Where are they now: Jim Ray Smith

Known for his incredible speed, Smith became a mainstay on the Cleveland line for seven years and was considered one of the best offensive linemen of his era.

Smith attended Baylor University, where he earned two All-America nods. “My mother always wanted me to finish high school. No one in my family on either side had gone past the sixth grade. Well, my brother and I and my sister all graduated from high school and we went on to college and got our degree. If it hadn’t been for football, I would never have gone to college without a scholarship.”

In 1954, during his sophomore season at Baylor, Smith was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the sixth round.

After college, Smith served in the Army. “I was in [the Army] for 23 months, from January 1955 through December 1956,” recalled Smith. He joined the Browns midway through the 1956 season. “I took a 30-day leave during training camp to see if I could make the Browns. I did, but I sprained my ankle during an exhibition game in California. They said, ‘Why don’t you go back to the Army until you get that well. Then we will bring you on up.’ There were six or seven games left when they said, ‘Well, we will bring you back now.’ I took another leave to finish out the 1956 season. I think it was the Philadelphia game in Philadelphia that I took a flight back to Fayetteville, North Carolina when I mustered out of the Army. Then I went back to Cleveland and finished out the season.”

In his rookie year with the Browns, Smith played defensive end. “I had gone to Cleveland to take Lenny [Ford’s] place,” recalled Smith. “I weighed 218 pounds. Of course, Lenny weighed about 265 and was 6’4” or 6’5”. In 1955, I played in the College All-Star Game and I played offensive tackle. I was lined up in front of Don Colo and Lenny Ford. [The Cleveland Browns] thought they saw something there as an offensive lineman instead of a defensive end. When I went to camp in 1956, I was a defensive end, but they made me learn all of the offensive guard plays.” After one year, head coach Paul Brown switched him to offensive guard and his career took off.

Smith recalled his experiences playing for legendary coach Paul Brown. “At first, not knowing who he was, it was interesting,” said Smith. “He was very demanding. He demanded perfection. He was probably the most organized person I have ever known. He could have run any company in the world, particularly in America, the way he organized things.” Smith continued, “You had a playbook. If you lost that playbook, it was [a] $500 [fine]. When you weren’t making any money, $500 is a whole lot of money.”

Smith had the opportunity to block for arguably the greatest running back of all time: Jim Brown. Smith’s speed and Brown’s ability made Cleveland’s end sweep a powerful weapon. “I was there in ’56 and Jim came in ’57,” recalled Smith. “As a pulling guard, you went out to block for him. We would get together to talk about what we were going to do in different situations.” That relationship built one of the best running games in history.

After the 1961 season, Smith announced his retirement from the game in order to focus on his real estate business. According to Smith, “Ray Renfro and Mike McCormack got me to come back and play in 1962.”

He played one more season for the Browns. After the 1962 campaign, Smith again announced his retirement. That was around the same time as the firing of legendary coach Paul Brown by majority owner Art Modell. According to Smith, “We left at the same time.” Smith continued, “Our oldest son was going to start school. My wife didn’t want to put him in school up there [in Cleveland] for half a year and then bring him down here [to Dallas] for the second half of the year. I was in the real estate business in the off-season and I was doing decent. I just wanted to stay in the Dallas area, so that is what I did.”

“Art [Modell] tried to get me to talk to the Cowboys,” recalled Smith. “I said, ‘I do not want to talk to them.’ I know [head coach] Tom [Landry] and other players who play for him. I have no qualms about playing for him. I just did not want to play anymore. I was well. I didn’t have any major disasters, like knee problems. I had a few concussions and a shoulder problem, but nothing to keep me from playing. Then Art comes along and he says, ‘You are a good player and we would like to get something for you. We would like for you to talk to the Cowboys so that we can make a trade.’ I said, ‘I do not want to talk to them. I would rather leave it just like it is.’ After a couple of hours of listening, I said, “OK, I will talk to them, but I am here to tell you that I am not going to play for them.’ Before I got back to my office, [the Cowboys] had called and we had lunch. I said, ‘No. No. No.’ We had lunch the next day and I said, ‘No. No. No.’ Finally, they put some pressure on and they thought I had to play. So, I played.” Smith was traded to the Dallas Cowboys for tackle Monte Clark.

Commenting on the differences playing for Paul Brown versus Tom Landry, Smith said, “It was different. [Landry and I] were friends in the off-season. Tom is a good man. He was good because he is hard-headed. Paul Brown was hard-headed. Most great leaders are hard-headed. It is not a negative saying that. They are set on what they want to do and they are going to do it. Tom looked at an offense from a defensive standpoint. Paul Brown looked at an offense from an offensive standpoint. Paul says, ‘Every play that you run goes for a touchdown.’ Tom’s theory was that you go for two yards or five yards or ten yards. Then you throw the bomb for a touchdown. Paul Brown thought that if you had a short pass and everyone did what they were supposed to do, it’s a touchdown. Everything goes for a touchdown.” Smith continued, “One thing Tom did was that he changed blocking assignments during the week. Once, twice, maybe three times. You get in the heat of a game and they call the play that you had been going over. Now, was it the one we did on Tuesday, or Thursday, or was it this morning? He has changed it and I forgot what blocking scheme we were going to use. But, it all worked out.”

After two injury-riddled seasons with the Cowboys, Smith retired for good after the 1964 season. Smith commented, “My first year [with the Cowboys], I was on a kickoff and got rolled up on my knee. I didn’t even see the play. I tore my knee up in the middle of the season and again the second year. I had two knee operations with the Cowboys. I had two broken hands with the Cowboys and I had two concussions with the Cowboys.”

Smith focused his time on his real estate business. Smith explained, “Well, it was on the commercial end. Some leasing and some warehouse development. I was basically a broker. I ended up meeting Ed Gaylord here in Dallas. He owned Opryland, Oklahoma Publishing, and several television stations. I handled their land in the Dallas area for about 28 years. It was a good relationship. It helped me put three kids through college.”

In 2005, Smith was inducted into the Cleveland Browns Legends.

In 2008, Smith 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. “I thought that was great. Somebody is still looking after the old guys!”

“It is kind of like a lot of things that have happened since I retired, especially since the calendar has gone to 2000. You sit ba
ck and think that you have been forgotten. One of the things, when I left Cleveland, the managers said, ‘We are going to clean up your uniform and send it to Canton, because you will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in a few years and we want to make sure that they have got it.’ Well, I went over there one day and I was looking around and I asked if they had Ray Renfro’s uniform there. They said, ‘Yup.’ I said that I would like to see it. So, we went down into the vaults. They bring it out and I take pictures holding it. As we left, I said, ‘By the way, is my uniform here?’ They said, ‘Oh, no. You are not here.’ When I got home, I had a message from the Cleveland people. They said, ‘The guy is extremely embarrassed, because your uniform is down there.’ I said, ‘Well, tell them to send it on to me. If they are not going to let me in the Hall of Fame, I would like to have it here and give it to my kids.’ They said, ‘No. No. We can not do that.’ I said, ‘What are you going to do, just hide it?’ So, it is still there. It is probably like Ray Renfro and a lot of other guys who have their stuff there, but will never get in. Some of them need to be [inducted]. Maybe I was never that good.”

When asked about his Hall of Fame chances, Smith commented, “I am not mad. I don’t think that I have ever been selected to go through the process. I am 81 years old and I have lived without it.”

Currently, Smith is semi-retired. “I like to call it tiddling,” joked Smith. “I still do a little bit of [real estate]. A little bit in the oil business. I bought a little land. I was born and raised about 50 miles south of Houston in West Columbia. I have a little land down there. Nothing big. Just a few little acres. I just watch my retirement portfolio. I try to play a little golf.” He also enjoys spending time with his family. “We have three kids and four grandkids. Hopefully, we will add some more on.”

Smith is also feeling the impact of his playing days. “In the last three years or so, both of my shoulders have started hurting. Finally, it got so bad that I had the ball in my left shoulder removed and another put in.” He joked, “I tell everyone that they cut your arm off and they take a drill and drill down your arm bone. Then they put this titanium shaft with a ball on it and take a sledgehammer and drive it in there and then tie it all back together.” He continued, “I am still having a little problem with it, but I am having more problems with the other one. Part of it is football and part of it is just aging. You just kind of laugh and bear it, and keep going and enjoy life and your kids and grandkids. And try to make a hole-in-one every once-in-a-while.”

For the last 30 years or more, Smith has been on the Board of Directors for the Cotton Bowl Athletic Association. “It was set up with three representatives from each of the schools in the Southwest Conference. One of the members from Baylor was going out and he didn’t want to come back in. He said that they should get in touch with me. That was in the 70s sometime. I have been involved with it ever since. It has been a great experience.”

“The good Lord said, ‘Boy, we are going to make a football player out of you until we figure out what to do with you.’ I guess he made a pretty good football player. I don’t know.”

Smith currently lives in Texas.

Teams:
• Cleveland Browns (1956-62)
• Dallas Cowboys (1963-64)

Awards:
• Named to the Pro Bowl five times
• Inducted into the Baylor University Athletics Hall of Fame (1968)
• Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame (1987)
• Inducted into the Cleveland Browns Legends (2005)
• Inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame (2008)
• Inducted into the Professional Football Researchers Association’s Hall of Very Good (2008)


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: Maxie Baughan

When people talk about the greatest linebackers not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Maxie Baughan’s name is high on the list. Named to nine Pro Bowls in his twelve-year career, Baughan was a constant force on the defense of the Philadelphia Eagles and the Los Angeles Rams. He finished his playing career with the Washington Redskins in 1974.
He started playing football when he was about six years old. According to Baughan, “Football was a way of life back then.” He continued, “I lived in a steel town in Alabama. You either played football or you were in the band. I couldn’t play an instrument, so I played football. We all played football. You lived in a neighborhood where all of the steel workers were on strike. You hadn’t got anything, but you always had football.”
Baughan attended Georgia Tech. “I wanted to go to work and wear a white shirt. I figured if I took Industrial Management and Engineering, that I would be able to go to work.” He continued, “My daddy came home from work. He climbed telephone poles at U.S. Steel. About two or three times a year, he would come home with marks all over his arms and his legs where he had to grab the pole as he fell and he came down. I didn’t want to do that. That is the reason why I went to [Georgia] Tech. It was a great football program. I am glad I [went there] and I would do it again.”
Even though academics were high on Baughan’s agenda, he still played football and played well. Baughan set a record with 124 tackles his senior year at Georgia Tech. That season, he was named All-American and was the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year. It was at that point that pro football showed interest in him. “I never thought about playing professional football until my senior year when I started to receive some flyers from various pro teams. Being consensus All-American didn’t hurt, either. When all of that stuff started happening, I started thinking about it.” He added, “I thought I might as well try it. I thought I would probably play two or three years, but as the years went on, I never thought about quitting.”
Baughan’s professional career started about the best way possible for any player. “I was lucky. My rookie year, I started every game. I went to the Pro Bowl. We won the World Championship. We beat Green Bay. I got a ring as a rookie. It was a lot of fun.” He continued, “I thought, ‘Well, hey, we will do this every year.’ I did go to nine Pro Bowls, but I never went back to that World Championship Game again. I was in the playoffs a lot, but I never won another World Championship. Never got another ring. A lot of players go their entire career and never get one. At least I have one.”
However, the Eagles started to dismantle the team over the next several years. Baughan knew he was on his way out. “I think that it was time for me to move on. There were a few of us that had to move on. We didn’t agree with Coach Kuharich. He asked me, ‘Do you want to get traded?’ I said, ‘Yes, sir. I would like to go to New York. That is where the money is, or I would like to go to Atlanta. That is where I live.’ So, he traded me to Los Angeles. But, that was the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Did it bother him that he was traded to a team that was not on his list? “It bothered me right off the bat, because I didn’t know George Allen.”
Prior to Allen’s head coaching stint with the Rams, Allen was the head coach of both Morningside College and Whittier College. He was then an assistant coach with the Rams for one year before moving on to be an assistant coach with the Chicago Bears.
According to Baughan, “I knew that [Allen] had come from the Chicago Bears. A good friend of mine played for him with the Bears, Larry Morris. Larry was a linebacker at Georgia Tech before I got there. I lived about six or eight houses from him in Atlanta. I talked to him, and he said, ‘This is the luckiest day of your life.’ I said, ‘Oh, I hope you are right.’ He said, ‘I am right. You just wait.’”
Baughan continued, “When I got there, I could see what Larry was talking about. All of a sudden, I was calling the defenses and we were winning. We were one of the best defensive teams in football.” He added, “We had some pretty good players. Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen and Roosevelt Greer in front of us on the defensive line. Eddie Meador. Jack Pardee. We brought in Bill George on how to learn the system. Bill George was a linebacker from the Bears.”
“George Allen was a great football mind. I called the defenses. Back then, you didn’t have signaling in like today. I went to his office every morning, early. He and I would look at film. We would go over the practice schedule and prepare with him. Then, all of a sudden, I am thinking like he is. That is what he wanted to happen. In practice, we wound up doing what we talked about earlier that day. I had called the defenses for the Eagles. Now, I am calling them for the Rams.”
He played five seasons for the Rams, from 1966 through 1970. However, after an injury-plagued 1970 season, Baughan retired as a player and went into coaching. He credits Allen as his inspiration to become a football coach. “Yeah. That’s the only reason. I never thought about coaching before. I was selling bolts and nuts and industrial lubricants. As a football player, you had to work in the off-season to make things meet.”
Baughan started his coaching career at Georgia Tech. “Bill Fulcher got the [head coaching] job and he offered me the defensive coordinator job. I was there in 1972 and 1973. Then Fulcher quit. He decided that he didn’t want to coach anymore or something. I don’t know. Then, Pepper Rodgers came in. I would have stayed there with him. I walked into his office and he said, ‘Maxie, this place is not big enough for the both of us.’ So, that was the end of my coaching career at Georgia Tech.”
However, that was not the end for Baughan’s coaching aspirations. After leaving Georgia Tech, he joined the pro ranks as an assistant coach. “When [the Georgia Tech firing] happened, George Allen called. He said, ‘Hey Maxie, come on up here and play.’ I said, ‘George, I can’t even walk, let alone run.’ He said, ‘You can coach the linebackers, and if Chris [Hanburger] gets hurt, you can fill in for him calling the defenses.’ He wanted a backup for his signal-caller. He always had somebody. An old guy that knew what was happening. So, I went up there and played a year. I was a player-coach. I might have been one of the last of those. I don’t know.” Baughan played in two games for the Redskins before retiring for good from playing football.
“After that year, Ted Marchibroda went to Baltimore as a head coach, and Ted had been the offensive coordinator in L.A. when I was out there, and the offensive coordinator of the Redskins when I was there. [Marchibroda] said, ‘Hey Maxie, come to Baltimore and be the defensive coordinator.’ I said, ‘OK.’”
While Baughan was with the Colts, the team won three straight division titles. “We had a good run in Baltimore.” He continued, “We had some good players. Bert Jones was our quarterback. Physically, Bert was probably one of the best quarterbacks I was ever associated with, and I was associated with some pretty good ones. Norm Van Brocklin. Sonny Jurgensen. Pretty good quarterbacks.”
After spending five seasons with the Colts, Baughan coached the linebackers for the Detroit Lions for thee years. Then, he received his first and only head coaching job – Cornell University. According to Baughan, “I was coaching in Detroit. Tom Matte, who was a running back with the Colts, was a friend of mine. He recommended me to Cornell. He and Roger Weiss came out to Detroit to see me.”
Baughan added, “It was always a challenge. I always thought of coaching at the academy. Navy. Army. Air Force. Coast Guard. Some of those, because of the discipline. I thought that would be fun. Then, I turned it over to the Ivy [League] for the same reason. I didn’t even interview with Cornell. My wife did. My wife came to Ithaca because we were playing in the playoffs against the Redskins. I couldn’t come. By the time she got through, we had the job. She had a good interview!”
In 1988, he led Cornell to a first place tie with the University of Pennsylvania for the Ivy League crown. He left after the 1988 season and went back to the NFL. “I wanted to stay on defense and the linebackers. To me, coaching linebackers in the NFL was a heck of a job. I enjoyed that.”
From Cornell, Baughan coached linebackers with the Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Baltimore Ravens.
“In football, you are hired to get fired. As soon as the head coach goes, you go.” Ravens’ head coach Ted Marchibroda was fired after going 6-10 in the 1998 season. Baughan was out of a job. According to Baughan, “We lived here in Baltimore for the second time. Diane didn’t want to move. So we stayed right here. That is when we retired.”
Retirement has gone well for Baughan. “I am sitting on my screened-in porch looking over a golf course. I played golf and I have a garden out here and I spend a lot of time with the grandchildren. We have three sons and eight grandchildren.” Baughan added, “I do some youth camps for kids from eight to around 15 or 16 years old. I do about three or four of those a year.”
Throughout his career, Baughan played with Hall of Fame linebackers: Chuck Bednarik, Dave Robinson and Chris Hanburger. “When you get with people like Chris and Jack Pardee and Dave Robinson, those guys are players. You don’t have to motivate them. They are already motivated. Just like Deacon Jones and Merlin Olsen. You just get them mentally ready. That is what George Allen did.”
He also coached perennial Pro Bowl linebackers Derrick Brooks and Ray Lewis. “Derrick was a great young man. Smart. He wanted to play football more than anything in the world.” He continued, “The same thing with Ray Lewis. He wanted to play. A quick story about Ray Lewis. We were going to have two [first round] draft choices [in the 1996 NFL Draft] with the Ravens. I didn’t think that we would use the first choice to get [Lewis], but I really wanted to get him. I was hoping that we could use the second draft choice. We drafted Jonathan Ogden number one, which was great. He was a great player and turned out to be one of the best offensive tackles to play the game. Then, we were coming up on our second pick and they were thinking of drafting a wide receiver or running back. I stood up and said, ‘Hey. Listen. We have got to draft Ray Lewis. He is the best linebacker in the draft. He could play for a long time.’ [Some of the scouts] said he was too little. Anyway, I convinced them, or I think that I convinced them, that Ray Lewis is the man for that time in the draft. Eventually, they went along with it and they drafted him. I think that he was one of the better linebackers to ever play.”
In 2005, Baughan 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.
Baughan currently lives in Maryland with his wife.
Playing Career:
• Philadelphia Eagles (1960-65)
• Los Angeles Rams (1966-70)
• Washington Redskins (1974)
Coaching Career:
• Georgia Tech – Assistant Head Coach, Linebackers Coach, Defensive Coordinator (1972-73)
• Washington Redskins – Linebackers Coach (1974)
• Baltimore Colts – Defensive Coordinator (1975-79)
• Detroit Lions – Linebackers Coach (1980-82)
• Cornell University – Head Coach (1983-88)
• Minnesota Vikings – Linebackers Coach (1990-91)
• Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Linebackers Coach (1992-95)
• Baltimore Ravens – Linebackers Coach (1996-98)
Awards:
• Named to the Pro Bowl nine times
• Inducted into the Georgia Tech Hall of Fame (1965)
• Inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame (1980)
• Inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame (1983)
• Inducted into the Gator Bowl Hall of Fame
• Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame (1988)
• Inducted into the Professional Football Researchers Association’s Hall of Very Good (2005)
• Inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame (2012)

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: Daryle Lamonica

Just mention the nickname “The Mad Bomber,” and football fans remember one of the best quarterbacks to play in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Daryle Lamonica received that nickname from broadcaster Howard Cosell. Lamonica recalled, “It was on a Monday night game. I don’t know where he came up with that one. I heard it and I said, ‘What a dumb name.’ But the very next game, I distinctly remember it. It was a home game. I got under center and I looked out at the left corner. We made eye contact and he backed up two steps. I thought, ‘Ooh. I like that. Maybe that is not such a bad nickname.’ It stuck and that is what I ended up with.”

Lamonica grew up in rural California. “I was born on a farm. Peaches and grapes,” recalled Lamonica. “I spent a lot of time hunting and fishing in the back yard. That is the way I was raised.”

However, the sports bug hit. “My first big sports thrill was that I played in the first ever Little League World Series in Hershey Park, Pennsylvania.” He was a multi-sport athlete in high school. “I lettered in four sports: track, football, basketball and baseball. Baseball was my strongest sport.” He continued, “I just tried to play all sports to keep in shape year round.”

Lamonica was an All-State quarterback in high school, but baseball came calling. “My senior year, I turned down a $50,000 bonus plus contract with the Chicago Cubs to play baseball.” Instead, he went to Notre Dame on a scholarship to play football. He started at quarterback for three years and was named the Most Valuable Player in the East-West Shrine Game in 1962.

In 1963, Lamonica was drafted by both the Buffalo Bills of the American Football League (AFL) and the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League (NFL). Lamonica chose the Buffalo Bills. “The Bills were calling me every day. I got a call from a scout with Green Bay and he said that they would get back to me in a few days. I was getting ready to go out and play in the East-West Shrine Game. Ara Parseghian called me and said that he wanted me to be the starting quarterback for the East team. The Bills kept saying that if you get hurt, you won’t have a contract. We didn’t have agents back then. My mom used to send me $5 a week from her tip money from her beauty shop and that was my spending money. [The Bills] offered me $11,500 and a $1,500 signing bonus. I took that offer to my [Notre Dame] coach Joe Kuharich. He said, ‘That is a good contract. You should sign it.’ Now, I am walking back to my dorm room and thought, ‘Gosh, I am worth more than that.’ So, I called them back. I told John Mazer with the Bills, ‘I gotta have more money.’ He said, ‘How much more do you need?’ I said, ‘I gotta have a $2,000 bonus and a $12,000 contract.’ He was laughing so hard, he almost dropped the phone. He said, ‘I will send the contract in the mail to you.’ Then, I went out and played for Ara Parseghian and had a reall good game. I won MVP. After the game, I had a scout come up to me and said, ‘Here is a $100,000 bonus and a $100,000 contract.’ I didn’t know there was that much money in pro football. It just shows how the game has changed with agents. What it did prove is that maybe I had some ability and that I could possibly play at the next level.”

From 1963 through 1966, the Bills went on a winning streak, appearing in four straight league championships and winning in 1964 and 1965. That set the groundwork for Lamonica’s career. “I was fortunate to be an understudy to Jack Kemp. I had a chance to play with some great football players. We had a great defense that could keep us in all of the games. I got to learn the winning ways. Maybe I could be a starting quarterback.”

In 1967, Lamonica and wide receiver Glenn Bass were traded to the Oakland Raiders for wide receiver Art Powell and quarterback Tom Flores. Lamonica recalled, “Art Powell said to me, ‘I am probably the culprit, because I wanted to get back to Canada. I probably instigated that.’ Whether that is true or not, I don’t know.”

Lamonica continued, “There were no agents back then. I got to talk to both Ralph Wilson Junior and Senior the night before I was traded. Mr. Wilson Sr. said, ‘You will be our starting quarterback coming back this year.’ I was so fired up I could run through a brick wall. Eight hours later, I was traded. I still don’t know. Mr. Wilson has never explained it to me, why he traded me.”

However, Lamonica did not find out about the trade from traditional channels. Lamonica recalled, “I was talking to somebody and he said, ‘Hey, you have been traded to the Raiders!’ I said, ‘Yeah, yeah, right. No way.’ I had to call the Fresno Bee, my hometown paper, to find out that I was traded. I called my mom and she said that Al Davis had called and wanted me to call.”

Lamonica remembered, “I called Al [Davis] and met with him the next day. I looked at their upcoming schedule and the third league game was Buffalo in Buffalo. I got my playbook that day and just started studying for that one game.” Once game time arrived, “I go back and the fans give me a 15-minute standing ovation. It was really good. Cornerback Butch Byrd said that I would never complete a pass to his side of the field. I threw two touchdown passes in the first half right over top of him. They were a really good football team.”

Lamonica recalled, “I learned my winning ways from Buffalo. I go back to Buffalo a lot. A big part of my heart is still there because they gave me the opportunity to be a professional quarterback.” When asked if there were any hard feelings toward the Buffalo Bills organization, Lamonica said, “No. No. In fact, it is the exact opposite. They gave me an opportunity to come back to the West Coast and my family could come to the games and see me play. It all works out. You are hurt at the time and you do not understand the reasons why, but after you play the game enough, they are still part of my family. I am still very active with the alumni there, as well as the Raiders.”

Lamonica remembered what it was like to play for Al Davis: “Al was a unique individual. He knew the game of football. He actually coached the game. We had a wide-open offense. Everyone called it a form of the West Coast Offense. All of that was learned under Sid Gillman of the San Diego Chargers. Al was an assistant coach under him and learned the West Coast Offense. Where you put two wide receivers on the same side and open the game up. That fit me like a glove. The one thing about Al is that you could always talk football with him. One thing he stressed after every game. He would come up and ask, ‘What is the most important stat that you had this week?’ I said, ‘No INT’s.’ That was a big deal. No turnovers. Also, he liked speed. He liked guys that could run and could carry the ball and receivers that could go deep.” Lamonica finished by saying, “He was one of the few owners that really understood the game of football and made it fun to play.”

In Lamonica’s first year with the Raiders, he took them to the Super Bowl against the Green Bay Packers. However, they lost 33-14. “That is the ultimate goal that you set out at the first of the year. We had a lot of young players. Shell and Upshaw and a lot of young guys there. We faced a pretty tough opponent in the Green Bay Packers. I talked to Jerry Kramer and he said, ‘Daryle, you had a big hurdle to get over. Right before the game started, the “old man,”’ as they called Vince Lombardi, ‘said that this was the last game that he was going to coach,’ and he wanted to win one for the coach. He said, ‘We were pretty well fired up.’ They were a good football team. They had a great pass rush. We played them real tough to halftime. But, we made a couple of errors and I threw an interception. I walked away from that game disappointed, but knowing that we had the potential to really play with the best-of-the-best in the game. I knew that we had a chance to go on and do very well in the future.”

Over the next three years, Lamonica was able to take the Raiders to the Conference Championship Game, but was never able to get them back to the Super Bowl. “We always go there, but were never able to close. I always felt bad about that.”

In 1973, he was benched in favor of fourth-year quarterback Ken Stabler. After seeing limited playing time in 1974, Lamonica was released by the Raiders.

In 1975, Lamonica played for the Southern California Sun of the World Football League. “I wish that I had an agent there. I would have probably stayed in the NFL. [The World Football League] had been calling me and calling me. They made me a really attractive offer. I went down there and it was really stepping down a couple of notches from what I was used to. The league folded that year. [Larry] Czonka, [Jim] Kiick and I talked and we thought it was a good concept, but from playing from where we were to where we went was not the same caliber.” After one season, he retired from playing football.

Lamonica commented, “I had a passion for the game of football. I still have a passion for the game of football. I think that I would have played the game for nothing. That is how much I loved it.”

Commenting on the Raiders fans, Lamonica said, “They were special and they still are. That is who we played for. We played for the city of Oakland and the fans. They get all fired up, but when you are on the field, you want to play good for them. You hate to let them down.” He continued, “I only have fond memories of the game of football. I mentioned before that we would have played for nothing.” He joked, “In retrospect, we probably did.”

After retirement, Lamonica focused on the trucking business. “While I was playing, I was into trucking. I had Mammoth Truck Lines here in Fresno. I did that in the off-season. Then, I went to Alaska and started a truck line there. My wife got pregnant with our son, and she said, ‘I am moving back to California.’ So, I sold my interest there and moved back to Fresno, California. I wanted to raise my family here and send my son to the Clovis Unified School District. It was a good move for me.”

Lamonica loves the outdoors. After he retired, he hosted a fishing show for Fox Sports Net named “Outdoors with the Pros.” Lamonica commented, “It is my passion. I love the outdoors. I still hunt and fish. I fished the Pro Bass circuit for a number of years. That is my hobby.”

One of the most meaningful honors Lamonica has received was from his high school, Clovis High. “My big thrill from high school was after I retired, they built a stadium and named it Daryle Lamonica Stadium. I have a stadium named after me in my home town. That was really nice.”

In 2013, Lamonica 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. Lamonica commented on receiving the call that he was inducted, “It was a pleasant shock. I wasn’t anticipating that. When I looked at the class of guys [that were inducted with him], I feel very honored and privileged to be named along with guys like [Erich] Barnes and Mike Curtis. Roman Gabriel and I are real close friends. We both won MVPs in, I think, 1969. Of course, Cookie Gilchrist. I have got to tell you, my first time with the Bills, Cookie Gilchrist could play offense, defense, anywhere. I watched him kick off and make the tackle on the five-yard line. Jim Tyrer was with the Kansas City Chiefs for years and years. All of the other guys were my era. I just feel honored to be associated in the same breath with those guys.”

Lamonica currently lives in California with his wife.

Teams:

• Buffalo Bills (1963-66)
• Oakland Raiders (1967-74)
• Southern California Sun (1975) (World Football League)

Awards:
• Three-Time AFL Champion (1964, 1965, 1967)
• Named AFL MVP Twice (1967, 1969)
• Named to the Pro Bowl Twice (1970, 1972)
• Clovis High named their field Lamonica Field (1976)
• Inducted into the Professional Football Researchers Association’s Hall of Very Good (2013)

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: Andy Russell

Jack Ham, Jack Lambert and Andy Russell made up the linebacking corps of the famed “Steel Curtain” defense fielded by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s. He made the All-Rookie team in 1963, was voted All-Pro or All-Conference seven times, went to seven Pro Bowls and was named to the NFL’s All-Pro team of the 1970s. But, his father was not happy about him playing professional football. According to Russell, “My father did not want me to play professional football because it would ‘embarrass the family to play a game for a living.’ You have to be a worker.”

Russell started with the Steelers in 1963. However, he left the team after his rookie season to serve in the military. According to Russell, “In 1964 and 1965, I was in Germany as an Army Lieutenant. I got back in 1966.” While in the military, he continued to play football and was named the Most Outstanding Player of the USAREUR (U.S. Army Europe) Football in 1964.

He started all 14 games of the 1966 season and was named to his first Pro Bowl in 1968. The accolades continued to mount for Russell throughout his career as the team rose to win two Super Bowls during his tenure. He was named Defensive MVP in both 1968 and 1970, was named to six more Pro Bowls and he won the Byron “Whizzer’”White NFL Man of the Year Award, just to name a few.

After he retired from professional football, he went into business. According to Russell, “Back when I played, you knew you were not going to make any money playing football, so I had to get a real job.” He continued, “When I got back from the military, I went and got my MBA. I convinced my father that I needed to play a couple more years of professional football to pay for my MBA. Then I started my own business in 1969 selling limited partner investments for Wall Street. In the first year, I was making dramatically more money than the Steelers were paying me. I didn’t retire until after the 1976 season. I would go to meetings before practice, after practice. I would go to work on Monday. It was 24/7. I loved every minute. I am not complaining. I started an investment bank called Russell, Rea and Zappala. We ultimately sold that to J.P. Morgan. I have been in private equity for the last dozen years or so.”

In March of 1999, he created the Andy Russell Charitable Foundation to contribute funds to children’s charities. The hope was to support a number of programs, particularly research organizations concentrating on children. According to Russell, “The primary provider of capital to the foundation has been our annual golf tournament. We have a celebrity golf classic every year. This will be our 37th year. We have raised millions of dollars and given most of it to Children’s Hospital here in Pittsburgh and a lot of it over the last 10-15 years has gone to the University of Pittsburgh’s Medical Center, which is Pittsburgh’s largest employer.”

However, he does not just focus on his foundation. He is also involved with the Ray Mansfield Steelers Smoker to raise money for the Boys and Girls Clubs of western Pennsylvania. “I am the chairman of that,” said Russell. “Ray Mansfield was my best Steeler buddy and he passed away hiking the Grand Canyon; I replaced him as the chairman of that.” He also attends and contributes to events held by the Salvation Army.

Russell also works on the NFL’s Taste of the NFL: Party with a Purpose event at the Super Bowl. This event raises money to battle hunger in America. They have raised over $14 million in the 22 years that the event has been held. Russell said, “Unfortunately, we have hunger in America, so I have done that every year for the last 15 years as the representative for the Pittsburgh Steelers. They typically have 32 food stations with a famous chef from that city. All the money that is raised goes to the various food banks in each of the NFL cities. They have a competition every year to see who can raise the most money. We have won it the last few years. It is not because the chef and I are famous, but it is because the global Steeler Nation is pretty amazing. We have the longest line. It doesn’t matter if the Steelers are in the Super Bowl or not. Here will be people from Saudi Arabia. There will be people from Japan. There are Steelers bars in Moscow, Tokyo and Rome. They are all over the world!!”

His tireless charitable work has not gone unnoticed. In 1985, he was named Man of the Year by the Mel Blount Youth Home. He was also named Man of the Year by Big Brothers and Sisters in 1989. In addition, he received the Bob Prince Award (1992), the Hance Award for the St. Barnabas Foundation (1992), the Don Faurot Distinguished American Award (2005), the Myron Cope Legends in Sports Award (2008), and the Life’s Works Career Achievement Award (2008), among many other accolades.

In 2011, Russell 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 asked about his chances for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Russell responded, “That is something I leave to others to think about.” Russell continued, “There have been some things that I have done in my career that would not impress the Hall of Fame voters. For example, I was the Steeler captain for ten years. I think that is a Steeler record. That was not selected by the players. It was not a popularity contest. It was selected by the coaches. I never missed a game my entire football career; high school, college, Army or pro. It is obviously a lot of luck to avoid all those injuries. I played hurt a lot with broken fingers and thumbs, and things like that. But, you played. In those days, the biggest badge of honor was to play hurt. That is not so anymore.”

Russell currently lives in western Pennsylvania.

Awards:
• All-Pro Rookie Team (1963)
• Steeler Team Captain for 10 years
• Defensive MVP (1968 and 1970)
• Named to the NFL’s All-Pro Team of the 1970s
• Pittsburgh Steelers Team MVP (1971)
• Received the Byron “Whizzer” White NFL Man of the Year Award (1972)
• Named to seven Pro Bowls
• Inducted into the Pennsylvania Hall of Fame (1983)
• Inducted into the University of Missouri Hall of Fame (1993)
• Named to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 75th Anniversary All-Time Team (2007)
• Member of the NFL’s 300 Greatest Players
• Inducted into the Professional Football Researchers Association’s Inaugural Class of the Hall of Very Good (2011)


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 him on twitter @KenCrippen

Where Are They Now: Mick Tingelhoff

Considered one of the greatest centers of all-time, Mick Tingelhoff started 240 consecutive regular-season games. That was good enough for third all-time behind Brett Favre (297) and Jim Marshall (270). Over his 17-year career, he played on ten playoff teams and went to four Super Bowls. He was one of only ten players to play in all four Minnesota Vikings’ Super Bowl appearances. He is also one of only six players to have his jersey retired by the Minnesota Vikings.

Tingelhoff played all four years of high school football for Lexington High School in Lexington, Nebraska. He then went to Nebraska to play under Bill Jennings. According to Tingelhoff, “Nobody was interested in me other than Nebraska.”

When asked about whether he always wanted to play professional football, Tingelhoff responded, “No. Not really. I had no idea that I would be able to when I was in high school. Then I got into college and people said that I might have a chance. Things worked out.”

However, Tingelhoff went undrafted. “[The Vikings] were the only team interested in me, to tell you the truth,” he recalled. “After the draft, a couple of days later I got a phone call. It was the Vikings and they wanted to talk to me.”

He made an immediate impact. After three preseason games, he became the starter and stayed the starter for the remainder of his career.

Tingelhoff enjoyed playing center. He said, “It was about the only position I ever played.” He continued, “As the center, we had to call out the defenses. Whether it was even defense or 4-3 defense, or over or under. I enjoyed it.”

When he was asked about the reason for losing four Super Bowls, Tingelhoff commented, “I have been asked this before. I really don’t know. We had beaten the teams before. On that day, we just didn’t do it. You play a team one day and beat them. Then, play them two weeks later and lose to them. That’s the game of football.”

Over his career, Tingelhoff went to six straight Pro Bowls, was named consensus All-Pro six times, was named to the Minnesota Vikings’ 25th Anniversary team as well as the 40th Anniversary team, and was named the NFL’s Top Offensive Lineman of the Year by the 1,000-Yard Club in 1969.

After retiring from football, Tingelhoff became a stockbroker. He has since retired from that and has focused on time with his family.

In 2003, Tingelhoff was inducted into the inaugural class of 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. Teammate Carl Eller was also inducted in that class. Tingelhoff recalled, “We called [Eller] ‘The Moose Man’ because he was so big. Great guy.”

In 2012, Tingelhoff received the Gerald R. Ford Legends Award, presented to legendary football centers, during the Rimington Trophy presentation. The Rimington Trophy is presented to the best center in college football that season.

Tingelhoff has never been a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, let alone an inductee. When asked about the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Mick’s voice had a drastic change in tone. He said, “Well, that’s life. If they don’t want me in, they don’t want me in.” He continued, “It would be great to get in, but it’s not that big a deal to me.”

According to teammate Ed White, “Mick was tough as nails.” He continued, “He played well against all middle linebackers.” Comparing Tingelhoff to his contemporaries, White said, “[Mick] was every bit as good as [Mike] Webster. None were any better than Mick.”

Tingelhoff currently lives in Minnesota. He has three children (two boys and a girl) and at last count, twelve grandchildren.

Awards:
• Named NFL’s Top Offensive Lineman of the Year by the 1,000-Yard Club (1969)
• Inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame (1980)
• Inducted into the Minnesota Vikings’ Ring of Honor (2001)
• Inducted into the Professional Football Researchers Association’s Inaugural Class of the Hall of Very Good (2003)
• His number (53) was retired by the Minnesota Vikings
• Member of the Minnesota Vikings’ 25th Anniversary Team
• Member of the Minnesota Vikings’ 40th Anniversary Team
• Was named one of the Minnesota Vikings’ 50 Greatest Players
• Received the Gerald R. Ford Legends Award (2012)

Ken Crippen is the 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 him on twitter @KenCrippen

Where Are They Now: Bill Bergey

When Philadelphia Eagles fans talk about the greatest linebackers in franchise history, Bill Bergey’s name is on that list. Like Chuck Bednarik before him, Bergey became a fan favorite in the city. Bergey recalled, “I affectionately say to every Eagles fan that I have signed autographs for, and people still want autographs, it is pretty cool.”

Bergey started playing organized football at South Dayton High School in western New York. According to Bergey, “I started in the ninth grade. I played playground football before that.”

After high school, Bergey attended Arkansas State University because they were, “The only place that would take me.” According to Bergey, “I played football at a Class C school. There were 47 in our graduating class. We barely had enough guys to play football. So we never even had any films for our football games. I had my guidance director when I was a senior write to maybe eight or ten colleges, and two of them responded. One was the University of New Mexico and the other one was Arkansas State University.”

Bergey recalled how he arrived at his decision: “Now, I was from western New York, between Buffalo and Jamestown. So, I got my map out and saw where Arkansas State was closer than New Mexico, so I decided to go ahead and pursue Arkansas State.”

He detailed, “The [Arkansas State] coaches were in New York City at a coach’s convention. They had asked to see me. It looked like it was going to be good for recruiting for them, having a kid from western New York play football for them at Arkansas State and they asked if I would be willing to go to New York City where they are having a coach’s convention. I said ‘Yes.’ Unbeknownst to me, from where I was in New York, it was about 425 miles away. We went to New York City. We packed up a couple of scrapbooks that I had put together and I just pleaded for any kind of scholarship help that they could give to me, because I didn’t have any money at all. They gave me a partial scholarship.”

Recalling his days at the university, Bergey said, “I went down to Arkansas State and red-shirted my first year. Then, I started four years in a row. I didn’t start at linebacker. It was kind of a platoon system that we had. I was an offensive guard and a nose guard. After a couple of plays, that whole unit would go out and another unit would come in. My junior year, they moved me to linebacker. I was standing up and could see everything. Things just started to click for me.” He continued, “I was a pretty good athlete. I could run real fast. I was big enough. I started out at linebacker in college around 232 or 234 [pounds]. I made All-American. I played in the North-South Game and the Senior Bowl. I played in one of the last Chicago All-Star Games against the world champion New York Jets at the time.”

The Cincinnati Bengals drafted Bergey in the second round of the 1969 NFL draft. “Cincinnati was in the second year of their franchise and they needed a linebacker,” recalled Bergey. “I was about two weeks late getting to the Bengals and I looked at the two linebackers they had and I said, ‘If you don’t beat out one of those guys, you don’t belong in the game of pro football.’” He started in his first game with the Bengals and continued to start the remainder of his career.

Bergey loved playing for the legendary Paul Brown while in Cincinnati. “Paul Brown was a great guy,” commented Bergey. “I loved him. I really liked his values. He loved his players being married. He loved his players having kids. He wanted to see his players have responsibilities off the field, too. He encouraged us to go to church on Sunday morning before we played football Sunday afternoon.” Then Bergey commented on Brown’s coaching style, “[He was] a very scientific guy. He would run out to a wide receiver and tell him to take a half-a-step out on a pattern. He was very quiet and soft spoken, but if you really did something stupid, he would really rip into you. He would embarrass you in front of all of your teammates, which was pretty tough. He didn’t mind if you got knocked flat on your ass, but if you are going into the right hook area when you should have been going left, he really had a big-time problem with that. He was one of the first coaches that measured the intelligence of a football player by these tests that he had for us, to see how much we could grasp at one time. Since then, the [NFL] Players Association has outlawed that.”

Reminiscing on his time with Cincinnati, Bergey said, “I enjoyed playing with the Bengals. I remember much more about playing for the Bengals than I did with the Eagles, if you believe it or not.” He continued, “I got married. I had kids. I had three sons. Nobody got paid a lot of money. On an off day, a lot of players would get together and play cards or have a pot luck supper or something like that. All of that stuff was pretty cool.”

In 1974, Bergey signed a futures contract to play in the upstart World Football League. “It was strictly the money. I will make no bones about it. I was making $37,000 with Paul Brown. The World Football League came along and offered me, I think it was, $625,000 for three years guaranteed, no cut, no trade. I think you can do the math on that. I was strictly in it for the cash.” Bergey signed the contract and cashed the signing bonus check.

That upset Paul Brown. “Paul Brown took me to court, stating that ‘It impairs the integrity of any professional athlete to play for one ball club and to be compensated by another,’” recalled Bergey. “I had already received an $80,000 bonus from the World Football League and that was more than twice my salary. I had one more year under Paul Brown. I had said that ‘I would honor that one year and then I was going on to the World Football League.’ We had the biggest, most unbelievable court battle you can imagine in Philadelphia. I never cried ‘Uncle.’ I knew that I was doing the right thing. I won the court battle. I won the appeal, and I pretty much pissed Paul Brown off and he was not going to have anything to do with me.”

At this point in his career, Bergey could not go back to the Bengals. However, things were not great with the World Football League (WFL), either. Bergey recalled, “My team with the World Football League was Norfolk, which moved to Washington. From Washington, it moved to Orlando. I had flown down there to see what my situation was. The managing general partner told me, ‘The contract that they signed you to was absolutely unbelievable. I can’t believe that anybody would sign you to a contract like that.’ It made me feel like I wasn’t wanted. So, now my head is spinning and I don’t know what to do. I am a very confused young man right now.” He was paid a signing bonus to play in the WFL, but it appeared as though his contract was not going to be honored. Bergey said, “I had to give my [WFL] bonus monies back, but the people in Norfolk wanted it. The people in Washington wanted it. The people in Orlando wanted it. That is when I got very tough. I was ready to do whatever the heck I had to do. We eventually gave the money back to the original guy that gave it to me.”

However, all hope was not lost. Bergey had a few suitors, but the strongest was the Philadelphia Eagles. Bergey said, “Mike McCormack, who was the head coach of Philadelphia, was pursuing me to see if he could get a middle linebacker and go to the Super Bowl. One player does not make a team.” He continued, “I had a chance to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles, but I also could have gone to Green Bay, Denver, New Orleans or the Washington Redskins.” The Bengals traded Bergey to the Eagles. “I
ended up going on to Philadelphia, and at that time, it was for two number one round draft picks and a number two round draft choice.”

The move was tough on his family, but it turned out well in the end. “We got traded to Philadelphia,” said Bergey. “We moved to the big city. It is almost as if I am now a star. It was really tough on my wife. The demands on my time were unbelievable. This is not a knock on Philadelphia. As a matter of fact, this is a big plus for Philadelphia. I enjoyed playing for Philadelphia. It has been great. That is why I decided to make Philadelphia my home.”

After his first year with the Eagles, Bergey knew that he made the right decision. “I played pretty good football my first year in Philadelphia. I was runner-up to ‘Mean’ Joe Green for Defensive Player of the Year. I made consensus All-Pro at linebacker. Everything connected in Philadelphia. I had an affair with the fans in Philadelphia and it worked out very, very nicely.”

When asked to comment on the differences between the Philadelphia Eagles organization and the Cincinnati Bengals organization, Bergey said, “The Bengals were known for the tight buck.” He continued, “It was almost impossible to get anything out of Paul Brown. He was always fair with me, I thought. It was just like going from Division III college football to Division I. Not saying that Philadelphia was that much better. As far as the organization, the way things were run. Paul Brown did not want to have any superstars on his team. One time, I had a great game against the Green Bay Packers. This television guy wanted me to do an interview with him right after the game. I knew that it would be pretty cool and I said to Paul, ‘There is this guy from the TV station who wants to interview me and do you think that would be good for the franchise?’ Paul Brown told me not to do it. In Philadelphia, something like that never would have happened. They would want to get all of the ink that they could possibly get. It was more of a family business [in Cincinnati]. I am not knocking that either, but it was just more of a family business. Mike Brown being the lawyer of the ball club. When we would have an away game, everybody would eat together, which is fine. Everybody would have to go to a movie together. That is fine. The food was the same thing every single time. It was prime rib. It was peas. It was a baked potato and it was pie a la mode. That was our meal every single time we went anywhere. In Philadelphia, they give you meal money and you go out and eat wherever you want to eat. Some were gourmets and some were greasers. The gourmets would find a three, four or five-star restaurant and really dine very, very nicely. Then, there were players that would get a bag full of McDonalds hamburgers and head to their room and eat it and pocket the money.”

In 1976, Mike McCormack was out and Dick Vermeil was the new head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. In Bergey’s opinion, he was a welcome change. “Dick Vermeil instilled the discipline that was so obviously lacking by the Eagles’ players. When he first came in, I looked at him and said, ‘This has got to be the hairiest high school coach I think I have ever seen in my life.’ It was the simple stuff, like you don’t take a knee on the field unless you are told to take a knee. You keep your chinstrap buckled all the time. We will have a water break when we want to give you a water break.”

However, not all of the Eagles’ players were on board, but for those who bought into Vermeil’s program, a certain chemistry was formed. “When we went to Super Bowl XV and when we played the Oakland Raiders, from the time he got there until the time we played that football game, I think there were eight or maybe nine of us left over, and I tell you that there is a bond between those guys and Dick Vermeil that you will never, ever see again. He appreciated us for the way we bought in and the way he did things. We stuck with him all the way. We became his leaders and the whole thing worked out real well.”

The Eagles continued to improve under Vermeil’s leadership. But, a serious knee injury in the third game of the 1979 season threatened to end Bergey’s career. He recalled, “I didn’t know [if I could come back]. I knew that we were getting close [to the end of my career].”

With extensive rehab, Bergey was able to come back for the 1980 season, but it would be his last. He recalled, “If I was at one time a 100 percent football player, after my knee injury, I don’t think I got past 65 percent. When I was on top of my game, I could diagnose a play and get to a spot to almost wait for a ball carrier. After the knee injury, I could still diagnose a play, but by the time I could get to that spot, the ball carrier was gone. Nobody had to tell me that it was my time. I would always be up in the two hundreds, as far as tackles goes. I think that the year we went to the Super Bowl, I played in every game and played on every play. I think that I was around 135 tackles. It was just absolutely dreadful. I used to watch film, and I would remember, ‘Gosh, I used to be able to make that play and it was so easy to make that play.’ I just couldn’t make it anymore. That’s when it was time for me to hang up the old strap.”

Even if Bergey did not have his best season, the Eagles had a magical run to the Super Bowl. He recalled the feeling throughout the city that year, “When we went to the Super Bowl, everybody went crazy. The people, they just got so fanatical about everything. Even when the Eagles went to the Super Bowl in Jacksonville, it was the same way. I would just love to see the Eagles go and win one Super Bowl and see what this town would be like. I can’t really envision it, but I can envision it, too. It would just turn this place upside down.”

Bergey retired after the 1980 season. He recalled, “Dick Vermeil, my wife, several other people at my news conference, everybody was crying. My attitude was, ‘Hey, that part of my life is over. I can feel bad about it, or I can turn around and do a big one-eighty and make something happen.’ I just did that and I got into some businesses and everything worked out for me. I was in the hospitality business. I was a part owner of some hotels, golf courses and stuff like that. Everything has worked out real good for me.” Bergey also spent time in broadcasting, “I did TV and radio. In fact, after 23 years on the radio, I just retired from that.”

In 2012, Bergey 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. Bergey commented, “My oldest son called me and said that I was nominated for this. That is wonderful!” He continued, “I appreciate this. Thank you for this nice honor.”

When Bergey was asked about all of the awards and accolades bestowed upon him over the years, he commented, “I have a feeling that this [Hall of Very Good induction] is going to be as special as any of them. I am in eight or nine of these things. When I heard this through my son, I thought this was pretty cool. For me to be on the Eagles’ Honor Roll, that is special to me. I am on [Arkansas State’s] Wall of Fame, too. I was the first person to go up there. That one is pretty special to me, too. A little while ago, [Arkansas State] had a poll and I was named the best player ever to go through Arkansas State. That is a pretty heavy thing.” He finished by saying, “My wife just said, ‘Don’t forget that they retired your number!’”

The Eagles fans always have a special place in Bergey’s heart. They loved and supported him throug
hout his time in the city. He would sign every autograph and talk to every fan. He knows what the team means to the fans in Philadelphia. Bergey lovingly described the typical Philadelphia Eagles fan, “He won’t take a vacation. He won’t buy a new car if he needs one. He would not buy new furniture for his house. But that guy, come hell or high water, renews his season tickets every single year. That is just the way the Eagles fans are.”

Bill Bergey still lives in the Philadelphia area.

Awards:
• Member of the Arkansas State University Hall of Heroes
• Jersey retired by Arkansas State University
• Voted by fans as the Best Player in Arkansas State University History (1976)
• Philadelphia Eagles’ Honor Roll (1988)
• Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame (1989)
• Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame (2004)
• Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame (2011)
• Inducted into the Professional Football Researchers Association’s Hall of Very Good (2012)

Ken Crippen is the 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: Ace Parker

Born Clarence McKay Parker in 1912 to Ernest and Mabel Parker in Portsmouth, Virginia, Clarence attended Woodrow Wilson High School, excelling in five sports: football, baseball, basketball, track and soccer.

Pro Football Hall of FameParker with his presenter Jack White, GM of the 49ers, during his Enshrinement in 1972.

After graduation, he was set to attend Virginia Tech until a former Duke alumnus requested that Parker visit the campus in Durham. Parker agreed and went to see Duke football coach Wallace Wade. According to Parker’s friend Buddy Lex, “Ace went down to Wade’s office and Wade said, ‘I understand you are going to Virginia Tech.’ Clarence says, ‘Yes, sir.’ Wade said, ‘I think you made a wise decision. I don’t think you could make our ball club here.’” That was all the strong-willed Parker needed to hear. He changed his mind and went to Duke to prove that he could make the team. He did more than that, making second-team All-American in 1935 and consensus first team All-American in 1936, when he also placed sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Asked how Parker got the nickname “Ace,” Buddy Lex responded, “A Norfolk newspaper had a sports reporter named Bill Cox. Ace, when he was playing for Duke University, [Cox] wrote a column and it said, ‘When you need ten yards, six yards or 20 yards, Clarence Parker is like an ace in the hole. He can get those yards for you.’ From then on, he was known as ‘Ace’ Parker. That was about 1935.”

Parker was drafted by the NFL’s Brooklyn Dodgers in 1937, but chose to play baseball for the Philadelphia Athletics instead, hitting a home run in his first at-bat. After one year of baseball, Parker requested and was granted permission to play for the Dodgers. For the 1937 and 1938 seasons, Parker was playing professional baseball and football. After the 1938 season, he decided to focus strictly on football. He led the team in passing in 1937 and led the league in 1938. Comparing those accomplishments to his baseball records — a .179 batting average, 20 runs and 25 RBIs — the choice was clear that football was his sport.

In 1940, Ace broke his leg sliding into second base during a summer baseball game. As a result, he needed to wear a bulky brace on his leg, which went from his ankle to his knee. That was also the year that legendary Pitt coach Jock Sutherland joined the Dodgers. Under Sutherland, Parker had one of his best years as a pro, amassing 817 passing yards, 10 touchdowns, 306 rushing yards, and leading the league in points after touchdowns. Parker won NFL Most Valuable Player honors that year.

In 1942, Parker left pro sports to join the Navy. He served two years at the Norfolk Naval Base, attaining the rank of chief petty officer. While in the Navy, he played baseball and managed the base’s team.

After serving in the military, Parker returned to the pro gridiron to play for the 1945 Boston Yanks. He finished his career playing for the 1946 New York Yankees of the upstart All-America Football Conference, reuniting with former Dodger owner Dan Topping.

After retiring from pro football, Parker was an assistant football coach at Duke University from 1948 through 1966. He was also Duke’s head baseball coach from 1953 through 1966. From 1949 through 1952, Parker was also a player-manager with the semi-pro Durham Bulls. He won Piedmont Manager of the Year honors in 1949 and 1951 and had a record of 303-266 with the Bulls.

Parker went on to scout for the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals over the next 30 years.

Parker was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1955, the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1963, the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 1972, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972, the Duke University Sports Hall of Fame in 1975 and the Hampton Roads Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.

Parker passed away on November 6th, 2013 at the age of 101.

Ken Crippen is the 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. He can be reached on twitter @KenCrippen.

Where are they now: Eddie Meador

Defensive back Eddie Meador received little fanfare while attending small-college Arkansas Tech, but made an impact when he hit the National Football League. A seventh-round draft pick in the 1959 NFL draft, Meador went on to earn Defensive Rookie of the Year honors for the Los Angeles Rams, was voted Defensive Back of the Year for the team seven times, was selected to eight Pro Bowls, and was named to the NFL’s All-1960s team.

Over his twelve-year career with the Rams, he intercepted 46 passes, recovered 18 opponents’ fumbles and blocked 10 kicks; all are still team records.

According to the late Merlin Olsen, a long-time teammate, Olsen said Meador “was one of the finest defensive backs I have ever seen. Outstanding in coverage and a fierce tackler, he had a remarkable nose for the football that allowed him to come up with big plays again and again during his career.”

Eddie MeadorPost Football CardsMeador was drafted in the 7th Round of the 1959 NFL draft, as the 80th pick overall

Meador’s football career started simple enough. “I started [playing football] in seventh or eighth grade in Ovalo, Texas. I only played one year of high school football. We moved from Texas to Arkansas between my sophomore and junior year. I was ineligible to play my junior year. In training camp before the season started, I had a hip injury that put me out for the year. I didn’t get to play and only played my senior year.” He graduated from Russellville High School in Arkansas as an all-state football player.

With only one year of high school football under his belt and his smaller stature (5’11”), his college career almost failed to materialize. He was rejected by legendary University of Alabama coach Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant as being too small to play college football. Tulsa had the same opinion. However, Arkansas Tech gave him a chance and offered Meador a scholarship. He was all-conference three times at Arkansas Tech and was little All-American his senior year. He was also named Arkansas Amateur Athlete of the Year in 1958.

However, according to Meador, “I hadn’t thought about playing professional football.” He continued, “I went through ROTC in college and had a commission in the army. I had planned on making the military my career. Then I got drafted by the Rams and thought, ‘Shoot. I might as well try it.’”

After being drafted by the Rams, Meador still considered making the military his career. “I had the opportunity to take a six-month career. So I did my basic training and officer training school at Fort Benning, Georgia during my first off-season with the Rams. That is how it worked out. The six months was up when my second season started.”

Meador played on the same defense as the famous Fearsome Foursome. He had fond memories of his teammates. According to Meador, Deacon Jones “was exceptional. He was not as fast as most of us backs, but he was just an extreme, great defensive end.” Merlin Olsen “was a very intelligent football player. He and Deacon were a terror.” He continued, “Rosey [Grier] was an excellent ball-player. It was too bad he tore up his achilles tendon and cut his career short. He plugged up the center of the line.” Meador said, “Lamar Lundy was I guess a lot like Deacon Jones, just not as fearsome as Deacon was, but he was a great ball player. He was tall enough…big enough. The quarterbacks had trouble getting the ball over him.” Finally, on Roger Brown: “The Rams traded for him from Detroit [when Grier tore his achilles tendon]. He was an excellent ball player, as well. He was a lot like Rosey: big, tough man in the middle.”

The Rams struggled during the first part of Meador’s career. It was not until George Allen took over before the Rams saw success. According to Meador, “[Allen] made us believe that we could win. He was 150% coach. He was a super coach.” The Rams had a winning record the remainder of Meador’s career, including two playoff appearances (1967 and 1969). Unfortunately, both resulted in a loss for the Rams.

Meador also played special teams. “I was a punt returner and kick returner in college,” recalled Meador. In referring to whether he liked playing special teams, Meador hesitantly said, “Yeah. It was kinda scary in the pros.” He continued, “Actually, I didn’t play that much in the pros, except I was a safety on the kickoff team and a holder for the extra points and field goals. In my next to last year, or last year, we were having trouble with fumbles on punt returns. George Allen put me in there for a little while. That was a little scary.”

He became active in the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) and was elected president. “I was elected by the NFLPA, and Jack Kemp at that time was the president of the American League Association. When [the leagues] merged in 1969, the Players Associations got together and elected John Mackey as president of the NFL Players Association. I was president-elect for about a month.”

Meador retired from football after the 1970 season and went into the real estate business. “I moved from L.A. to Dallas. I was in the real estate business, in the Century 21 offices. One time, I had four of them in Dallas and about 85 agents working for me.”

However, it did not last. “The next thing I know, I am in the hospital. It was a little bit more mental work than football. I was about 48 years old. I thought, ‘I am too young for something like this.’”

Then he found his passion. “My wife was a jewelry buyer for a jewelry store in Dallas back in the early days. After I sold my offices, we didn’t really know what we were going to do. We began to mess around with jewelry. We went to the World Trade Center and to shows to sell it. Then one person said, ‘Why don’t you go to horse shows to sell your jewelry?’ I said, ‘I should go to a horse show to sell it?’ We went to several horse shows and decided that we needed good equestrian jewelry. So, we began to learn about making jewelry and started our business and that was 31 years ago. We make equestrian jewelry and sell it all around the country. My grandkids are involved in it. Some of the finest people in the world are ones that own horses.”

In 2012, Meador 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.

Awards:
• Inducted into the Arkansas Tech University Hall of Distinction (1969)
• Awarded the NFL Father of the Year (1969)
• Awarded the NFLPA Byron ‘Whizzer’ White NFL Man of the Year Award (1969)
• Elected to the Helms Athletic Foundation Sports Hall of Fame (1972)
• Elected to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame (1978)
• NAIA Collegiate Hall of Fame Member
• Inducted into the Professional Football Researchers Association’s Hall of Very Good (2012)

Ken Crippen is the 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 fo
otball history. He can be reached on twitter @KenCrippen.