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Colts Legend Lenny Moore 1

Posted on December 09, 2017 by Dean Hybl

Lenny MooreDuring the days when the Colts ruled Baltimore, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was one of the most exciting players in the NFL.

For 12 seasons with the Baltimore Colts, Lenny Moore was one of the most versatile and explosive players in the game. Read the rest of this entry →

Art Donovan Was Both a Football and an American Hero (VIDEO) 8

Posted on August 05, 2013 by Dean Hybl
Art Donovan was one of the great characters in NFL history.

Art Donovan was one of the great characters in NFL history.

The sports world lost one of the great characters of all-time with the passing on Sunday of football Hall of Fame defensive lineman Art Donovan at the age of 89. Not only was Donovan a Hall of Fame football player, but he was also an American Hero as he served with distinction during World War II.

The son of Hall of Fame boxing referee Art Donovan Sr., Art Jr. originally attended Notre Dame for one semester before leaving school in 1942 to enlist in the Marines. Stationed in the Pacific, he served as an anti-aircraft gunner on the USS San Jacinto during the assault on Leyte in the Philippines.

He later volunteered for the Fleet Marine Force, which landed him in the middle of combat on Okinawa. His citations, which included the Asiatic Pacific Area Ribbon and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon, are a major reason he was the first pro football player selected for the U.S. Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame.

After the war, Donovan played college football at Boston College before being drafted by the New York Giants as the 204th pick of the 1947 NFL Draft.

He did not actually make his NFL debut until 1950 playing for the original Baltimore Colts. After the team, which also included future Hall of Fame quarterback Y.A. Title folded, he then spent the next two seasons playing for the New York Yanks and the Dallas Texans. As luck would have it, both of those teams also failed and in 1953 he returned to Baltimore with the reincarnated Baltimore Colts.

With the new Colts, Donovan emerged as one of the top defensive linemen in the league. He was a Pro Bowl selection in 1953 and from 1954-57 was a first team All-Pro each season. He was a member of the championship teams for the Colts in 1958 and 1959.

Donovan remained with the Colts through the 1961 season and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968.

On the field Donovan was just another faceless lineman performing the grunt work in the trenches. But after his retirement, Donovan was anything but quiet and anonymous. His book Fatso was a best seller and he made many appearances on late night television with Johnny Carson and David Letterman. He was also featured one year in ESPN football ads and was prominent in some great NFL Films programs that remembered football in the 1950s and 1960s.

Below are a few of the great video clips featuring this American original. Enjoy!

 

Read the rest of this entry →

Brees Looks To Break The NFL’s “Unbreakable” Record 1

Posted on October 05, 2012 by Dean Hybl

Drew Brees has matched the “unbreakable” record of Johnny Unitas.

With a touchdown pass in the New Orleans Saints game against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday, Drew Brees will break the NFL passing record most considered to be unbreakable. Yet while tossing a touchdown pass in his 48th straight game will eliminate Johnny Unitas from the record book, that it took more than 50 years and a complete change in offensive philosophy for the record to be approached makes the Unitas streak seem even more impressive.

When Johnny Unitas started his streak as a rookie for the Baltimore Colts on December 9, 1956, the passing game was used quite differently than it is today. The 1956 Colts ranked sixth in the NFL with 1,921 passing yards on 279 total attempts. By comparison, they were second in the NFL with 2,202 yards rushing on 432 attempts.

In 1956 the Green Bay Packers were the only team in the NFL to throw the ball more than they ran it (353 pass attempts, 337 rushes) and it wasn’t surprising that they finished last in their division with a 4-8 record. Overall in the NFL in 1956 there were 5,453 rushing attempts (37.9 per team per game) compared to 3,282 pass attempts (22.8 per team per game). There were a total of 162 touchdown passes thrown during the season (13.5 per team).

Fast forward to the 2011 season and the change is quite staggering. Drew Brees and the Saints attempted 662 passes in 2011 while running the ball 431 times. Only four teams in the NFL had more rushing attempts than passes. Interestingly enough, of those four teams (Jacksonville, San Francisco, Denver and Houston), three of them made the playoffs. Overall in 2011, there were 17,410 pass attempts in the NFL (34 per team per game) and 13,971 rush attempts (27.3 per team per game). There was a total of 745 touchdown passes thrown (23.3 per team). Read the rest of this entry →

Bubba Smith Sometimes Seemed Larger Than Life 7

Posted on August 03, 2011 by Dean Hybl

Bubba Smith was a towering figure as a member of the Baltimore Colts.

There are some athletes whose persona is greater than reality. For anyone who followed the NFL in the 1960s and 70s and movies over the following decades, Charles “Bubba” Smith was one such individual as his size and character made him a recognizable figure and a star beyond his performance on the field. Smith passed away on Wednesday, reportedly of natural causes, at the age of 66.

A towering figure at 6-foot-7 and 265 pounds, Smith came onto the national scene as a two-time All-American defensive lineman at Michigan State. In 1966 he was part of a Spartan’s squad that faced Notre Dame in the “Game of the Century.” The game ended in a 10-10 tie and MSU finished second in the final rankings.

Drafted by the Baltimore Colts with the first pick in the 1967 NFL Draft, Smith spent five seasons terrorizing quarterbacks on some premier Baltimore squads. The Colts went 11-1-2 during his rookie season and then in 1968 posted a 13-1 record and reached Super Bowl III.

In 1970, Smith was named to the Pro Bowl for the first time as the Colts went 11-2-1 and won Super Bowl V. The following year, Smith earned first team All-Pro honors and a second consecutive Pro Bowl appearance. Read the rest of this entry →

John Mackey Was Leader On and Off the Field 0

Posted on July 07, 2011 by Dean Hybl

John Mackey was the first tight end capable of providing a deep receiving threat.

At a time when the current NFL players are battling with the league for a fair share of billions of dollars of revenue, we have learned of the death of one of the players who cleared the path for the benefits the players today enjoy.

Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey, who served as president of the NFL Players Association following the AFL-NFL merger, passed away Wednesday at the age of 69.

The second tight end inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Mackey was a key target for quarterbacks Johnny Unitas and Earl Morrall and helped the Colts to five playoff appearances and victory in Super Bowl V.

After playing collegiately at Syracuse, Mackey was a second round draft pick of the Baltimore Colts and earned Pro Bowl honors as a rookie in 1963 by catching 35 passes for 726 yards and seven touchdowns.

Before Mackey, tight ends were typically known as blockers first and then primarily as possession receivers. However, the 6-foot-2, 225 pounder had surprising speed for his size and served as a deep target.

In 1965 he caught 40 passes for 814 yards (20.4 ypc) and seven touchdowns. The following season he had 50 receptions and a career-high 829 receiving yards. Read the rest of this entry →

Classic Rewind: 1968 Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Colts 6

Posted on September 24, 2009 by Dean Hybl
Classic-Rewind-3

Each week during the 2009 NFL season, Sports Then and Now will pick one NFL matchup and look through the history books to find an intriguing past meeting between the two teams. We will recap the game and hopefully help reintroduce (or introduce for you younger readers) you to some of the greats (and in some cases not so greats) from the history of professional football.

Thanks to the decision in 1995 by Art Modell to move the beloved Cleveland Browns to Baltimore a decade after the Colts left in the middle of the night for Indianapolis, Cleveland and Baltimore are forever linked and more than a decade later there is still resentment and anger among some long-time Cleveland fans.

This week as the Baltimore Ravens and current Cleveland Browns are preparing to do battle, we look at a game between the two predecessor franchises in those two cities. The Baltimore Colts and original Cleveland Browns had some classic confrontations during the 1950s and 1960s. But their regular season meeting during the 1968 season is one of the most noteworthy.

The Matchup: Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Colts

Series Record: Between 1956 and 1983 the Browns and Colts met 15 times with Cleveland holding a 10-5 series advantage, including wins in their final five meetings. The two teams met in the playoffs three times, with Baltimore holding a 2-1 edge. However, Cleveland defeated the Colts 27-0 to win the 1964 NFL Championship. There were some other memorable moments in the series including a 38-31 Cleveland victory in 1959 in which Jim Brown rushed for five touchdowns and Johnny Unitas passed for four scores. In 1978, veteran running back Calvin Hill caught three touchdown passes to lift the Browns to a 45-24 victory. Two years later, Bert Jones led the Colts on a furious fourth quarter comeback that fell just short in a 28-27 Cleveland victory.

However, of all the meetings, the 1968 matchup is the most interesting and worthy of a Classic Rewind.
Read the rest of this entry →

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Bill Freehan: Michigan Man
      May 12, 2018 | 6:21 pm

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was an 11-time American League All-Star at one of the most demanding positions in baseball, yet outside of Detroit his exploits have been largely forgotten.

      For more than a decade, Bill Freehan was the rock behind home plate for the Detroit Tigers. In addition to earning All-Star honors 10 straight years and 11 times overall, Freehan was a five-time Gold Glove winner and in 1968 finished second in the American League in the MVP voting.

      A true “Michigan Man”, Freehan played his entire sports career representing teams from Michigan.

      Read more »

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