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John Henry Johnson is Latest Running Back Pioneer to Pass Away 0

Posted on June 04, 2011 by Dean Hybl

John Henry Johnson is one of three Hall of Fame running backs to pass away so far in 2011.

The death on Friday of John Henry Johnson marks the third Hall of Fame running back from the 1950s to pass away so far in 2011. In addition to Johnson, Ollie Matson died on February 19th and Joe Perry passed away on April 25th.

As some of the first African American superstars in the NFL, these three future Hall of Famers were among a group of runners that brought excitement and versatility to the NFL in the 1950s.

Here is a brief look at the careers of these three all-time greats:

Ollie Matson – A decade before Bob Hayes went from Olympic sprinter to NFL superstar, Ollie Matson won silver and bronze medals as a sprinter at the 1952 Olympics and then earned All-Pro honors and co-Rookie of the Year honors as an NFL rookie.

A multiple threat as a running back, receiver and returner, Matson twice led the NFL in all-purpose yards and was a first team All-Pro during each of his first five seasons with the Chicago Cardinals.

Following the 1958 season, he was the centerpiece of one of the first blockbuster trades in NFL history as the Los Angeles Rams traded nine players to acquire Matson. He rushed for 863 yards and had 1,421 yards from scrimmage during his first season in Los Angeles, but the Rams won only 11 games during his four seasons in Los Angeles. Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Drew Pearson: Mr. Clutch
      August 7, 2021 | 6:59 pm

      Drew Pearson

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a former NFL wide receiver know as “Mr. Clutch” for his penchant for making big receptions at crucial moments of the game. After waiting for more than 30 years, he is finally earning his rightful place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the 2021 Hall of Fame Class.

      During his decade with the Dallas Cowboys, Drew Pearson had a habit of making the big catch at the right moment to help the Cowboys time and again snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

      The favorite target of Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, Pearson was widely recognized as one of the great receivers of his era. Though at the time of his retirement many expected Pearson to easily breeze into the Hall of Fame, his enshrinement was derailed by changes to the game which artificially inflated receiver stats and made the numbers he produced during a time when wide receivers weren’t catching 100 passes a season seem inferior.

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