By Chris Willis, NFL Films
Part 3 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
60) Bo Knows Bo by Bo Jackson with Dick Schaap (Doubleday, 1990) In 1990 Bo Jackson was as big an athlete there was in sports, and the saying “Bo Knows” was a national phenomenon. That year long-time sports host and writer Dick Schaap worked with Bo on his autobiography Bo Knows Bo. An insightful and readable biography about an athlete at the top of his popularity.
59) The Last Season of Weeb Ewbank by Paul Zimmerman (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1974) Paul Zimmerman of the New York Post (and later with Sports Illustrated) chronicles
58) Championship: The Story of the NFL Title Game by Jerry Izenberg (Four Winds Press, 1966) Long-time Newark Star-Ledger writer Jerry Izenberg
57) Mean on Sundays: The Autobiography of Ray Nitschke by Ray Nitschke as told to Robert W. Wells (Doubleday, 1973) No other title of a football
"The reason I've played football is that I enjoy it. Even practice. Even lying awake playing a game over again. Even those mental gymnastics you have to go through to get yourself psyched up for the next game. I've enjoyed every moment of my fifteen years- well almost every moment. There is nothing I could have done with my life that I could possibly have enjoyed more." - Ray Nitschke.
56) They Call Me Assassin by Jack Tatum with Bill Kushner (Everest Publishing House, 1979) Before his last year of playing in Oakland with the Raiders Tatum wrote They Call Me Assassin (with sportswriter Bill Kushner). The hard-hitting safety goes into detail about is
55) The Pro Quarterback/ The Running Backs by Murray Olderman (Prentice-Hall, 1966, 1969) Two coffee table type books written in the late 60's by Murray Olderman, artist and
53) Ten-Gallon War: The NFL's Cowboys, the AFL's Texans, and the Feud for Dallas's Pro Football Future by John Eisenberg (Houghton-Mifflin, 2012) One of the best books on pro football to come out the past couple of years is Ten Gallon-War by John Eisenberg, the former long-time columnist
52) Off My Chest by Jim Brown with Myron Cope (Doubleday, 1964) Published the same year when the Browns won the NFL Championship Off My Chest is a revealing and blunt autobiography from the NFL's greatest running back- Jim Brown. As told to Myron Cope (better known as the Steelers color radio personality) Off My Chest gave Brown a platform to talk about a variety of subjects, ranging from race, Paul Brown, etc.
51) Their Life's Work: The Brotherhood of the 1970's Steelers, Then & Now by Gary Pomerantz (Simon & Schuster, 2013) Written less than three years ago Their Life's Work
50) NFL Top 40: The Greatest Pro Football Games of All-Time by Shelby Strother (Viking, 1988) A very informative and readable coffee-table book written by Shelby Strother, sports columnist of the Detroit News, and published with cooperation from NFL Properties. NFL Top 40 covers forty of the sport's greatest games, from Pudge Heffelfinger becoming the first pro in 1892 to The Drive in the 1986 AFC Championship Game, Strother covers all of the greatest moments in NFL history. Filled with all of the great stories and plays, NFL Top 40 also includes some of the NFL's most famous photos. Three years after its release Shelby Strother passed away from cancer at the young age of 44. If you don't know much about Strother's writing, just read NFL Top 40.
49) Heart of a Lion: The Wild and Woolly Life of Bobby Layne by Bob St. John (Taylor Publishing Company, 1991) Very entertaining and funny biography on the legendary party quarterback Bobby Layne. Written by veteran Dallas sportswriter Bob St. John of the Dallas Morning News, Heart of a Lion gives readers all the juicy late-night tales of the Hall of Fame signal caller. Featuring a
"When I was a rookie I went with Bobby Layne to get some toothpaste, and we didn't come back for three days." - Harley Sewell, former Lions teammate.
48) Their Deeds and Dogged Faith by Don Smith and Mike Rathet (Rutledge Books, 1984) Another coffee-table style book that tells the history of pro football. This one was written in cooperation with the Pro Football Hall of Fame and authored by Don Smith, the Hall's Director of Public Relations, (and the inventor of the forward passing rating system) and Mike Rathet, sports editor of the Philadelphia Daily News. Littered with great photos, artifacts from the Hall's collection and accurate history, Their Deeds and Dogged Faith is hours of fun reading. The title comes from a speech given by the Hall's first Director, Dick McCann, when he first announced the Hall of Fame's charter class of 17
"These are the milestone men of pro football. Their deeds and dogged faith wrote the history of this great game."
47) The Best Game Ever by Mark Bowden (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2008) Bowden second book on the list (also had Bringing the Heat, # 82 on
46) Headslap: The Life and Times of Deacon Jones by Deacon Jones with John Klawitter (Prometheus Books, 1996) The autobiography of the NFL’s greatest sack artist, Head Slap, is 552 pages of pure
45) Last Team Standing: How the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles- the Steagles- Saved Pro Football During World War II by Matthew Algeo (
44) Brian Piccolo: A Short Season by Jeannie Morris (Rand McNally, 1971) In 1969 Bears running back Brian Piccolo was diagnosed with cancer. While spending most of his time in the hospital Piccolo decided to record his life's story down for a book. On June 16, 1970 Piccolo died at the tender age of just 26, leaving behind a wife and three daughters. His story would be told in the TV movie Brian's Song. But shortly after he died Piccolo's wife, Joy, recommended to her friend, and wife of Bears receiver Johnny Morris, Jennie Morris if she would finish
43) We Play To Win! The Inside Story of the Fabulous Detroit Lions by Raymond (Buddy) Parker (Prentice-Hall, 1955) Right in the middle of his career Lions head coach Buddy Parker writes one of the more entertaining volumes about pro football during the decade of the 1950’s.
1. Top physical qualifications for players
2. Team desire to win
3. Team poise
4. Simple offense and defense
5, Repetition of drills for perfection
6. Ability to come from behind
7. Minimum of fumbles and interceptions
8. Awareness that a defeat is not disastrous, but
42) The Education of a Coach by David Halberstam (Hyperion, 2005) Pulitzer Prize
41) The Game: The Official Picture History of the National Football League by Tex Maule (Random House, 1963) Tex Maule, lead football writer for Sports Illustrated, writes the history of the NFL. Accompanied by tons of great photos (many from famed football photographer Robert Riger), The Game, is a perfect coffee table book to
Coming Next Part 4 (# 40-21)