Story of the Week

BOBBY LAYNE

    All other quarterbacks wore a face guard on their helmets; he didnít. All other quarterbacks wore hip and thigh pads, he didnít. He wore very slight shoulder pads; compared to those worn by the other quarterbacks in the NFL, his were virtually non-existent. His name is Bobby Layne, and he was one of a kind.

    When Bobby Layne played, it was an era of the roughest and toughest football the NFL has ever seen. It was mean and vicious football. The rules did not protect against violence. Layne was fearless, competitive, wild, fun, charismatic, and a great field leader. His teammates liked him, and they respected him. They also feared him.

    It was the 1950ís. Mid-century brought a sharp dividing line in the nature of pro football. Free substitution allowed a new generation of players. The game exploded with revolutionary talent, and a sport that had once seemed muscle-bound and confined was now a wide-open showcase for the brilliant and effective gyrations certain of the NFLís players could bring to the party.

    The necessities of offense were understood the best, and, at first, the defense was overwhelmed by point-scoring machines. Football in this manner was not necessarily better than the earlier game, but it was easier to see from the stands, and the stands began to fill.

    And one of the players directly responsible for the NFLís success in the 1950ís was Bobby Layne. He was 6-2 and weighed 210. But if a member of the offense blew a play, no matter what position he played or how big he was, the last place he wanted to visit was the huddle. There stood Bobby Layne, and heaven help anyone who made a mistake in his offense.

    And on those terribly cold days, Layne invariably brought a friend to the games. The friend was a flask filled with his favorite drink, and it wasnít gatorade. As if he needed this to make him more competitive or driven.

    Bobby Layne played in the NFL from 1948 until 1962. He played on four NFL teams. When compared to the household names at quarterback of that era, namely Otto Graham, Norm Van Brocklin, Johnny Unitas, Sonny Jurgensen and Bart Starr, Layne may have fallen short. But the qualified football experts of the day, his teammates and his opponents included, gave Layne his due.

    And so do I. If I had to win one game, the big game, and I needed a quarterback, I wouldnít hesitate to put the ball in the hands of Bobby Layne. The guy was a flat-out winner, and one tough dude.

    Bobby Layne is in the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Last Weekís Trivia

    What former all-pro tight end of the St. Louis Football Cardinals dropped a perfectly thrown touchdown pass from Roger Staubach of the Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII, conceivably costing Dallas the game? Jackie Smith had been a great player, and itís sad that heíll be remembered for that play.

Trivia Question of the Week

    Two records were set at Chicagoís Wrigley Field on September 16, 1975. I donít believe either record will ever be equaled. What were they? See next weekís Sports Junkie for the answer.