did not have any head coaching experience. Back then, there were not too many black assistants. There was a few. Tony Dungy and Emmitt Thomas. I opted to go at [the college] level.”

During his time at Florida A&M, the Rattlers won two Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference titles and compiled a 48-39-2 record.

After the 1985 season, Riley became Florida A&M’s athletic director and served in that position for nine years. He recalled, “They changed presidents and he said that he wanted to move in another direction, which means that you didn’t have a job any more.”

According to Riley, “I came home for a year. I got tired of sitting around the house. I was only 54 or 55 [years old]. I went into the school system here. I liked working with young people and became dean of students at [Winter Haven High School].” He retired from Winter Haven last year.

In 2010, Riley was inducted into the Professional Football Researchers Association’s (PFRA) Hall of Very Good. Formed in 2003, the Hall of Very Good is the PFRA’s way of honoring players who have had excellent careers, but are not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. When informed of his induction, Riley commented, “I think that you’ve done your homework. I am very appreciative of you recognizing that. I am very appreciative that someone looked at the stats and felt that I was worthy for my accomplishments. I did well both on and off of the field.”

Riley seems to have Hall of Fame statistics, but induction into the hallowed halls of Canton has eluded him. Riley commented, “If you get 65 interceptions, you are getting the job done. I led the conference three times. My accomplishments speak for themselves.” Currently, he ranks fifth all-time in interceptions with 65. He is surrounded by Hall of Famers on that list: Paul Krause (81), Emlen Tunnell (79), Rod Woodson (71), ‘Night Train’ Lane (68), Ronnie Lott (63), Dick LeBeau (62), Emmitt Thomas (58), Mel Blount (57) and Lem Barney (56). There are more Hall of Famers farther down the list. Obviously, he has the statistics to get into the Hall of Fame.

Another argument people make against his induction is the lack of Pro Bowl nods. According to Riley, “The system is all screwed up. A lot of times, there were guys who made the Pro Bowl based on what they did the previous year. Lemarr Parrish and I are good friends. In 1976, I had nine interceptions and led the conference. I had three in the last game against the Jets. I will never forget it. Charlie Winters was my secondary coach. They took me out in the third quarter. He said that he didn’t want me to get hurt, because, ‘There is no way that this time they would pass you up.’ Lemarr [Parrish] was hurt half of the season that year. When they picked the Pro Bowl, they selected him, which I never understood and neither did he. I can’t fault him, but the system is all screwed up. My last two years, I led the conference in interception
s and I made the press all-pro.” Riley never made the Pro Bowl.

According to an August 3, 2013 article in the New York Times, teammate Cris Collinsworth said of Riley, “You’ll never find a bigger advocate of his making the Hall than me.” Collinsworth continued, “I probably learned more football from Kenny Riley than from anyone I played for or against. Everything I did that worked against everybody else never worked against him. But as soon as he would pick off a pass on my route or beat me to a spot, he’d tell me why, explain what I’d done wrong. He wanted me to be better because that made the team better.” Riley responded to the glowing praise from his teammate, “That is very gratifying and heartwarming. While I was on my way up, I had to learn on my own. Helping others helped me concentrate on the little things.”

Riley is currently retired and lives in Florida. He focuses his time working with kids in his community.

Teams:
• Cincinnati Bengals (1969-83)

Coaching:
• Green Bay Packers (Assistant Coach)(1984-85)
• Florida A&M (Head Coach)(1986-93)

Awards:
• Florida A&M Athletic Hall of Fame (1977)
• Tallahassee Sports Hall of Fame (1996)
• Florida Sports Hall of Fame (1992)
• Polk County Hall of Fame (1992)
• Black College Coach of the Year (1988)
• Twice Named Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference Coach of the Year (1988 and 1990)
• Florida High School Association All-Century Team (2007)
• Professional Football Researchers Association’s Hall of Very Good (2010)

Ken Crippen is the former executive director of the Professional Football Researchers Association. He has researched and written about pro football history for over two decades. He won the Pro Football Writers of America’s Dick Connor Writing Award for Feature Writing and was named the Ralph Hay Award winner by the Professional Football Researchers Association for lifetime achievement on pro football history.

Follow Ken on Twitter @KenCrippen

Where are they now: Ed Sprinkle

Once called “The Meanest Man in Football,” Chicago Bears great Ed Sprinkle spent 12 seasons punishing opponents and helping the team to an NFL Championship in 1946. He is considered one of the best defensive ends in team history.

Sprinkle's 1951 Bowman card

However, the moniker of “The Meanest Man in Football” still haunts him. It was coined by Bill Fay in a November 25, 1950 article in Collier’s Weekly. According to an article written by Bob Carroll, my predecessor at the Professional Football Researchers Association, Sprinkle was quoted as saying, “I think that the article was a bum rap. I was about as aggressive as any football player that walked on the field. If I had an opportunity to hit someone I hit them. I had a reputation with my teammates and [George] Halas as being the roughest player the Bears ever had. That doesn’t make me mean or dirty.” I would have been remiss if I did not ask Sprinkle about that article. Sprinkle recalled, “[Fay] interviewed me for the article, but he didn’t say anything about what he was going to write about. I was a little surprised. I came in full barrel when I played, but I didn’t know that was what he was writing about.” Sprinkle commented on the aftermath of the article, “What can you say? What is done is done.”

Sprinkle attended Hardin-Simmons College, where he earned All-Border Conference honors. He also earned All-Eastern honors while at the Naval Academy. He only attended Hardin-Simmons for three years, before the athletic program was cancelled due to the war. At that point, he went to the Naval Academy.

When asked whether he wanted to make the military his career, Sprinkle replied, “I did. I would have if they did not cancel [the program] because of the war. I wanted to be a pilot in the Naval Air Corps, but the war ended before I got into active duty. I was at a Naval Air Station in New Orleans.”

While in college and in the Navy, Sprinkle had a desire to play professional football. According to Sprinkle, “I was interested in professional football because of Bulldog Turner. He went to Hardin-Simmons, where I went. I met Bulldog and I was going to try to make it with Bulldog’s help.” In 1944, he tried out for the Bears and made the squad.

The Bears started him at guard, but switched him to end after two years. “I wasn’t big enough to play guard. I weighed 210 pounds.”

Sprinkle recalled playing for George Halas; “Everybody was worried about George Halas. You didn’t make mistakes with him out there.” He continued, “But, he wasn’t there every day. We had two other co-coaches: Luke Johnsos and Hunk Anderson. They handled the coaching.”

Sprinkle’s ability earned him four Pro Bowl bids in the last six years of his career. The Pro Bowl did not start until 1950, or he probably would have been nominated to more. However, earning four nods in the six-year existence of the Pro Bowl was quite an accomplishment. Historical Note: All-Star games were played earlier than 1950 between a team of all-stars and the league champion, but the Pro Bowl concept did not come into being until June of 1950.

Sacks did not become an official statistic until 1981, but Sprinkle remembered his ability to hit the quarterback for a loss. “I had five sacks on one game.” It is unknown how many sacks he racked up during his career.

He received the nickname ‘The Claw’ from his infamous clothesline tackling technique. Sprinkle commented, “They were going to put me at left end. I said, ‘I want to be a right end because I could reach over with my left arm.’ I am left handed.” As unsuspecting runners came through the line, they were met with the fierce arm of Sprinkle.

During the off-season, Sprinkle worked as an engineer at Inland Steel. That continued after his retirement. Then, he opened his own tile and carpet shop and was owner of a bowling alley.

Since his retirement, Sprinkle has been honored with several awards, including induction into the Chicago Bears Ring of Honor and the Chicago Sports Hall of Fame.

In 2007, Sprinkle was inducted into the Professional Football Researchers Association’s (PFRA) Hall of Very Good. Formed in 2003, the Hall of Very Good is the PFRA’s way of honoring players who have had excellent careers, but are not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

When asked about his chances to be inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame, Sprinkle did not mince words. “My personal opinion is that politics played into getting players into the Hall of Fame that didn’t deserve it. I feel like I deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. It probably won’t happen.”

Currently, Sprinkle lives in Illinois with his daughter and her husband.

Teams:
• Chicago Bears (1944-55)

Awards:
• Selected to four Pro Bowls
• Inducted into the Chicago Sports Hall of Fame (1984)
• Inducted into the Helms Foundation Hall of Fame
• Inducted into the Hardin-Simmons University Hall of Fame (1990)
• Inducted into the Professional Football Researchers Association’s Hall of Very Good (2007)
• Inducted into the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame (2007)
• Named to the 75th Anniversary All-Sun Bowl Team (2008)
• Chicago Bears Ring of Honor (2009)
• Named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s All-Decade Team of the 1940s

Ken Crippen is the former executive director of the Professional Football Researchers Association. He has researched and written about pro football history for over two decades. He won the Pro Football Writers of America’s Dick Connor Writing Award for Feature Writing and was named the Ralph Hay Award winner by the Professional Football Researchers Association for lifetime achievement on pro football history.

Where are they now: Steve Grogan

Long-time quarterback of the New England Patriots, Steve Grogan played in 149 games over his 16-year career. But, his career was marred by injuries. However, he was one of the toughest players to play quarterback. Hall of Fame guard John Hannah referred to Grogan as the toughest player he ever played with in his career. Referring to the impact that quarterback toughness has on a team, Grogan said, “In my opinion, it means a lot to the guys up there that are protecting you and opening up the holes for the running backs. The offensive line, in particular, respect quarterbacks that show some toughness and don’t act like they are worried about getting hurt all of the time and can play hurt. Most of those guys are playing hurt too, so I think that they respect a quarterback that will do those kinds of things.”

Grogan grew up in Ottawa, Kansas. According to Grogan, “It was enjoyable. A small town. A lot of great people. I grew up about two blocks from a small college: Ottawa University in Ottawa, Kansas, where my mom and dad went to school. At a young age, I was attending football games, basketball games, and track meets. I could walk up there myself and sneak into the gym and play basketball myself. It was a great location.”

Grogan continued, “In junior high and high school, there was a group of us that were all in the same class that really enjoyed athletics and some of us had some talent. By the time we were seniors, we finished second in the state in football, and won the basketball and track championships. So, it was a good group of guys.”

While at Kansas State, Grogan started at quarterback his junior and senior years. Referring to his chances at becoming a professional quarterback, Grogan said, “I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was bothered by a neck injury my senior year. I was told that I could be drafted anywhere from the first round to not drafted at all due to the injury. I did not have any expectations of what would take place.” Grogan was drafted in the fifth round by the New England Patriots.

As a rookie, Grogan started seven games for the Patriots. While the season was unsuccessful (3-11 overall record), his sophomore year in the pros was highlighted by an 11-3 record with Grogan as the starter.

Over the following three seasons, he started every game for New England and amassed a record of 30-17 with a playoff appearance. In 1976, he set an NFL record by rushing for 12 touchdowns. That was the most by a quarterback since Johnny Lujack set the record in 1950 and was tied by Tobin Rote in 1956. The record stood for 35 years until Cam Newton broke it in 2011 with 14 rushing touchdowns.

In 1985, the Patriots went to the Super Bowl. Tony Eason started the year, but lack of production led to him being benched in favor of Grogan. After winning six straight games, Grogan broke his leg and was out for the rest of the regular season. But, Eason was able to lead the team to the playoffs and a date with the vaunted Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl.

Grogan was not the starter for the game, but after Tony Eason was ineffective in the first quarter-and-a-half, coach Raymond Berry benched his quarterback and replaced him with Grogan. Eason went 0-6 passing, with three sacks for a loss of 28 yards and a fumble. Grogan went 17 for 30 for 177 yards and a touchdown in his effort, but the Bears were too much and easily won the game 46-10. According to Grogan, “I had been inactive for the first two playoff games against the Jets and the Raiders. I was given clearance to dress for the Miami game. I was ready to go for the Super Bowl, but Eason had been the starting quarterback for the three playoff wins and Raymond Berry had decided to go with him, which I understood. He struggled early in the Super Bowl and Raymond asked me to go in to see what I could do. I had visions of pulling us out of the fire, but we were playing against a defense that was maybe one of the best ever in the NFL. It didn’t happen.”

The remainder of his career was marred by injury. He would not start an entire season before he finished with the Patriots after the 1990 campaign. “They had a coaching change here after the 1990 season. The new staff came in and asked me to retire. They were going to go in another direction. I didn’t feel like I was ready to retire. I thought that I could play another couple of years for somebody. So I had them release me. I talked to a team or two, but nothing ever materialized. So, that was the end of it.”

After retiring from playing pro football, Grogan wanted to get into coaching. Grogan recalled, “I had always planned on coaching when I got done. My dad and brother were coaches, and I had an uncle that was a coach. It was just a natural transition for me. But, I kept running into dead ends and closed doors and people telling me that I needed to go back to the high school level to get some experience. I was almost 38 or 39 years old when they were telling me that, and with three kids, I just didn’t feel like I had the time to go back down and start at the bottom rung and work my way up.”

Currently, Grogan owns Grogan Marciano Sporting Goods in Mansfield, Massachusetts. “I was approached by a gentleman who owned, what was then, Marciano Sporting Goods. It was originally started by Peter Marciano, who was Rocky Marciano’s brother, the boxer. Peter had had it for over 20 years and sold it to this other gentleman. He was having some financial trouble and was looking for someone to take over the business. It was five miles from the house and I knew that I would be around things that I had been around all of my life and enjoyed being around. The price was pretty good, so I decided to take a chance. I knew that my three boys could probably be involved in the business. I thought I would try it for a while and see how it went. That was 19 years ago. I guess that we are doing something right.”

In addition to running his business, Grogan remains active in the community. According to Grogan, “I still do some public speaking and some autograph sessions. I will also do some meet-and-greets for companies that are looking for someone to entertain them for an evening or an afternoon.” Grogan continued, “Other than that, it is run the business and make sure things are going well here.”

In a September 25, 2003 article, Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo penned the Grogan Toughness Meter (GTM). The GTM was a way to measure the toughness of an athlete, using Grogan as the benchmark. From that article, Cafardo mentioned, “To explain GTM a little better, here’s a partial list of Grogan’s ailments: five knee surgeries; screws in his leg after the tip of his fibula snapped; a cracked fibula that snapped when he tried to practice; two ruptured disks in his neck, which he played with for 1 1/2 seasons; a broken left hand (he simply handed off with his right hand); two separated shoulders on each side; the reattachment of a tendon to his throwing elbow; and three concussions.”

Grogan commented on the GTM, “It was interesting. Everybody talks about how tough I was when I was playing. I do appreciate that, but I hope that I was a pretty good player too, for the 16 years I played in the league. I wish they would talk about that a little more. But, it feels good to be respected for what I did.”

Not only known for his toughness, Grogan was also known to be a good running quarterback until injuries slowed him down. According to Grogan, “We ran the option at Kansas State. We were not very good. I joke with people here that [my running ability] was a survival instinct that I developed at Kansas State.” He continued, “I was playing for coach Chuck Fairbanks, who had come from Oklahoma where they ran the wishbone and he wasn’t afraid to let me run. He knew that it was a talent that I had. Early in my career, I was able to use that running ability to have some success and to buy me time to learn the passing game, so that when I started to have knee problems, I could transform myself into a guy that could stay in the pocket and not run a whole lot.”

Teams:
• New England Patriots (1975-90)

Awards:
• New England Patriots All-Decade Team – 1970s
• New England Patriots All-Decade Team – 1980s
• Patriots 35th Anniversary Team (1994)
• New England Patriots Hall of Fame (1995)
• Kansas State University Ring of Honor (Inaugural Class in 2002)

Ken Crippen is the former executive director of the Professional Football Researchers Association. He has researched and written about pro football history for over two decades. He won the Pro Football Writers of America’s Dick Connor Writing Award for Feature Writing and was named the Ralph Hay Award winner by the Professional Football Researchers Association for lifetime achievement on pro football history.

 

Where are they now: Harold Jackson

A five-time Pro Bowl receiver, Harold Jackson retired with over 10,000 receiving yards in his 16-year playing career. But, he never thought pro football was going to be a part of his professional life until college. “When I left high school, I did not weigh more than 149 pounds,” recalled Jackson. “I knew that football was a big man’s game.” However, Jackson proved that at 5’10”, he could play. “I got a scholarship to Jackson State. I started playing and started getting letters from the pros. I thought that maybe I do have something. In my junior year, I really started to get the itch [to play pro football].”
Jackson was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 1968.
His first year with the Rams was uneventful. He saw action in only two games. Jackson commented, “George Allen thought that rookies make too many mental mistakes. That is why George always believed in veteran ballplayers.” He continued, “We were about to get into the playoffs and we were playing the Chicago Bears. We were behind in the game. George Allen put me in for the last few minutes of the game. I had pretty good speed and he felt that Roman Gabriel could throw the deep ball and get it to me. We ran that play twice and each time, the ball was thrown short. So, I tried to come back for the ball and the defensive back ran right over me. [The referees] didn’t call anything.” They lost the game 17-16.
After the season, Jackson was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles. Jackson recalled, “After that season was over, I was in the National Guard. While I was there, I got a call from the Rams saying that they had traded me to Philadelphia. I didn’t know how to take it at the time. It worked out really good for me because that is where I really got my start. I went there and made all-pro and went to the Pro Bowl.”

Harold JacksonJackson’s career spanned 16 years and he gained over 10,000 yards

While with the Eagles, Jackson flourished. Twice, he led the league in receiving yards and yards-per-game. But, his time in Philadelphia was short-lived. After the 1972 season, he was traded back to the Los Angels Rams. Jackson did not want to leave. He recalled, “I enjoyed my time with Philadelphia. When I left Philadelphia, I was in the National Guard again. We were doing our summer camp in Virginia. [Philadelphia] told me that I was traded back to Los Angeles. I just started crying. I didn’t want to leave Philadelphia, because I thought that Philadelphia was good to me. I owe a lot to Philly.”
That was Jackson’s second trade in five seasons. “When you get traded, you feel as though people do not care for you.”
Back in Los Angeles, George Allen was gone and his replacement Tommy Prothro was also gone. Star quarterback Roman Gabriel was now in Philadelphia. According to Jackson, “[The Rams] had a new coach in Chuck Knox and they brought in John Hadl as the new quarterback.” The Rams instantly jumped from a 6-7-1 record in 1972 to 12-2 with a playoff berth in Jackson’s first year back with the team. He also made the Pro Bowl, led the league in receiving touchdowns, and was named first-team all-conference and all-pro by several news organizations.
In 1978, Jackson went to the New England Patriots for four years, and finished his playing career with single-season stints with the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks.
However, Jackson was not done with pro football. After he retired from playing, he went into coaching. “When I retired [from playing football], coach [Raymond] Berry got the [head coaching] job in New England. I called to congratulate him. He said, ‘Give me your phone number. I would like to talk to you.’ He called me after the season was over to see if I would coach his wide receivers. The last thing on my mind was coaching. After you spend 16 years in the National Football League, you see the coaches working 24/7 and it looked like they never went home. Being a player, I thought that this is something that I did not want to do. He said to me, ‘You do not have to make up your mind right now. Just think about it for a couple of weeks and get back to me and let me know what you want to do.’ After I hung up, he called right back and said, ‘While you think about it, here is what we would be able to pay you.’ I said, ‘OK, coach. When I get back to Los Angeles, I will give you a call.’ When he hung up, about 15 minutes later he called back and said, ‘Have you thought about it?’ When I got back to L.A., I had a contract there waiting for me. I called Chuck Knox and talked to him about it. He said, ‘Just give it a year. If you do not like it, get out of it.’ So, I called coach Berry back and I told him what I was going to do. That year [1985], we went to the Super Bowl. I thought, ‘This is not too bad!’”
In 1987, the NFL players went on strike and replacements were signed. Jackson was a player-coach for two games. ”I suited up and never got on the field. Just a few drills in practice.”
After the 1989 season, Patriots head coach Raymond Berry was let go, which meant that Jackson was also out. He went on to become an assistant coach for North Carolina Central University for one season. After coaching a season in the Arena football league and two seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jackson received his first head coaching assignment. However, it was not the way he wanted it to happen. Jackson recalled, “When I went to Virginia Union [College], I went there to help out one of the coaches I had in college. I just went there for that particular year, just for the football season. The [athletic director] that was there wanted to fire the head coach and hire me. That head coach was just like a father to me and I went there to help out his receivers that particular year. I helped him at North Carolina Central [University] the same way when he was there. When they let him go [from Virginia Union], they made me the interim head coach. That really bothered me. When the season was over, the [athletic director] came to me and said, ‘Coach, let’s try to get [the contract] done on Monday.’ What I did was put the [salary request] real high so that they would not match it. When they said that they couldn’t do it, I packed my car and got on the highway.”
Jackson spent two years as the head coach at Benedict College in South Carolina. Then, he became the receivers coach for the New Orleans Saints under head coach Mike Ditka. After three seasons, Ditka was let go, meaning Jackson was again out of work. “When I left the Saints, I had a year on my contract,” recalled Jackson. “I volunteered at some high schools. I relaxed and recharged myself to get ready to go again.”
In 2001, Jackson became the receivers coach under Guy Morriss at the University of Kentucky. He followed Morriss to Baylor University in 2003 and was the receivers coach for four seasons. During his time off, he again volunteered his services to local schools. “I had a year on my contract. I relaxed a little bit. I helped out at high schools a little bit.”
In 2011, Jackson was inducted into the Professional Football Researchers Association’s (PFRA) Hall of Very Good. Formed in 2003, the Hall of Very Good is the PFRA’s way of honoring players who have had excellent careers, but are not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Jackson commented, “It makes you feel good that people recognize that you did something. I always say that God gives you a talent and you use that talent to the best of your ability. That is what I thought I did and that is what I was trying to do.”
Also in 2011, Jackson got back into coaching pro receivers. “I had been working with the UFL [United Football League]. I was with Jerry Glanville in Connecticut. They shut that team down. The only thing that we did with that team was hold three trial camps. We were getting ready to go to training camp. [The UFL] shut the team down and sent everybody back home. The next year, Turk Schonert got the job in Sacramento. He called me and I went up there and was the receivers coach. After the season was over, I got involved with Football University. They do camps for kids. That starts the end of March and goes through the end of July. That is what I am doing now.”
Jackson is also involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. “I am going around speaking to the young men in groups and telling them about my relationship with God. I was brought up in a family that was very religious. My dad was a deacon. I had four sisters and one brother. We all had to go to Sunday school. When all of the other kids were outside playing in the streets on Sunday afternoon, we all had to go to BTU, Baptist Training Union. I got active in the church. It is something I really enjoy doing.”
Jackson currently lives in California.
Teams:
• Los Angeles Rams (1968)
• Philadelphia Eagles (1969-72)
• Los Angeles Rams (1973-77)
• New England Patriots (1978-81)
• Minnesota Vikings (1982)
• Seattle Seahawks (1983)
Coaching:
• New England Patriots (Wide Receivers Coach)(1985-89)
• North Carolina Central University (Assistant Coach)(1990)
• New Orleans Night (Arena Football League)(Offensive Coordinator)(1991)
• Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Wide Receivers Coach)(1992-93)
• Virginia Union College (Interim Head Coach)(1994)
• Benedict College (Head Coach)(1995-96)
• New Orleans Saints (Wide Receivers Coach)(1997-99)
• University of Kentucky (Wide Receivers Coach)(2001-02)
• Baylor University (Wide Receivers Coach)(2003-06)
• Hartford Colonials (United Football League)(Wide Receivers Coach)(2011)*
• Sacramento Mountain Lions (United Football League)(Wide Receivers Coach)(2012)
*Team Did Not Play That Season
Ken Crippen is the former executive director of the Professional Football Researchers Association. He has researched and written about pro football history for over two decades. He won the Pro Football Writers of America’s Dick Connor Writing Award for Feature Writing and was named the Ralph Hay Award winner by the Professional Football Researchers Association for lifetime achievement on pro football history.
Follow Ken on Twitter: @KenCrippen