Thursday, July 18, 2019

The NFL's Top Pre-WWII Ends

By Chris Willis, NFL Films
Editor's Note: Chris Willis is head of the Research Library at NFL Films and is the author of the upcoming Red Grange: The Life and Legacy of the NFL's First Superstar.




Pro Football Journal is pleased to present his picks of the best-ever Pre-WWII players—

Choosing the greatest of any position during the Pre-WWII period (circa 1920-1944) is always a daunting task, but resources used to put together this list was going through game footage; newspapers of the era; testimonies of players, coaches & executives, as well as sportswriters who wrote about the game; magazines and any individual honors, All-Pro teams, and greatest of all-time lists.

As for statistics, the NFL didn’t keep official stats until 1932, so that is taken into consideration when making these evaluations. Besides Total Football I and II, another great source used was The Football Encyclopedia, by David Neft, Richard Cohen and Rick Korch, who recreated stats for the NFL’s early years through play-by-plays and newspaper reports. It’s the closest thing we have to early numbers.

In 1920 the Rock Island Argus (sportswriter Bruce Copeland) choose the “first-ever” APFA-NFL All-Pro team (APFA in 1920)- he listed 3 teams. The Associated Press, UP and I.N.S., selected their All-Pro teams during this era. While newspapers such as Green Bay Press-Gazette (GBPG), Buffalo News and Courier, New York Daily News (NYDN), Boston Post, Detroit Free-Press, Milwaukee Sentinel, and Chicago Tribune would select All-Pro teams as well; while publications like Collyers’ Eye and Pro Football Illustrated magazines also listed All-Pro honors. NFL coaches, such as George Halas, Guy Chamberlin, Curly Lambeau, Leroy Andrews and Ray Flaherty also picked All-Pro teams during this era, as well as NFL players like Red Grange, Ernie Nevers and Lavvie Dilweg. NFL President, Joe F. Carr, selected an All-Pro team (two squads) in 1925 that was printed in Liberty Magazine.


Team success also contributed to the ranking, as well as combing through newspapers such as GBPG, Pottsville Republican, Canton Repository, Chicago Daily Journal, and more who would publish play-by-plays of early NFL games.


Resources such as the Pro Football Hall of Fame, NFL teams (especially the Packers and team historian Cliff Christl), Newspapers.com, Pro Football Reference, and more contributed mightily to the rankings.

Next up in our series of the Pre-WWII players is the End position.

Ends of this era were usually tall, but solidly-built, and they had to be as well-rounded an athlete on the field. The had to have the skills to do a variety of techniques and skills. “Today’s football makes the end a combined lineman and back,” wrote Potsy Clark in his coaching booklet, Football, in 1935. “Today’s football means that the end must be strong defensively and offensively, must be able to block, tackle, catch passes, maybe throw’em, run with the ball, recover fumbles, and be smart at all times.”

Here is the list of the Top 35 Pre-WWII ends:

1)      Don Hutson (1935-1945) The greatest of all Pre-WWII ends and you could make the argument was the best player in the NFL’s first 25-years, regardless of position. The 6-1, 183-pound Hutson had the perfect combination of size and speed for an end in the early days of the NFL. “He had speed, brains and deception,” once said Arnie Herber, former Packers Hall of Fame quarterback and teammate…he played 11 years (116 games) with the Green Bay Packers, being the main offensive weapon for pass happy Curly Lambeau; developed pass patterns with Packers, and was routinely double and tripled teamed…hard worker in practice, “For every pass I caught in a game, I caught a thousand passes in practice,” once said Hutson to Arthur Daley of the New York Times…Member of 3 NFL Championship teams with Green Bay, 1936, 1939, 1944…played in 5 playoff games, catching 10 passes for 163 yards and 1 TD- which came in the 1936 NFL Championship Game, a 48-yard reception in helping the Packers defeat the Boston Redskins, 21-6…Made 4 Pros Bowls, 1939-42…Won Joe F. Carr NFL MVP, back-to-back years, 1941-1942…Named to NFL 1930’s All-Decade Team…Charter Member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963…Named to NFL’s 50th Anniversary and 75th Anniversary All-Time Teams…finished career with 488 catches for 7,991 yards and 99 TD catches (all NFL records at the time)…had 31 games where he caught 2-or-more TDs…Led NFL in receiving 8 times; receiving yards 7 times; and receiving TDs 9 times…just put up ridiculous numbers for receivers during his era…kicked field goals and extra points, finished career with 825 points and led NFL in scoring 5 times (1940-1944)…also had 30 career interceptions on defense, including leading the NFL one year in 1940 (6)…Packers retired his no. 14 jersey…Elected to Packers Hall of Fame in 1972.
Don Hutson- First Team All-Pros:
New York Daily News: 9 times
UP and I.N.S.: 7 times each
NFL and AP: 6 times each
Collyers: 5 times

Hutson’s Best Season, 1942: In 1942 Hutson showed how dominate he was. Despite it being a war year, his numbers were so much better than the next guy it’s ridiculous. *All four set new single-season records.

*74 Receptions (2nd- Pop Ivy with 27) (broke in 1949 by Tom Fears with 77)
*1,211 Receiving Yards (2nd- Ray McLean with 571) (broke in 1951 by Elroy Hirsch with 1,495)
*17 Receiving TDs (2nd- Ray McLean with 8) (broke in 1984 by Mark Clayton with 18)
*138 Points Scored (2nd- Ray McLean with 54) (broke in 1960 by Paul Hornung with 176)

Hutson’s Best Game: In 1945, at the age of 32, Hutson put on a show in the 2nd quarter of the Oct. 7th game against the Detroit Lions. In that quarter alone he catches 4 TDs (56, 46, 17, 6) and kicks 5 extra points, giving him 35 points scored in a single quarter of a 57-21 victory.

“I just concede him (Hutson) two touchdowns a game and hope we can score more.”—George Halas on Hutson.

“He was the first one with all the moves. He had good head and shoulder fakes and he had an endless series of changes of pace. It was impossible for one man to cover him and almost impossible for two. He had absolute concentration on the ball, he never heard a footstep in his life, and he’d catch the ball in a crowd almost as easily as he did in the open. And he ran like a halfback after he got it.”—Cecil Isbell, former Packers quarterback and teammate.

“The only real superman I ever saw was Don Hutson. You can’t cover him and that goes for any team in the country. Day in and day out Hutson can’t be covered.”—wrote Jimmy Conzleman in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1940.


“He was the greatest receiver in football. There’s no doubt about that. Don could catch the ball going full speed and jump in the air. It seemed like two or three yards and catch the ball and never break stride. He had glue hands. He had great moves. He could change direction, it was tough for any defensive man to cover him. It was almost impossible to cover him. I know when he played the Giants he was the left end. If I was back up the line on the right side I’d cover him short. Then our halfback would cover him long. That’s the only way we could cover him and do a good job.”—Mel Hein, Giants Hall of Fame center-linebacker.

2)      Guy Chamberlin (1920-1927) Played one year in Pre-NFL with the Canton Bulldogs in 1919. The 6-2, 196-pound Chamberlin then went on to play 8 seasons (92 games) with the Decatur-Chicago Staleys (1920-21), Canton Bulldogs (1922-23), Cleveland Bulldogs (1924), Frankford Yellow Jackets (1925-1926) and Chicago Cardinals (1927)…Was player-coach for 6 of those years, amassing an unbelievable coaching record of 58-16-7…Won NFL Championship with the 1921 Decatur Staleys; had a huge 75-yard interception return for a TD against Buffalo (Dec. 4) to help team win 10-7; the following week scored only TD in a 10-0 win over Canton Bulldogs (Dec. 11) to secure title…in 1922 became a player-coach, winning 4 NFL Championships over a five-year span with Canton (1922-23), Cleveland (1924) and Frankford (1926)…the best end and player during the NFL’s first decade…had a knack for scoring TDs; had 17 career TDs- an example, in 1926 Chamberlin scooped up a fumble for a TD late in the 4th quarter to help Frankford defeat Detroit Panthers, 7-6…in 1922 scored 7 TDs with Canton; did it 4 different ways—3 rushing, 2 interception returns (both in the same game vs Cardinals), and 1 each on blocked punt return and reception…First -team All-Pro by the Rock Island Argus in 1920, by George Halas in 1922, and by Collyers in 1923-1924…somehow the Green Bay Press-Gazette named him 3rd team in 1924…Named to NFL 1920s All-Decade Team…Elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965.

“The best two-way end I’ve ever seen. He was a big, tall boy and very fast…He was tremendous tackler on defense and a triple threat performer on offense.”—George Halas, former teammate, opponent and Hall of Fame coach. 

“Chamberlin was our best end. We had this play where he came around on an end-reverse, and sometimes he would get the ball on an end sweep or we’d fake it to him and hand it to the fullback up the middle. Other times, our fullback Louie Smyth would drop-back and hit me on a tackle-eligible play down the field. We would average a touchdown-a-game with Guy coming around from his end position. They couldn’t stop it.”—Link Lyman, about end-around play while playing for the Canton Bulldogs in 1922-1923.


“Guy Chamberlin was a great football player. But he didn’t look like he was working, but boy when something happened he was always in the right spot. He’d block a kick, he’d catch a pass or make a real good tackle when some guy was breaking loose. He was a wonderful player.”—Paddy Driscoll about Chamberlin in 1964.

Chamberlin’s Career TDs:
*Win-Loss Rec.:
Receiving = 8 TDs

Rushing = 3 TDs
*His teams were 15-0 in games
Interceptions = 3 TDs
he scored in.
Blocked Punt Returns = 2 TDs

Fumble Recovery = 1 TD



Total =  17 career TDs


3)      Bill Hewitt (1932-1939, 1943) Nicknamed the “Offside Kid” for his explosive first step on defense, the 5-9, 190-pound Hewitt might’ve been the best defensive end during the NFL’s Pre-WWII era. He never stopped moving, especially on defense, compared to Lawrence Taylor with a motor that didn’t stop. Developed technique of playing off ball a few yards and sprinting to line of scrimmage to time snap of ball…Had a powerful upper-body, barrel-chest and muscular arms to dish out punishment. “Bill Hewitt, of the Chicago Bears, was as tough on defense as he was agile on offense,” once said Mel Hein, Giants Hall of Fame center, about Hewitt…Hewitt played 9 seasons (101 games) with the Bears and Philadelphia Eagles- came back in 1943 to played for the merged Steagles (was traded to Eagles for Sam Francis, a deal that Halas regretted)…Member of 2 NFL Championship teams with the Bears, 1932-1933…also known to be an excellent player on special teams, running down on kickoffs and punts and had a great ability to block punts. Perfect example of his special teams’ play came in a game against the Packers in 1933 (Sept. 24). The Bears, trailing 7-0 in the 4th quarter, Hewitt blocked a field goal kick that led to him throwing a TD pass (to Luke Johnsos), then minutes later blocked a punt that he scooped up and returned for the game-winning score in a 14-7 win…also was popular with fans because he was one of the last players to play without a helmet…Led NFL in TD catches in 1934 (5) and was 2nd in 1936… finished career with 103 catches for 1,638 yards and 23 TD catches (26 total TDs)…In 1933, on end-around plays threw 3 TD passes; Bears developed play where fullback would charge line, stop short and throw “pop pass” to end on slant in middle of field; sometimes the end, especially Hewitt, would then lateral to the other end who trailed the play. This play was used by Hewitt- who lateraled to Bill Karr- for the winning score in the First NFL Championship Game in 1933 to help the Bears defeat the Giants, 23-21…First-team All-Pro five times by Collyers (1932-34, 1936-37); four times by the NFL (1933-34, 1936-37) and UP (1933-34, 1936, 1938); three times by the Green Bay Press-Gazette and Chicago Daily News; and once by Brooklyn Eagle (1933) and Boston Post (1934)…Second-team by NFL in 1932 and 1938; I.N.S. in 1938 and by New York Daily News in 1937…Named to NFL 1930s All-Decade Team…Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971…In selecting his All-Time Team, Giants center Mel Hein choose Don Hutson and Bill Hewitt as his two ends…Hewitt died tragically in a car accident in 1947 at the age of 37….Bears retired his no. 56 jersey in 1949.

“Hewitt was absolutely fearless. He was a happy-go-lucky guy until he stepped onto the field- and then he was a terror on offense and defense. He asked no quarter nor gave any.”—George Halas on Hewitt in 1971.


“Hewitt was big enough and strong enough to hold his own physically with anyone. He had the best ear on offense and the quickest eye on defense I ever have seen. He always outcharged his opponent…the criticism that Hewitt usually was offside was unfair. He was so fast off the mark, that it appeared as if he were.”—Potsy Clark, former NFL head coach.

4)      Ray Flaherty (1926-1929, 1931-1935) Known for his Hall of Fame coaching career, Ray Flaherty was a standout end in the NFL before that. After playing one year in the rival AFL in 1926, the rangy, 6-0, 190-pound Flaherty played 8 seasons (88 games) in the NFL with the New York Yankees (1927-28) and New York Giants (1928-29, 1931-35). Member of 1 NFL championship team, 1934 Giants, and 3 divisional winners (1933-35 Giants)…Very intelligent player, a coach on the field- as his coaching career would prove- as he spent his last 3 years with the Giants as player, captain, and assistant coach…Paired with fellow Hall of Famer, Red Badgro, to form NFL’s best end duo (1931-1935) with Giants…Suggested to Giants head coach Steve Owen that they should wear basketball sneakers in the 1934 NFL Championship Game, which they won 34-13 over the Bears, after playing in “sneakers”…First-team All-Pro four times by Collyers (1929, 1932-34); three times by Green Bay Press-Gazette (1928-29, 1932); and once by the NFL (1932), Chicago Tribune (1929), Leroy Andrews (1929), Curly Lambeau (1931) and UP (1932)…Second-team there times by NFL (1928, 1931, 1933); twice by UP (1933-34); and once by GBPG (1933) and Tribune (1928)…elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1976 (player-coach)…Scored 21 career TDs (20 on receptions)- when Flaherty caught a TD pass his team was 17-2-1, including a perfect 7-0 in 1929…Led NFL in TD catches 3 times (1927, 1929, 1932); had career-high 8 in 1929 (catching TDs from Benny Friedman)…maybe had best year in 1932 (first year NFL kept stats) when he led all receivers in receptions (21), receiving yards (350), and TDs (5)…In 1927 while playing with the New York Yankees, became the 2nd player in NFL history to catch 3 TDs in a single game in a 26-6 victory over the Bears…Giants retired his no. 1 jersey.

“Ray Flaherty was another one of our favorites on the team. He was a tremendous competitor. We had two of the toughest players ever at our two ends in those days- Flaherty and Red Badgro- and at the same time they were two of the nicest guys you’d ever meet.”— Wellington Mara, former Giants Hall of Fame owner.


5)      LaVern “Lavvie” Dilweg (1926-1934) One of the biggest Hall of Fame snubs is the omission of Dilweg. After playing one year with the Milwaukee Badgers in 1926, the tall, athletic, 6-3, 200-pound Dilweg played 8 seasons with the Green Bay Packers (107 total NFL games). Member of 3 NFL Championship teams with Green Bay, 1929-1931…Named to NFL 1920s All-Decade Team…First-team All-Pro five times by the Green Bay Press-Gazette; four times by Chicago Tribune; three times by the NFL (1928, 1930-31) and Collyers (1926, 1929-30); twice by Leroy Andrews and once each by Red Grange (1930), Ernie Nevers (1930), Curly Lambeau (1931), and Milwaukee Sentinel (1930)…Second-team by Collyers (1931); GBPG (1926); UP (1932-1933) and the NFL (1932)…scored 14 total touchdowns (12 receiving, 2 INTs ret.); in those games the Packers went 12-1…best game came in 1929 when he had 2 TD catches in a 12-0 victory over the Cardinals (Nov. 17) to keep Green Bay undefeated during championship season….Elected to Packers Hall of Fame in 1970.

“Dilweg faded out of the picture just about the time the seven-man line went out of fashion, but without question was the greatest end the seven-man line type of defense ever developed.”—Curly Lambeau, former Packers Hall of Fame player-coach.


“I have always rated Dilweg as the greatest end whoever brought me down.”—Red Grange, former Bears Hall of Fame halfback, in 1937.

6)      Morris “Red” Badgro (1927-28, 1930-1936) Teaming with Flaherty was another great end, “Red” Badgro, who got his nickname from his flaming red hair.  Great athlete who also played a few years of major league baseball with the St. Louis Browns. The 6-foot, 191-pound Badgro played 9 seasons (94 games) in the NFL with 3 different franchises- New York Yankees, New York Giants and one year with the Brooklyn Dodgers. But it was his time with the Giants that got him to Canton...Member of 1 NFL Championship team, 1934 Giants…Became an excellent blocker and defender; Flaherty was a better receiver…Caught the first TD in NFL Championship Game history in 1933 (23-21 loss to the Bears)…Named 3 times First-team All-Pro by the NFL (1931, 1933-34); as well as by the Green Bay Press-Gazette in 1933 and the Chicago Daily News in 1934…Second-team in 1930 by GBPG…had 8 career TDs (7 receiving) and led the NFL in receptions (16) in 1934…Elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981 (senior vote)—at the time was the oldest player ever inducted into Hall at the age of 78 (since passed by Jack Butler).

“I played with Red (Badgro) one year with the New York Yankees and against him for five seasons with the Giants. Playing both offense and defense he was one of the best half-dozen ends I ever saw.”—said Red Grange about Badgro.

“Badgro could block, tackle and catch passes equally well. And he could do each with the best of them.”—Steve Owen, Giants Hall of Fame coach.

“Red Badgro was a rugged, fierce competitor and a 190-pound defensive end was pretty big in those days. He was very mild-mannered guy but murder on the field. He was a clean player.”—Wellington Mara, Giants Hall of Fame owner.

(Badgro) was a tireless competitor, big, strong, fast and injury-proof. Also a guy who could make tough catches and carry them home. I must have played in the same game with him five or six times and I can assure you he was for real!”—Johnny “Blood” McNally, former Packers Hall of Fame back.


“Playing against Red Badgro and Ray Flaherty was an afternoon’s work. Red was All-Pro several times, an excellent player in all departments of the game. He was an outstanding credit to the game.”—Cliff Battles, former Redskins All-Pro back.

7)      George Halas (1920-1928) “Papa Bear” Halas played 9 NFL seasons with his Staleys-Bears (105 games). The 6-0, 182-pound Halas was an overachiever as a player, using every ounce of energy and strength playing his end position…As a player-coach-owner was part of 6 NFL championships during this era- winning in 1921, 1932-1933, 1940-1941, 1943…Named to NFL 1920’s All-Decade Team…Charter Member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963 (as coach-owner too)…Second-team All-Pro in 1920 by Rock Island Argus and in 1922 was named Honorable mention by Guy Chamberlin…scored 10 career TDs (including 6 receiving); in 1921 caught game-winning TD against Dayton in 7-0 victory (Oct. 23) during ’21 championship season…set a then-NFL record with a 98-yard fumble recovery for a score against the Oorang Indians in 1923.

“End wasn’t so much a position for catching passes as it was one of blocking big tackles on offense and protecting the flanks on defense. Halas was just an average ball player, but he used his brains to give an outstanding performance on the gridiron.”—wrote Hunk Anderson about Halas in his memoirs in 1976.

8)      Luke Johnsos (1929-1936) Severely underrated among ends of this era is Johnsos. Tall at 6-2, 195-pounds, Johnsos played 8 seasons (99 games), all with the Chicago Bears. A big contributor in the passing game for the Bears that won back-to-back NFL Championships in 1932-1933…nicknamed the “Professor,” he was a smart, intelligent player on the field, understood offensive strategy very well, after retiring became an assistant for Halas on the Bears staff from 1937-1969 (winning 5 NFL titles as coach with Bears)…Used his height and speed to gain advantage in passing game…In his 99 career games he caught 20 touchdowns (22 total TDs)…In 1932 finished 2nd in NFL in receptions (19) and receiving yards (321)…Tied for NFL lead in TD catches in 1933 (with 3)…First-team All-Pro in 1930 by the Green Bay Press Gazette and Collyers; in 1931 by UP and in 1932 by the NFL…Second-team 3 times by Collyers (1929, 1931-32); and once each by the GBPG (1929), NFL (1931) and Curly Lambeau (1931). In 1931 Lavvie Dilweg selected him to his All-Opponent Team. Overlooked when talking about the Hall of Fame.  

Table: Ends Who Played in Johnsos’s Era (about the same amount of NFL games) TD Receptions. (*Hall of Famer)
Name/Games Played:
TD Receptions:
Bill Hewitt (101 games) *
23 TD catches
Ray Flaherty (88) *
20 TD catches
Luke Johnsos (99)
20 TD catches
Lavvie Dilweg (107)
12 TD catches
Wayne Millner (76) *
12 TD catches
Red Badgro (94) *
7 TD catches
George Halas (105) *
6 TD catches

“(Johnsos) was one of the best ends in the league and a great pass receiver.”—Red Grange, former Bears Hall of Fame halfback and teammate.


“Johnsos is an all-round end. He is one of the big threats of the Bears in every department of the game. He plays the whole four quarters. He is bad medicine to oppose.”—wrote Lavvie Dilweg in the Green Bay Press-Gazette in naming Johnsos to his 1931 All-Opponent Team.


9)      Wayne Millner (1936-1940, 1945) The 6-1, 189-pound Millner played 7 seasons (76 games) with the Boston-Washington Redskins. Won the 1937 NFL Championship with the Redskins, where he had a monster game, catching 9 passes for 160 yards and 2 TDs—covering 55 and 78 yards…a fierce competitor on the field, punishing blocker in the run game, equally productive on defensive side of the ball… “He was quick, elusive and powerful. Wayne Millner was the greatest end I ever coached,” said Ray Flaherty, former Redskins Hall of Fame coach...finished career as Redskins leading receiver with 124 catches (1,578 and 12 TDs)…would have amassed bigger numbers if his career wasn’t interrupted by WWII (Navy), he came back to play in 1945…Not as many First- or Second-team All-Pros (Hutson era)…Honorable mention by the NFL for 6 straight seasons (1936-1941)…Named Second-team by I.N.S. in 1937 and Collyers in 1941…Honorable mention by AP in 1940…Named to NFL 1930s All-Decade Team…Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968…after playing career became a coach and scout.

“I always knew if I could get out into the open, Wayne would be there to block for me. He would swing over from the weak side after making his initial block and hit a defensive back. Wayne’s blocks determined whether or not I would get away for a long run.”—Cliff Battles, teammate and Hall of Fame back.

“(Millner) was not what you called a big end. But he was quick, while he always was blocking his man. I always thought he did the best job of all the two-way ends of our time.”—Sammy Baugh, teammate and Hall of Fame quarterback.


“Wayne was one of the best. He played offense and defense and could do everything. He was a good all-around athlete and a good receiver.”—Ace Parker, former Hall of Fame quarterback.


10)  Gaynell Tinsley (1937-1938, 1940) Tinsley’s career can be summed up as short and sweet. The 6-1, 198-pounder played only 3 seasons (29 games) with the Chicago Cardinals. He made a lasting impression though, being named to the NFL 1930’s All-Decade Team…Smooth receiver who had excellent speed, known for his big-play ability. “That fella was a solid football player. He had great intelligence. That’s what made him such a great pass receiver,” said Marshall Goldberg, former Cardinals back and teammate…caught 7 career TDs- including a 98-yard score against the Rams in 1938 and a 97-yard score against the Bears in 1937…Led the NFL in receiving yards (675) in 1937 and in receptions (41) in 1938…First-team All-Pro twice by NFL (1937-38) and Collyers (‘37-‘38); and once by Football Writers (1937), UP (1937), I.N.S. (1938)…Second-team in 1937 by I.N.S. and in 1938 by UP…Ray Flaherty named him First-team in 1938…had knee injury in 1940 and retired, went into coaching…set a NFL record for receiving yards in a game with 167 yards- did it twice, 1937, 1938; record broke by Don Looney in 1940 (180 yards)…Did not play in NFL in 1939, playing minor league baseball and coached high school football that year.

11)  Bill Karr (1933-1938) The 6-1, 190-pound Karr played 6 seasons (63 games) with the Chicago Bears. Paired with Hall of Fame end, Bill Hewitt, the duo was the best in the NFL for several years. Karr was just as productive in scoring touchdowns as Hewitt, snagging 18 TD catches (20 total) on 48 career receptions…Twice Led the NFL in TD catches, 1933, 1935…In 1935 caught 3 TDs in one game against the Lions (Nov. 24) in a 20-20 tie game…As a rookie scored two TDs in the NFL’s First Ever Championship Game, scoring the winning TD when he took a lateral from Bill Hewitt, sprinted the remaining 19-yards to help beat the Giants, 23-21… threat in the passing game, averaged an impressive 21.5 yards per catch…In 1935 named First-team All-Pro by the NFL, Green Bay Press-Gazette, Chicago Daily News, Collyers and UP…Honorable mention by the NFL in 1934, 1937-1938 and Second-team All-Pro in 1934 by GBPG and the Chicago Daily News; while Collyers named him 2nd team in 1937…In 1941 George Halas selected a Bears All-Time Team and choose Hewitt and Karr as his all-time ends.

“Karr caught three touchdowns passes in one game. Big and fast, it frequently took two men to cover him.”—wrote the United Press in 1935 when naming Karr First-team All-Pro.


“Bill Karr of the Bears was outstanding on the Halas machine. There wasn’t a better pass snatcher in the loop…the West Virginia product covered punts as well as he was a deadly 
tackler.”- wrote the Green Bay Press-Gazette in 1935 after naming Karr First-team All-Pro.

12)  Jim Poole (1937-1941, 1945-1946) Tall and thick at 6-foot-3, 218-pounds, Poole played 6 of his 7 seasons (78 games) with the New York Giants (one with Cardinals). Very productive in passing game with excellent hands, had 65 career catches for 895 yards and 13 TDs…averaged 13.8 yds. per catch…Member of 1938 Giants that won the NFL Championship…In 1939 played great on the defensive side of the ball, named First-team All-Pro by the NFL, UP, Football Writers, and I.N.S….Had best offense year in 1940 with 10 catches for 156 and 3 TDs and earned First-team All-Pro by the UP and I.N.S and Second-team by the NFL and Collyers”Poole is easily the league’s best defensive wingman and also is a good pass catcher,” wrote George Kirksey of UP in naming Poole First-team All-Pro in 1940…Honorable mention by the NFL three times, 1937-38, 1941…3 Pro Bowls (1938-40).

13)  Tillie Voss (1921-1929) A large player, standing at 6-3, 207-pounds, Voss was a versatile end playing 9 seasons (95 games) with 8 different franchise. A traveling nomad during the NFL’s first decade…probably would be better remembered if he played for just one franchise…Named First-team All-Pro in 1923 by Guy Chamberlin while playing with Toledo…then had his best year in 1924 while playing for the Packers. Lambeau used his receiving skills well, throwing 5 TD passes to Voss in eleven games- which led the NFL in receiving TDs. Best game that season came on Nov. 2 against Racine when Lambeau tossed a 40-yard TD to a diving Voss in the 4th quarter to help the Packers defeat Racine, 6-3. Voss would be Named First-team All-Pro by the Green Bay Press-Gazette…Second-team All-Pro in 1922 by George Halas and in 1925 by Ohio State Journal and Third Team in 1923 by GBPG and in 1925 by Collyers…In 1925 NFL President Joe Carr named Voss to his Second-team All-Pro…scored 10 career TDs.

“The former Detroiter looked better than ever. Voss proved adept at grabbing passes and his 210-pounds were pretty handy on the defense.”—wrote the Green Bay Press-Gazette, naming Voss First Team All-Pro in 1924.


14)  Joe Carter (1933-1940, 1942, 1944-1945) The 6-1, 200-pound Carter played 11 seasons with four teams, but mainly played for the Philadelphia Eagles (8 years). Carter was excellent in the passing game for the Eagles, finishing with 132 career catches for 1,989 yards and 22 TDs in 109 games. Led the NFL in receptions in 1934 (with 16) and was 2nd in league in TD catches twice, 1934 and 1938 when he caught a career-high of 7…averaged 18.2 yds. per catch during career and ten of his career TDs were from 30-or-more yards, including a 86-yarder in 1937…also had a 90-yard fumble recovery for a TD in 1938 against the Giants in the 4th quarter to help the Eagles win 14-10…Named to 2 Pro Bowls (1938-1939)…Never a First-team player (Hutson era) but was Honorable mention by the NFL for 7 straight years (1933-1939)…Named Second-team by Boston Post (1934), Collyers (1936), Chicago Daily News (1936), and the Football Writers (1938).

15)  Charlie Berry (1925-1926) The next two players on the list showed great skill and pure athletic ability to make the Top 35, while only playing two NFL seasons. The 6-0, 185-pound Berry was a tremendous athlete who would play 11 seasons of major league baseball, finishing with a .267 lifetime average. He played just 2 seasons in the NFL with the Pottsville Maroons, eventually sticking to the ball diamond. But if he chose to stay with pro football he might’ve ended up in the Hall of Fame. In his 20 career games, Berry scored 9 touchdowns- including 6 TD catches…Member of the 1925 Maroons that almost won NFL championship (broke rule). That season Berry scored 6 TDs; including 3 against the Packers (Nov. 26), 2 on catches and one on a blocked punt in a 31-0 win, and  led the NFL in scoring with 74 points; by kicking 25 XPs and 3 FGs—he topped Hall of Famer Paddy Driscoll (67 points)…First-team All-Pro twice by the Green Bay Press-Gazette, 1925-1926, and by the Ohio State Journal and Collyers in 1925…Named Third-team by Collyers in 1926—being beat out by Dilweg, Duke Hanny and Paul Goebel…after playing career over became a successful MLB umpire and a NFL official (he worked the 1958 NFL Championship Game).

“Berry, was probably the best wingman on the pro grid. He could do everything and was husky enough to stand a lot of pounding without wilting under the gaff. What’s more Berry knew football and his generalship cut a big figure in Pottsville’s success.”—wrote the Green Bay Press-Gazette in naming Berry First-team All-Pro in 1925.

16)  Paul Robeson (1921-1922) Just like Berry’s short career, if Robeson stuck with playing in the NFL he might be enshrined in Canton. A freak of an athlete at 6-3, 219-pounds, Robeson played two seasons with the Akon Pros and Milwaukee Badgers—as one of the early black players in NFL history. He played both years with his good friend, Fritz Pollard…Only played in 15 NFL games, but to show how unique he was in 1922 Robeson scored 2 TDs to help defeat the Oorang Indians, 13-0. In the first quarter he recovered a fumble for a score and then in the 3rd quarter he caught a 50-yard TD pass to ice the win…excellent blocker and played hard on defense to stop end runs…Robeson would have other interest besides football, mainly being a stage actor and singer which is why he only played two seasons.

17)  Tom Nash (1928-1934) Just like Voss, the stocky, 6-3, 208-pound Nash towered over opponents while playing 7 years (65 games) in the NFL, playing with the Packers and Brooklyn Dodgers (1933-34). Nash was part of 3 Championship teams with Green Bay, 1929-31…Lambeau used Nash mostly as a defensive specialist from his end position…scored 5 total TDs…In 1932 (first year NFL kept stats) Nash was first player to have 2 safeties in a season…First-team All-Pro in 1930 by Milwaukee Sentinel; in 1931 by Collyers; and in 1932 by Green Bay Press-Gazette and UP…Second-team in 1929 by Leroy Andrews; in 1930 by GBPG; in 1931 by Lambeau; and in 1932 by Collyers…Named honorable mention twice by the NFL, 1932-1933.

“Nash has few equals at taking out tackles. He is as tough as they come, is a great pass receiver, and for a big man, has a world of speed.”—wrote the Green Bay Press-Gazette about Nash in 1932.


18)  Luke Urban (1921-1923) One of the more smallish ends on the list, Urban, at 5-feet-8, 165-pounds, played 3 seasons (32 games) in the NFL, all with the Buffalo All-Americans. Outstanding all-around athlete, played major league baseball with the Boston Braves…But Urban was one of the best ends in the NFL’s first few seasons when longevity wasn’t the norm. Urban showed excellent hands and speed on the gridiron, helping Buffalo to three winning seasons (19-9-6 overall record)…Smart player, excelled at blocking…Scored two career TDs, including one in 1923, when Urban returned an interception for a TD to help Buffalo defeat the Akron Pros, 9-0…Named First-team All-Pro by the Buffalo News in 1921; by George Halas in 1922; and by Collyers and Guy Chamberlin in 1923…Named honorable mention All-Pro by the Canton Daily News in 1923…choose baseball career instead of football.


19)   Frank “Duke” Hanny (1923-1930) Mostly playing opposite fellow end George Halas on the Bears line, Hanny played 8 years (98 games) for 4 different franchises: Bears (5 years), Providence, Green Bay and Portsmouth…The 6-0, 199-pound Hanny played some at tackle, but mainly played end throughout his career, showing toughness and above average receiving skills- scored 8 career TDs- including 3 interceptions returns for scores…also known to be an excellent punter for the Bears…had best year in 1926 when he caught 4 scores with Bears, all coming in Bears wins- in a season when Chicago went 12-1-3 (second place in NFL)…Member of 1 NFL Championship squad, Providence Steam Roller in 1928, started 10 games that season. On Oct. 21st Hanny returned an INT 50-yards for the game-winning score in a 12-6 victory over the New York Yankees…Always coming in behind Chamberlin, Urban, Berry or Dilweg for honors, he was Named Second-team All-Pro four times by Collyers (1923-1926) and once by the GBPG (1923)…Named honorable mention by the Ohio State Journal in 1925…Along with Halas played end on the famous 1925-1926 Red Grange-Bears barnstorming tour.



20)  Bob “Nasty” Nash (1920-1925) Well-built at 6-1, 205-pounds, Nash was one of the better ends in the early days of professional football. Aptly named “Nasty” Nash, he played for the Massillon Tigers in Pre-NFL days (1917, 1919), even being named First Team All-Pro at end in 1917 by the Cleveland Plain Dealer…”I just loved to play football. Especially defense. I believed in knocking down everyone in the way,” said Nash in 1975…Excellent on defense and in kicking game…Nash went on to play 6 seasons in the NFL with 4 different teams- Akron, Buffalo, Rochester and the Giants…Member of the first APFA-NFL champions, 1920 Akron Pros, blocking for halfback Fritz Pollard; that season Nash scored the first fumble recovery for a TD in a game that featured two APFA-NFL teams (Oct. 10) as Akron defeated Columbus Panhandles, 37-0. Also scored only TD (blocked punt recovery) in a 7-0 win over the Cleveland Tigers (Oct. 24); then caught a huge game-winning TD pass from Rip King to help defeat the Canton Bulldogs, 7-0, to keep Akron unbeaten and in first place (Nov. 25)…In 1921 was sold from Akron to Buffalo for $300, making him the first player sold in NFL history…Named Third-team All-Pro in 1920 (at the age of 28) by the Rock Island Argus and First-team by the Buffalo News in 1921…retired after playing the 1925 season with the New York Giants when he was 33 years old.

“There was only one man I saw who could stop (Jim) Thorpe consistently. Nasty Nash from Rutgers. Played end on the Massillon Tigers. Nasty Nash owned Thorpe, as they say.”—Greasy Neale, former Canton Bulldogs-Massillon Tigers player and Hall of Fame coach.

“The one thing I particularly remember about Nash was that as a player he blocked more punts during the season than any player of his era and any player since that time.”—George Halas about Nash.


“I always looked at Nash as the best darned football player on the (Akron) team and prided myself on having played the end opposite him. Nash was something else. They didn’t come any rougher or tougher.”—“Scotty” Bierce, former Akron Pros end and teammate.

21)  Joe Rooney (1923-1928) The 6-foot, 177-pound Rooney played 6 NFL seasons with 3 teams- Duluth (4 years), Rock Island (1) and Pottsville (1). He had his best years playing with Duluth, including playing on the Ernie Nevers’ Eskimos in 1926-1927. Rooney was a solid blocker and a good pass catcher…Was first player in NFL history to catch 3 TDs in a game- on Oct. 23, 1927- Rooney caught passes of 25, 60 and 38 (all thrown by Ernie Nevers) for scores in a 27-0 win over the Pottsville Maroons…In 1926 caught 25-yard game-winning TD pass (from Nevers) in 4th quarter to defeat Milwaukee Badgers, 7-6, (Oct. 31)…He would go on to score 8 career TDs.

 22)  Harry Ebding (1931-1937) The 5-11, 200-pound Ebding played 7 seasons (81 games) with the Portsmouth Spartans-Detroit Lions. Always steady and reliable, Ebding separates himself from his fellow ends that played for the Spartans-Lions (McKalip, Schneller, Morse) during the 1930’s…strong blocker and excellent receiver, member of the 1935 Detroit Lions who won NFL Championship…great year in 1934 when he led the NFL in receiving yards with 264 (on only 10 catches), while also leading the league by averaging 26.4 yards per catch that season….had 11 career TDs (inc. 8 receiving) including 2 fumble recovery for scores in 1937. When Ebding scored a TD his team was 10-1…First-team All-Pro in 1933 by UP…Second-team by the NFL in 1933-34; GBPG and Chicago Daily News, 1933; and by the Boston Post in 1934…Honorable mention by the NFL in 1935-1936.


23)  Charley Malone (1934-1940, 1942) Huge at 6-4, 206-pounds Malone played 8 seasons (84 games), all with Boston-Washington Redskins. One of Sammy Baugh’s favorite targets, Malone was reliable, helping the Redskins win the 1937 and 1942 NFL Championships…Led team in receiving 4 times (1934-35, 1937-38)…Selected to 1 Pro Bowl, 1942…finished career with 137 receptions, 1,932 yards and 13 TDs- six of his TD catches were from 30-yards or more…Led the NFL in receiving yards (433) in 1935; while averaging nearly 20 yards a catch…Four times he finished inside the Top 5 in receptions…Honorable mention by the NFL four times, 1935, 1937-39…Also Honorable mention by the Football Writers in 1938-1939.


24)  Milt Gantenbein (1931-1940) The 6-0, 200-pound Gantenbein, nicknamed “Goose,” played 10 seasons (103 games), all with the Green Bay Packers. Playing for Curly Lambeau, he was a part of 3 NFL Championship teams, 1931, 1936, 1939…Half his career played opposite end Don Hutson; was great pair as Gantenbein was better on defense than offense; made plenty of tackles…1 Pro Bowl, 1939…finished career with 77 receptions for 1,299 yards and 8 TDs catches… best year in 1936 when he was named First-team All-Pro by UP…Second-team by the NFL in 1934, 1936-38; Collyers in 1936; UPI in 1938 and Honorable mention by the Football Writers in 1938-1939…stepped up in his 2 career playoff games, scoring TDs in both the 1936 and 1939 NFL Championship Games, both wins by the Packers….Inducted into Packers Hall of Fame in 1972.

“Milt Gantenbein was the best blocking end who ever lived.”—Clarke Hinkle, former Packers teammate and Hall of Fame fullback.

25)  Dick Plasman (1937-1941, 1944, 1946-1947) Plasman career, like many other players was interrupted by WWII. Tall, rangy and athletic, the 6-3, 218-pounder was famously known for not wearing a helmet, becoming the last player to not wear one. Very volatile player with the Monsters of the Midway. “We called Eric the Red. Not because he had red hair but because of his temper. He was something,” said Ray Nolting, former Bears back and teammate.…Missed two years when he joined the Army for WWII…He played 8 seasons (59 games), although his career predominately was the 6 seasons he played with the Bears. Member of 2 NFL Championship teams with the Bears, 1940-41…finished career with 56 receptions, 1,083 yards and 7 TDs…First-team All-Pro only once, in 1939 by Collyers…Second-team in 1939 by UP; in 1941 by NFL and Collyers; while named Honorable mention by NFL in 1939-40 and the AP in 1941…"Plasman, the Bears wingman, is a deadly tackler, as well as a fine pass catcher,” wrote the UP in 1941.


26)  Bill McKalip (1931-1932, 1934, 1936) Overshadowed some by Ebding, the 6-1, 160-pounds McKalip was a perfect complement as the other end for Potsy Clark’s 1930’s Spartans-Lions. McKalip played just 4 seasons (49 games) but helped the Lions with his blocking on the line and contributing in the passing game…not quite as productive as Ebding, had 4 career TD catches…In 1931 Named First-team All-Pro by Collyers and Second-team by the NFL and UPI…had best year in 1934 when he made First-team All-Pro by the Green Bay Press-Gazette and the Boston Post; Second Team by the NFL and UP…missed out on being on the 1935 Lions championship seasons.

“McKalip of Detroit is placed at the other terminal on the first selection. He was a rough and ready customer and carried enough fire to pull him over a lot of tough spots.”—wrote the Green Bay Press-Gazette in 1934 naming McKalip First-team All-Pro.


27)  George Wilson (1937-1946) The 6-1, 200-pound Wilson played 10 seasons (106 games) in the NFL, all with the Chicago Bears. He was a key contributor to 4 NFL Championship teams with the Bears, 1940-41, 1943, 1946…finished career with 111 catches for 1,342 yards and 15 TDs (18 total TDs)…made three Pro Bowls (1940-42)…made key block, taking out two men on Bill Osmanski’s TD run that kicked off the 73-0 beatdown of the Redskins in the 1940 NFL title game…Named First-team All-Pro in 1942 by AP and New York Daily News….Second-team by NFL (1942-1943); AP (1944); NYDN (1943-44)…Honorable mention by NFL in 1941…after career went into coaching, was the head coach for 12 years with the Lions and Dolphins (combined record of 68-84-8).


28)  Eddie Anderson (1922-1925, 1926) The future College Football Hall of Fame coach, Anderson, first played 4 seasons in the NFL with Rochester and the Chicago Cardinals (1922-25) and then 1 year in the rival AFL with the Chicago Bulls (1926). The 5-10, 176-pound Anderson was very good for the Cardinals, helping them win the 1925 NFL Championship....First-team All-Pro in 1922 by Guy Chamberlin…Second-team in 1922 by George Halas; and in 1924 by GBPG; well as by Collyers in 1924-1925…had 2 career TD catches…teammate and Cardinals Hall of Fame back Paddy Driscoll described Anderson as having a “heart like a blowtorch.”

29)  Bird Carroll (1921-1923, 1925) Undersize at 5-8, 185-pounds, Carroll played 4 years in the NFL, all with the Canton Bulldogs. He was mostly a starter on the Bulldog’s back-to-back NFL Championship teams of 1922-1923, playing right end opposite Guy Chamberlin and next to HOF tackles Link Lyman and Fats Henry…scored 4 career TDs, including a 30-yard TD catch against the Cleveland Tigers (Nov. 13th) in a big 7-0 victory over Jim Thorpe’s Tigers in 1921…Chamberlin thought very highly of Carroll, placing him on his First-team All-Pro list both years in 1922-23…Canton Daily News named him First-team in 1923…after retiring, became a successful high school coach in the Pittsburgh area for decades.

30)  George Kenneally (1926-1930, 1932-1935) The 6-foot, 180-pound Kenneally played 9 years (89 games) for 4 different teams- Pottsville, Boston, Cardinals and the Philadelphia Eagles. Wasn’t as productive in the passing game as previous ends on the list but solid blocker and intelligent player…Second-team All-Pro in 1927 by the Green Bay Press-Gazette and in 1928 by the Chicago Tribune…Named honorable mention by the NFL in 1933…only had 3 career TDs, but had a 21-yard TD catch against Providence to help Pottsville win 6-0 in 1927 (Nov. 24).


31)  Paul Goebel (1923-1926) Tall and rugged, the 6-3, 199-pound Goebel is another outstanding all-around athlete that if he choose to play pro football longer would’ve had a better resume. Goebel played just 3 seasons (26 games) with an average Columbus Tigers squad…Named First-team All-Pro by Guy Chamberlin in 1923…Second-team in 1924 by GBPG and Collyers; while he was Third-team in 1925 by Collyers and honorable mention by Canton Daily News in 1923…Named First Team in 1925 by NFL President Joe Carr…joined up with the famous Red Grange-Bears barnstorming tour in 1925-26, playing several games with the Bears…In 1924 scored 2 TDs in helping Columbus beat Akron, 30-0…in 1926 he played for Red Grange’s New York Yankees of the rival AFL…after the ’26 season Goebel retired to operate a sporting goods store.


32)  Carl Bacchus (1927-1928) The 6-0, 205-pound Bacchus makes the list despite playing just two seasons in the NFL with Cleveland (1927) and Detroit (1928). But was very productive in his two years. Coached by Leroy Andrews both seasons, Bacchus benefited by having the great Benny Freidman toss him passes both seasons. In 1928 had career-high 4 receiving TDs in 9 games…had 7 career receiving TDs in his 19 NFL games- his teams went 4-1-1 in those games…In 1928 he caught two TDs (from Friedman) in a 35-12 victory by Detroit over the New York Yankees (40, 18 yards)…First-team All-Pro in 1927 by the Chicago Tribune; Second-team that year by Leroy Andrews…In 1928 named Second-team by the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

“Bacchus is a demon tackler and a super receiver of forward passes.”—wrote the Green Bay Press-Gazette, naming Bacchus Second-team All-Pro in 1928.



33)  Chuck Kassel (1927-1933) A former college teammate of Red Grange, the 6-1, 191-pound Kassel played 7 seasons (79 games), all with the Chicago Cardinals. Consistent and smart, Kassel’s best years were blocking for All-Pro fullback Ernie Nevers (1929-31) and catching passes from the Blonde Bomber—four of his 8 total TDs were thrown by Nevers…Second-team All-Pro in 1927 by Leroy Andrews and in 1930 by Collyers…Honorable mention by GBPG in 1929 and third team in 1930.


34)  Bill Smith (1934-1939) Despite having a common name, the 6-1, 198-pound Bill Smith played 6 seasons (64 games) in the NFL- all with the Chicago Cardinals. Very productive in passing game with 92 career receptions for 1,612 yards and 9 TDs (avg. 17.5 yds. per catch)…had best year in 1935 with 24-318-2 TDs, Named First-team All-Pro by the NFL, UP, Collyers, Boston Post, Chicago Daily News and Green Bay Press-Gazette; helping the Cardinals to a winning record (6-4-2)….Second-team by GBPG in 1934; by NFL and UPI in 1936 and by Collyers in 1938-1939…In 1936 finished 2nd in NFL in receptions (20) and receiving yards (414).

“Once Smith caught a pass, he was one of the hardest men in the league to drag down, running with the skill of a halfback.”—wrote George Kirksey of UP in naming Smith Frist Team All-Pro in 1935.

35)  Ken Kavanaugh (1940-1941, 1945-1950) Would be much higher if not for his career interrupted by WWII, since only 2 seasons fall into the era (1940-41). He played 8 total seasons (90 games) all with the Chicago Bears. At 6-3, 207, Kavanaugh was a big target for Sid Luckman, usually coming down with a key catch in every game…downfield threat, averaging 22.4 yds. per reception in career…had 162 receptions for 3,626 and a very impressive 50 TDs (had 9 in 40-41)…best years after war, twice led NFL in TD catches (1947, 1949)…made 2 Pro Bowls, 1940-41…member of 2 NFL Championship teams with Bears during this era, 1940-41 (would win a third in 1946)…No First- or Second-team honors during the pre-WWII era, but made many after war.

Bonus Note: In 1947 the editors of Pro Football Illustrated selected 51 players for their “roster of all-time all-stars” (1921-1946 years). Among those players they selected 7 ends:
Red Badgro
Guy Chamberlin
Lavvie Dilweg
Ray Flaherty
Duke Hanny
Don Hutson
Bill Hewitt

Best of the Rest
Aguirre
Joe Aguirre (1941, 1943-1949)
Lynn Bomar (1925-1926)
Glenn Campbell (1929-1933, 1935)
Bill Daddio (1941-1942)
Tod Goodwin (1935-1936)
Jim Lee Howell (1937-1942, 1946-1947)
Harry Jacunski (1939-1944)
Tony Kostos (1927-1931)
Butch Morse (1935-1938, 1940)
Paul Moss (1933-1934)
Carl Mulleneaux (1938-1941, 1945-1946)
Brick Muller (1926)
Pool
Hamp Pool (1940-1943)
Paul Riblett (1932-1936)
Al Rose (1930-1936)
John Schneller (1933-1936)
Wilbur Sortet (1933-1940)
Gus Tebell (1923-1924)

Tomorrow: Quarterbacks

No comments:

Post a Comment