Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

Former Philadelphia Eagles Great Steve Van Buren Passes Away at Age 91

Posted on August 24, 2012 by Dean Hybl

Steve Van Buren led the Philadelphia Eagles to back-to-back NFL titles.

Sorry to hear of the passing of one of the greatest football players of his generation, former Philadelphia Eagles great Steve Van Buren, at the age of 91.

The first Eagles player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Van Buren was was a four-time NFL rushing champion and led his team to consecutive NFL Championships.

After leading the nation in points and touchdowns as a senior at LSU, he was drafted in the first round of the 1944 NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles and over the next eight seasons would become the transcendent rusher of his era .

As a rookie for the Eagles, Van Buren showed glimpses of his future brilliance by rushing for 444 yards in nine games and leading the league with an average of 5.6 yards per carry. He also returned both a kickoff and punt for a touchdown and earned All-Pro honors as a defensive player with five interceptions.

The following season, Van Buren led the NFL in rushing with 832 yards on the ground in 10 games. He scored 18 total touchdowns and led the NFL in scoring with 110 points.

In 1947 he led the Eagles to a spot in the NFL Championship game while eclipsing the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the first time with an NFL best 1,008 yards, 13 rushing touchdowns and 1,087 yards from scrimmage. After defeating Pittsburgh in the opening round of the playoffs, the Eagles lost to the Chicago Cardinals 28-21 in the NFL title game as Van Buren was limited to 26 yards on the ground while scoring a touchdown in the loss.

The following season, Van Buren gained 945 yards rushing to again top the league. The Eagles again faced Chicago in the NFL Championship Game and this time despite a major snowstorm, Van Buren rushed for 98 yards and scored the only touchdown of the game as the Eagles won 7-0 to claim their first NFL Championship.

The 1949 season proved to be the height of NFL success for Van Buren and the Eagles. During a regular season game against the Detroit Lions, Van Buren rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns to lift the Eagles to a 22-14 victory while passing Clarke Hinkle to become the NFL’s career rushing leader.

For the season, he rushed for a career-high 1,146 yards to become the first player in NFL history to lead the league in rushing three straight times and four times in his career. Philadelphia finished the regular season with an 11-1 record and reached the NFL title game for the third straight year.

In the NFL Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams, Van Buren rushed for a championship game record 196 yards as the Eagles shut out the Rams 14-0.

Both Van Buren and the Eagles started to decline the following season as the star halfback gained only 629 yards rushing while the Eagles finished 6-6.

In 1951 the Eagles finished 4-8 while Van Buren gained only 327 yards rushing.

He suffered a knee injury prior to the 1952 season and retired from the NFL as the all-time leading rusher with 5,860 yards. His total far eclipsed the 3,860 yards of previous rushing champion Clarke Hinkle. He also scored 69 rushing touchdowns and 77 total touchdowns during his career.

Van Buren was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965 and in 1999 was ranked as the 77th greatest player in NFL history by The Sporting News.

Leave a Reply

  • Current Poll

    Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
  • Post Categories

↑ Top