By Chris Willis, NFL Films
Part 4 of 5
When compiling my list of the Top 100 Pro Football Books of All-Time I had just a few criteria that I kept to. Of course the book had to mainly be about pro football, so sorry no Friday Night Lights. I also took
40) Instant Replay the Green Bay Diary of Jerry Kramer
39) Hey, Wait a Minute I Wrote a Book by John Madden (Villard Books, 1984) After retiring as Raiders head coach after the 1978 season John Madden (with partner Pat Summerall) quickly became the NFL's top color analyst on TV. In 1984 with the help of Dave Anderson, sports columnist of the New York Times, the lovable Madden wrote Hey, Wait a Minute (I wrote a book!). In his own humorous way Madden tells tons of stories ranging from his childhood in northern California to his coaching days with the
38) The Origins and Development of Professional Football by Marc Maltby (Garland Publishing, 1997) Originally written as a dissertation Marc Maltby's The Origins and Early Development of Professional Football is one of the books a serious football historian should read. Constructed and organized like a text book, it reads better than if you were sitting in a classroom. Using primary and secondary sources Maltby doesn't get bogged down in academic rhetoric and writes a very readable 200-page history of the early pro game.
37) The Scrapbook History of Pro Football by Richard Cohen, Jordan Deutsch, Roland Johnson and David Neft (Bobbs-Merrill, 1976) The Scrapbook History of Pro Football is over 300-pages of newspaper headlines and clippings showing the history of the pro game. Laid out in
36) Red Grange and the Rise of Modern Football by John Carroll (University of Illinois Press, 1999) Unlike The Red Grange Story (Grange’s autobiography # 81 on the list) John Carroll’s biography on Grange and his impact of football, is more of
35) Iron Men: Bucko, Crazylegs, and the Boys Recall the Golden days of Professional Football by Stuart
34) Tough Stuff by Sam Huff with Leonard Shapiro (St. Martin's Press, 1988) Former Giants and Redskins middle linebacker Sam Huff, with the help of Washington Post sportswriter-editor Leonard Shapiro, tells his story in Tough Stuff. Huff's autobiography gives tons of insight into the success of the New York Giants of the 1950's, especially his relationship with defensive coordinator Tom Landry (and the development of the 4-3 defense), becoming a celebrity in New York, and almost quitting the team as a rookie. He also reveals his feelings for Vince Lombardi, who coached the offense in New York before taking over the Green Bay Packers, and asked Huff to come out of retirement to play for him in Washington in 1969.
33) Building a Champion by Bill Walsh with Glenn Dickey (St. Martin's Press, 1990) After winning Super Bowl XXIII and retiring from the NFL (in January 1989) Bill Walsh partnered with San Francisco Chronicle sports columnist Glenn Dickey to write his autobiography. Building a Champion shows off Walsh's mastery of preserving his legacy, as well as showing why he was one of the most successful coaches in NFL history. Very detailed and educational, Walsh's autobiography is pure gold for football readers.
31) PB: The Paul Brown Story by Paul Brown with Jack Clary (Atheneum, 1979) Paul Brown’s autobiography, written in 1979
30) I Am Third by Gale Sayers with Al Silverman (The Viking Press, 1970) Gale Sayers teamed up with Al Silverman, editor of Sport Magazine at the time, to write one of
28) Paper Lion by George Plimpton (Harper-Row, 1966) George Plimpton, the editor of the Paris Review at the time, convinced the Detroit Lions to allow him to participate in training camp and write about his experiences. So in 1963 Plimpton arrived as an unheralded rookie and for four weeks was groomed as a back-up quarterback behind Earl Morrall and Milt Plum. Of course, the result of Plimpton's time at Lions training
27) Going Long
"In January of '59
25) The League: The Rise and Decline of the NFL by David Harris (Bantam Books, 1986) This is the second book by David Harris to make the list (The Genius # 75 on list). Harris spent three years doing research and interviews for his nearly 600-page expose on the NFL that was published in 1986. The League gives readers an insight into the board rooms and
24) Cotton Bowl Days
Namath: a Biography by Mark Kriegel (Viking, 2004) When Namath hit bookstores in 2004 I said to myself, what could
22) The Game of Their Lives by Dave Klein (Random House, 1976) Dave Klein, sports columnist of the Newark Star-Ledger writes 13 chapters of pure nostalgic on the players who played in the 1958 NFL Championship Game. Klein interviewed 13 players: Sam Huff, Alex Webster, Rosey Grier, Jack Stroud, Kyle Rote, Andy Robustelli, and Charlie Conerly of the Giants; and Gino Marchetti, Alan Ameche, Johnny Sample, Raymond Berry, Lenny Moore and Johnny Unitas of the Colts. He interviewed his subjects
21) Punt, Pass & Kick Library Series (Random House, Multiple Years) No list of the top pro football books of all-time can be complete without the Punt, Pass & Kick Library set. First published in 1965 with How to Punt, Pass and Kick (by Richard Pickens) all the way to All-Stars of the NFL (by Bob Rubin) in 1976, the PP&K Library consisted of 24 total books. Authors such as Dave Anderson, Jack Hand, Zander Hollander, Howard Liss, Phil Berger, Bill Libby and Bob Rubin contributed their writing prowess to this series. If you grew up a football fan in the 1970's and 1980's then you read these books growing up. I know I did as a young fan in Ohio. These were my first books I read
Coming Next: Part 1 (# 20-1)