Wing Back/Blocking Back—(Youngstown) Detroit Lions 1944, Brooklyn Tigers 1944
Tony Aiello autographed this 3x5 card for me in February 1996.
Defensive Back/Wide Receiver—(Michigan) Detroit Lions 1957-65
He had a lot of quickness and a lot of speed. They put him in at flanker, and that’s where he blossomed into a great football player. Great hands, and he was very intelligent about the game.
Defensive Back/End—(Pennsylvania) Philadelphia Eagles 1955-58, Hamilton Tiger-Cats (CFL) 1959, New York Titans 1960
Because of his great speed and determination, he was always used up on the line when the opposition punted. His forte was blocking a punt when the opponent was kicking near to or behind his own goal line.
Norm Van Brocklin
Eddie Bell sent me this autograph in December 1988. This is the actual 1956 Topps card that I bought in 1956.
Cornerback—(Colorado) Philadelphia Eagles 1953,1956-61 [All-Pro 1960]
It was really scary. I went to Hershey [for training camp in 1953] and we beat everybody for a week and then the veterans all came in. I looked around and there were like 90 guys out there! I go over to the general manager and said, “Mr. McNally.” He said, “Who are you?” I said, “Brookshier.” He said, “Oh, yeah. A 10th-round draft choice.” I said, “Yes. Which Philadelphia bank is my money in?” And he said, “What money?” I said, “My contract. The $55 hundred that you offered me on the telephone.” He said, “That's for the whole year.” All the guys around him started laughing, so I said, “How many are you going to keep?” And he said, “33.” So I went right back out on the field and the No. 1 draft choice came downfield on a pass pattern and I knocked him out. Our coach jumped and yelled and I thought, “Oh my God, I'm going to get cut!” But he ran out and said, “I like that!” At every level, I sort of got better. I really wasn't the best player on my high school team in Roswell [New Mexico]. I don't think I was the best player on my Colorado team. I just sort of went to the next level and played better. When I came back [in 1956], our teams weren't very good. I know it sounds strange, but you learn a lot from last-place teams because the town's not nearly as turned on or enthusiastic about you. When he [Buck Shaw] came to take over the Eagles, he brought in Van Brocklin and he let me call plays and run the defense. We only won two games that year. We were on the train coming back from Washington, they had shut us out the last game of the year, and Buck said, “Take a look around you boys because you're not going to see each other. There's going to be one team coming, one team going and one team playing.” So with that, he started bringing in new players. He got Don Burroughs from the Rams, Bobby Friedman from Cleveland, Jimmy Carr from the Cardinals. That's our secondary on the team that ended up winning it in ‘60. A lot of people thought it was about the third- or fourth-best team and I can't think of a better compliment than to not be the best team and win it all. That's the reason Buck Shaw quit. He said, “I can never duplicate this. If you're the best team and you don't win it, you ought to be ashamed.” But if you're like the third or fourth team and you win the championship, that's special. That is very special.
He was a little raw but very aggressive. Actually, aggressive is an understatement. Hell, he'd mug you if he could.
Defensive Back—(Illinois) Chicago Cardinals 1954 [College Football Hall of Fame 1998]
Linebacker/Fullback—(Purdue, San Francisco) Chicago Hornets 1949, Baltimore Colts 1950, Washington Redskins 1951-52
I made a trade to obtain this autograph only four days before George Buksar died. I traded a 3x5 autograph of Bill Cregar for it. He is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, Solon, Ohio.
Defensive Back—(Southern California) Detroit Lions 1949-52, Washington Redskins 1953, Los Angeles Rams 1954 [#1 Kickoff Returner 1949]
I never got a raise in six years and that’s why I quit. In my first year with the Lions, I got a salary cut even though I had had a good year. I just missed Rookie of the Year by a few points behind a kid by the name of Joe Geri with the Pittsburgh Steelers. I had twelve interceptions that year, but I got a salary cut. In my third year I got my salary back up to where it was in my first year, but I never got a raise after that. After my last season, I asked for a $500 raise from the Rams and they wouldn’t give it to me, so I went into coaching.
I enjoyed being an All-Star. The only disconcerting note in our daily routine [preparing for the 1957 College All-Star Game] was a rather peculiar system of calisthenics administered by assistant coach Don Doll. Doll's calisthenics looked like something out of yoga. He would have us stand there and wiggle our fingers for perhaps four or five minutes. Then we would spend a similar period moving our necks back and forth. Next we would exercise one leg. Altogether, Doll's calisthenics sessions were the oddest and longest I've ever experienced. He conducted them very systematically, almost with reverence. I found them dreadful.
Don Doll, who coached the defensive backs [on the 1963 Detroit Lions], had been in camp just long enough for the team to discover that he neither smoked, drank, nor swore and he got himself tagged with the nickname "Coop"—for Gary Cooper. "I heard the Coop say "Heck!" today," said Wayne Walker. "No! No!" said the players, throwing up their hands in horror.
I asked Don Doll if he would name who the roughest, hardest-hitting players who he played against. He named Bucko Kilroy, Ed Sprinkle and Ed Neal.
Linebacker/Fullback—(Maryland) Washington Redskins 1954-60, Buffalo Bills 1961-62
Felton responded to a questionnaire I sent him in September 1994, printing all his answers. He did not autograph anything. He was buried in Center Cemetery, Midway, Pennsylvania.
John Guzik (1936-2012)
Linebacker/Guard—(Pittsburgh) Los Angeles Rams 1959-60, Houston Oilers 1961 [All American 1958]
Linebacker/Halfback/Defensive Back—(Oregon) Jacksonville Naval Air Station Fliers 1942, Jacksonville Naval Air Station Air Raiders 1943; New York Giants 1947, New York Yankees 1948-49, New York Yanks 1950-51 [Service All American 1943]
Iversen was a great linebacker.
Jimmy Harris (1934-2011)
Safety/Defensive Cornerback—(Oklahoma) Philadelphia Eagles 1957, Los Angeles Rams 1958, Dallas Texans 1960, Dallas Cowboys 1961
He was a super guy. He had a lot of talent. He really had a lot of talent.
Defensive End/Defensive Tackle—(Tulane) Chicago Cardinals 1951-53, Baltimore Colts 1954-60, Minnesota Vikings 1961, Denver Broncos 1962
He was the guy who ripped Les Richter's helmet off and whacked him in the face with it.
Don Joyce, a 6-foot-3, 260-pound rookie tackle out of Tulane set a Cardinal record our last night at the [Passion] Pit. Ten pounds of raw hamburger and ten martinis. It was that type of training camp.
Defensive Back/Halfback—(Louisville) Baltimore Colts 1958, 1961-69, San Francisco 49ers 1959-60
He was the fastest man in football equipment I ever saw. And I saw Bob Hayes. From the beginning of time until today, nineteen thirty, nineteen fifty, I don’t care when, nobody ever ran faster in pads than Lenny Lyles.
Linebacker—(Notre Dame) Detroit Lions 1949-50, Chicago Cardinals 1951-53
I had been drafted by the Lions number one in 1949. I had also been drafted by the New York Yankees of the AAFC. I had wanted to play in New York at Yankee Stadium because that’s only twenty-six miles from Morristown, New Jersey, where my family home was. But I also wanted a good contract, and fortunately for me, I was able to do that because I had the two offers, which upped the ante a little. I had an exceptional senior year at Notre Dame, averaging 7.5 yards per carry. I wasn’t a consensus All-American, but I made some All-American teams. I had a pretty good bargaining position. Red Strader, the coach of the Yankees, came to South Bend while I was in law school. Bo McMillin, the coach of the Lions, visited me the same day. One of them was in an office and the other in a hotel room across the street, and I’d go back and forth between them. I told Strader that I would sign for $30,000 for two years. He said he’d have to make some calls. I went to McMillin and said, “Here’s what I got offered across the way—$30,000—$15,00 a year for two years, and a $1,500 signing bonus for each year, that’s another $3,000.” He says, “Well, I think we can handle that.” So I went back to Strader and told the truth about what I was offered by the Lions, and he says, “John, I don’t think I can guarantee that.” So I shook his hand and went back to Bo and agreed to sign with the Lions.John Panelli
John Panelli autographed this 3x5 card for me in January 1994.
Linebacker/Defensive End—(Orange Coast JC/UCLA) Fort Ord Rangers 1952-53; New York Giants 1954-61, Minnesota Vikings 1962, Los Angeles Rams 1963-66
Cliff Livingston came back each year as a different guy. He changed personalities. One year he came back and told us he was Robin Hood — bow and arrow and all — and that his plan was to rob from the rich and give to the poor. I was rooming with him that year, and one night when the season was almost over I woke up and saw him standing there with the bow drawn back and the arrow aimed at me. I said, “What the hell are you doing? Are you crazy?” He just looked back and said, “What are you doing here? Who are you?” He didn’t seem to know, although we’d been roommates for weeks. At any rate, he didn’t shoot me. Another year he came to training camp and told us he was a race car driver, another he was the world’s greatest lover. That year, after playing a preseason game against the Cowboys, he showed up at the Dallas airport to get on the team plane wearing only leopard-skin bikini shorts. He walked all the way through the airport like that, barefoot, and got on the plane. Another time, we had an exhibition game in Hershey, Pennsylvania. After the game, he wasn’t on the team airplane, which was flying out of Harrisburg. When the plane moved out to the runway, a taxicab was chasing it across the airfield. Cliff was in it. They stopped the plane and opened the door and let down the steps and he clambered on board, and then he borrowed some money to pay off the cab driver.
Cliff Livingston, a linebacker of ours, was very funny. I remember once out at training camp in Salem, Oregon, it was after eleven, which was our curfew. The coaches would come around to check if we were in our rooms, and then they’d go downstairs to a kind of lounge and have coffee and talk. Well, this particular night Cliff had made arrangements to go out. Someone had loaned him a car, and so after the bed check he was tiptoeing downstairs with his shoes in his hand. He was just about out the front door when Jim Lee Howell, our head coach, saw him and said, “Cliff, where the hell are your going?” “Coach,” he said, “I was out earlier and I lost my wallet somewhere, and I was just going back to the café to see if I could find it.” Howell looked at him and then at the shoes in his hand and said, “What the hell you plannin’ to do, Cliff—sneak up on it?”
Linebacker/Fullback—(Indiana) Fort Benning Fourth Infantry Raiders 1944; Cleveland Browns 1946-49; Coach—Buffalo Bills 1962-65,1972-76 [AFL Coach of the Year 1964-65]
Half a loaf is better than none.
Lou Saban, after
settling for a tie
Defensive Back—(Alabama) Washington Redskins 1951, Montreal Alouettes (CFL) 1952 [All-American 1950]
Ed Salem is one of nine 1950 A.P. All-Americans who autographed this news article announcing their selection. The others who signed it include Sonny Grandelius, Dick Kazmaier, Ted Daffer, Bob Ward, Kyle Rote, Jim Weatherall, Al Carapella, and Huck Holdash.
Salem is buried in Elmwood Cemetery, Birmingham, Alabama.
Defensive Back/End—(Northwest Missouri State) St. Mary’s Pre-flight Air Devils 1942, Detroit Lions 1946,1948
Ivan Schottel is buried in Ashland Cemetery, St. Joseph, Missouri.
Defensive End—(Nebraska) Green Bay Packers 1940
George Seemann was cremated and his ashes scattered in different cherished places in Iowa, Vermont, Colorado, and elsewhere.
Defensive End—(Pittsburgh) Paterson Panthers (AFL) 1949-50, Philadelphia Eagles 1949, New York Giants 1950
He was outstanding. He had strength. He was our punter, too, which showed his versatility. He was a good pass-catcher, and he was outstanding on defense. He played left end, which was where you put your best player in those days. He was an all-around player. You couldn't beat him.
Lou "Bimbo" Cecconi
Bubba Smith (1945-2011)
Defensive End/Offensive Tackle—(Michigan State) Baltimore Colts 1967-71, Oakland Raiders 1973-74, Houston Oilers 1975-76 [All-American 1965-66, College Football Hall of Fame 1988, #1 Draft Choice 1967, All-Pro 1970-71]
He's one of the greatest defensive players in college football history.
I had my own way of tackling. I used to grab the whole backfield. Then I threw guys out until I found the one with the ball.
Bubba Smith, in a Miller Lite commercial
Defensive Back/Fullback/Wingback/Quarterback—(Providence) Boston Shamrocks (AFL) 1936, New York Giants 1937-44,1946 [#1 Passing AFL 1936]
The Shamrocks won the AFL championship, and after the season we went on a barnstorming tour south down to Miami with the New York Yankees. They had Ken Strong and the coach was Jack McBride, who had also been with the Giants. After the season, I was a free agent and I got offers from most of the NFL clubs. I chose the Giants. I didn’t make a hell of a lot more money with them than when I was playing for the Shamrocks. They wanted to give me $125, but I got $200 a game. . . . [Steve Owen] was conservative. He wouldn’t take chances. I liked to play the game without thinking what you have to do, you just do it. Once he fined me fifty bucks for doing something he didn’t like, but I haven’t paid him yet. We had a feud going on, but it wasn’t really a feud. When we were alone, we’d talk a lot. We lived in the same hotel, and we’d often discuss things about a game or the team. But yet, I’d get on the field and he’d fight me like hell. He used to get mad. I’d run the ball all the way down the field and get near the goal line, and he’d pull me out. He’d put Bull Karcis in and Bull would score and I’d throw the helmet. He wouldn’t pay attention. Oh, it was a great relationship we had. We gave a big party when he retired in 1953. Newspapermen were there, and they asked him, “Who was your favorite player in your coaching years?” And Steve said, “You’re not going to believe this. It was Hank Soar.” They said, “Why?” And he said, “Because he always came up with the ball. I said to Hank one time, ‘You’re either good or you’re lucky!’ And you know what he said to me? ‘I’m both!’”
Hank Soar is buried in Swan Point Cemetery, Providence, Rhode Island.
See video clip of Hank Soar (#22) in the 1938 NFL championship game between the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants played on December 11, 1938, in the Polo Grounds. The Giants won 23-17. In the clip, Soar makes a nice catch and run for yardage down the sidelines. He is also shown making the game-winning touchdown catch while dragging Packer defender Clarke Hinkle into the end zone.
Defensive Back—(Tulsa) Detroit Lions 1946
Gene Spangler autographed this 1946 news article reporting his signing with the Lions.
Defensive Back/Halfback—(UCLA) Detroit Lions 1954-56, San Francisco 49ers 1957-58, Washington Redskins 1959, New York Giants 1959-61
After his death, Stits was cremated.
Defensive End—(North Carolina State) Buffalo Bills 1949, Ottawa Rough Riders (CFL) 1950-52
Bill Stanton is buried at Montlawn Memorial Park, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Defensive Back—(William & Mary) Chicago Bears 1955-60, Minnesota Vikings 1961-62
The first position that [the Bears] tried me at was at quarterback. But my arm wasn't strong enough to throw the passes for those guys. So they moved me to halfback. I wasn't at that position very long because we had a blitz pick-up drill one practice and I had to pick up linebackers and defensive ends. I got crumpled. I figured that I was gone but they gave me one last chance at defensive back. I started a game and intercepted a couple passes and ran one back for a touchdown. I could have played a few more years but I got beat up so bad [with the Vikings]. I was a defensive safety and I led the team in tackles—you can imagine what was going on up front. I broke both of my arms and I ached all over.
Note: I received some incorrect information that Sumner had died in 1996. Jim Zimmerman informed me that he had received an autograph from Sumner from his home in Hawaii in December 2009. His inclusion in this deceased player website is therefore most premature, but we'll leave his autograph and photo on for display.
Linebacker/Fullback—(Tulane) Chicago Cardinals 1950-53, New York Giants 1954-58
I still have my 1957 Topps football card that I bought when I was thirteen years old in 1957 (shown here). I obtained this 1974 Bill Svoboda autograph and two other 3x5s from dealer Bill Butts who bought the collection of Rich Laade, my former collecting mentor, after Rich passed away. I sold several autographs from my collection in 2010 to a collector interested in Auburn players to fund the purchase of this card.
Defensive Back—(Florida) Green Bay Packers 1957-62, St. Louis Cardinals 1963
He was a very hard-nose personality. He didn’t have any problem getting along with Vince Lombardi.
Safety—(Illinois) Chicago Bears 1954,1956-58; Toronto Argonauts (CFL) 1959-61 [All Pro CFL 1960-61]
Stan Wallace is buried in Roselawn Cemetery, Champaign, Illinois.
Linebacker/Offensive Guard—(Notre Dame) Chicago Cardinals 1951-52,1954-55, Houston Oilers 1960
Linebacker/Defensive Back—(Rice) Chicago Bears 1950,1952-54
Bones Weatherly is buried in Hillside Cemetery, Cuero, Texas.
Defensive End/Offensive Guard/Offensive End—(Marshall) Philadelphia Eagles 1950-57
Greasy Neale put me in there, and I went hellbent and knocked Tommy Thompson down and a few other people and. kept doing that, and Greasy took me out, Then Tommy looked up again, and I was back in, and he said, "Oh, my god, there comes that wild man again." Then the newspaper picks it up. I was called "Mad Man" for a while, then it stuck with me as "Wild Man."
He was the "Wild Man." That was his nature. He went full blast and did a good job. He played harder than he did with good sense sometimes, but he played hard. He played instinctive football. That was his way. He wasn't concerned about what the game plan was. He played things his way, and it worked out good for him. Probably the only way he could have made it was his way.
In about 2009, Norm Willey replied to my autograph request by sending these items. He generously sent me an excellent condition 1954 Bowman card signed and this signed note.
Safety/Defensive Back—(Southern California) Washington Redskins 1952-53, San Francisco 49ers 1954, Montreal Alouettes (CFL) 1955-56
Defensive Back—(Missouri) Cleveland Browns 1956-59, Pittsburgh Steelers 1960, New York Titans 1961
When I joined the Browns, we had a player named Junior Wren, Junior was just enraged at Paul. He told me, “If Paul gets on me again like he did after last game, you know that hook where he hangs his hat?” I said I did. Junior said, “I’m going to hang him right on that hook, I’m telling you. That last play, it wasn’t my fault.” I just nodded and waited to see what happened. Paul came up to Junior and said, “Junior Wren, I have seen better performances out of high school players.” Did Junior hang Paul on the hook? Of course not. All he said was, “Yes, Paul.” That was it. “Yes, Paul.”