Saturday, July 31, 2021

Fred Strickland—Nosebacker and Swiss Army Knife

 By John Turney

There had been nosebackers before Fred Strickland began to play the position in 1988-89 with the Los Angeles Rams.

What is a nosebacker? Paul Zimmerman used it on a Sports Illustrated article and that name stuck with Strickland. It was due to the fact he played a specialized position in Rams defensive coordinator's Eagle defense, where he'd play over the nose in a 5-linebacker defense and then if the situation dictated it, he'd stem to a weakside linebacker position, making that the "Hawk" defense. 

However, back in the day, film shows guys like Bill Willis and Mike McCormack would essentially do the same thing, and even the NFL's early middle linebackers would often put their hand in the dirt over the center to create a five-man line.

So Shurmur didn't really invent that position, but he did bring it back to life. 

It started in 1988 when the Rams were woefully short of defensive linemen so as a changeup he dusted off his playbook and implemented his Eagle defense which we hadn't seen for several years though it was seen on occasion, it used base personnel. 

Shurmur's Eagle in 1984 versus Dallas.

However, in 1988, Shurmur used to give linebackers and two defensive linemen to populate the front seven (usually being an eight-man front, the safety would come up to fill the front). And inside linebacker Mark Jerue would act as the nosebacker. After he went down to an injury Strickland stepped in.

In 1989 Strickland opened the season as the starter at weak inside linebacker in the 3-4 and the stemming backing in the Eagle/Hawk. 

Strickland in the base 3-4, on the weak side 

Moving from the nose to the weakside ILBer spot, making the "Eagle" into "Hawk"

Strickland on the nose in the Eagle defense
Strickland had the ability to move well, having played middle linebacker in college, but had unusual strength and a 6-2, 250 (255 pounds by 1989) build that allowed him leverage against centers plus a quickness advantage over them. 

Jerue had been a nose guard in college and was converted to linebacker in the NFL so he had experienced on the defensive line, and Strickland really had not. 

The Eagle was a 5-linebacker defense, but it was not the only one Shurmur employed. Late in 1989, he used five linebackers and six defensive backs. 

Strickland had been a tackle in 1988 in nickel/dime but Gary Jeter was still on the team, so it was four linebackers and one defensive lineman—
1988 Playoffs with Strickland as left tackle in nickel/dime
In 1989, after Bill Hawkins was injured often linebacker George Bethune would join Strickland making the defensive a second "5-LBer" defense—
Strickland as an inside rusher in dime defense

In that package, Kevin Greene and Brett Faryniarz were the ends and Strickland and George Bethune were the tackles with Mike Wilcher the linebacker who could rush or cover. 

Strickland as a linebacker in nickel/dime
Additionally, Strickland has duties in other sub-packages as a linebacker with Wilcher being a rusher and Strickland in coverage or he could dog as well.

Or, as in the example below, Strickland would play some right end in sub-packages. In this screenshot Kevin Greene and Strickland are the ends, Mike Wilcher is the dime linebacker and George Bethune is the nose tackle. The three-technique (left defensive tackle) is Bill Hawkins.
Strickland as the right defensive end in a dime package
In 1990 things were much the same for Strickland fulfilling the same roles and duties but the Rams took a turn for the worse and ohn Robinson, under pressure, fired Shurmur and hired Jeff Fisher.

Fisher brought some of the same principles of the Eagle (he was a Buddy Ryan disciple) since the Eagle and the 46 were essentially the same scheme but there were changes in the base defense. The Rams switched from a 3-4 to a 4-3 and Strickland was moved to strong-side linebacker playing over the tight end.

Strickland over the tight end in 1991 as a SAM

Strickland was also part of the nickel defense, though not as a rusher unless he blitzed. He was one of the two backers (with Larry Kelm) that stayed in the game in likely passing situations. 
Strickland as a 'backer in nickel
Kevin Greene was moved to defensive end and due to injuries had to move back to linebacker and other players had to be moved around as well. Near the end of the year, Fisher seemingly tried everything including playing Strickland at defensive end in pass situations.—

Strickland as a defensive end in a 3-2 dime package

The 1991 season was more of a disaster than 1990 and Robinson and his staff were all fired and Chuck Knox was hired to clean it all up. His defensive coordinator was George Dyer who kept the Rams in a 4-3 but could not find a role for Strickland. 

Kevin Greene was moved to left linebacker and he also played defensive end in nickel, Roman Phifer was the right linebacker, he was a star in the making, Kelm was the middle linebacker, as he as in 1991. So, Strickland was restricted to special teams, for all intents and purposes. He simply didn't play and was not invited back for the 1993 season. 

Strickland signed with the Vikings and they made him a WILL 'backer and stayed on the field in nickel—a three-down 'backer if you will. 

As a WILL with the Vikings
Strickland was no sure thing to start for the Vikings or even make the squad. He impressed in camp and competed for the position. Said Viking Defensive Coordinator Tony Dungy, "We're not a real big defense and we were looking for more size. Fred had an excellent first two years and we think he still has the ability. We hope it shows in this system". 

The move to the weakside excited Strickland stating, "On the weak side I will have the opportunity to make more hits". Strickland was not great at coverage (he was best at going forward), but he worked on it and made the team but did not get the starting position until week 2 when second-year player Ed McDaniel went down with an injury.

It was a good season for Strickland but with McDaniel coming back, he was expendable, and a free agent. He was offered a job with the Packers and he took it, reuniting with Frtiz Shurmur, his first NFL coach. 

Once again a team was looking for more size in the linebacking corps and Strickland laughed, "Well, I am one of the biggest linebackers around".

He became the MIKE and also again stayed on the field in nickel.
With the Packers as a middle linebacker

With Green Bay in nickel

In 1996 the Cowboys were looking for some size at Middle linebacker. For years they had quicker, mobile guys, not 255-260 pound types, like Strickland. John Madden said on one of the early-season telecasts that the Dallas coaches told him, "Strickland may not be the fastest guy, but when he hits a guy, that guy stats hit".

He gave Dallas that for three years but was not part of their sub packages. Now in his early thirties he lost a step and was more of a classic run stuffer than the all-around combination player he had been for most of his career.

The Dallas media was tough on Strickland at first, seeming to highlight his mistakes that they thought were glaring—a key missed tackle, a dropped interception that could have really helped, getting run over by a 49er running back, but by midseason, the reports were generally positive about his play versus the run game

As a MIKE in Dallas

Strickland was a starter for three years in Dallas and signed with Washington in 1999 and was a backup there and it was his last NFL season. 

As some may or may not remember the Rams got Strickland as part of the Eric Dickerson trade. They also got Aaron Cox, Gaston Green, Cleveland Gary, Frank Stams, and Darryl Henley, plus Greg Bell and Owen Gill.

Bell and Strickland gave the Rams the most out of that group and when he left they got nothing since he was a free agent. 

He was a special player who got a rap for getting hurt too often when he was with the Rams but he sure had some abilities not a lot of players had—to play multiple positions and to do it a lot and to do it well. It was not just some gimmick thing, he played his spots with effectiveness.

His list of positions includes weak inside linebacker, middle linebacker, weak outside linebacker, strong outside linebacker, nose tackle, defensive tackle (both left and right), and defensive end. 

It's a pretty good legacy, being a nose backer. Try and name another that didn't play in the 1950s.

Career stats—

Saturday, July 24, 2021

49ers to Wear 75th Anniversary Throwbacks

 By John Turney

Three weeks ago the San Francisco 49ers revealed their 1955 throwbacks that they plan to wear for 2021 and in the near future as an alternate uniform and they are nice.

When the one-shell rule is lifted they may even go with a red helmet according to media reports and that will be the icing on the cake. 

They are not what the 49ers wore 75 years ago, but the 1955 jerseys. But the 1955 jerseys are better anyway

here are a few shots (colorized) of the 1955 unis in action—

In 2018 the 49ers went with the white version of the 1955 jerseys. Both are sweet.

Excellent job 49ers.

Browns Reveal 75th Anniversary Throwback Uniforms And They Are Nice

By John Turney

Today the Browns revealed their 75th Anniversary Throwback Uniforms, patterned after their 1946 uniforms with block shadows on the numerals and also the early 1960s numerals on the helmets.

And they are terrific. Shows what you can do when you don't let Nike near your uniforms—Just follow your traditions and add modern tweaks.

Here are the publicity shots—

 Here are a couple of colorized shots from 1946—

Well done, Cleveland. Cleveland rocks.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Colts Throwbacks—1956

 By John Turney

On July 21 the Colts announced they are going to go with a 1956 throwback for the upcoming seasons. And it is a nice choice—

Here are a couple of shots from that era that are colorized—

Good job Colts.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Remembering Norris Steverson, NFL Pioneer

By Chris Willis, NFL Films 
Norris Steverson, halfback, Arizona State Univ.
(Courtesy of Steverson family)

On this day back (July 20th) in 1910 Norris Steverson was born in Mesa, Arizona. His birthplace makes him unique in NFL history because later on in 1934 Steverson became the first-ever player from Arizona State University to play in the NFL.

Back in 2002 I was fortunate to interview Norris Steverson for my book, Old Leather: An Oral History of Early Pro Football in Ohio. On July 5th of that year I visited Norris and his wife Margaret at their home in Mesa. Norris was about to celebrate his 92nd birthday. Despite his age I interviewed him for nearly an hour. He told me he was raised by his grandparents in Mesa and after a productive high school career he attended Arizona State Teachers’ College, now Arizona State University, where he earned an honorable mention as All-American in 1931. He taught physical education at the college after graduating and figured his football career was over.

    Then, early in 1934, Steverson joined a team of Arizona All-Stars in Phoenix to face the barnstorming Chicago Bears, the reigning NFL champions. The Bears crushed the pick-up all-star team, but Steverson’s play impressed Bears’ coach George Halas enough that he signed Steverson to a contract after the game. Alas, the signing marked the high point of Steverson’s NFL career. Later, Halas sold his contract to the woeful Cincinnati Reds before the start of the 1934 season.

    Bronko Nagurski, Red Grange, and the Bears finished that regular season undefeated while Steverson and the Reds never finished. Plagued by poor play on the field and poor attendance at the gate the Reds folded after a 0-8 start. Steverson played out the year with the semi-pro Tulsa Oilers, then returned to Arizona to resume his career as a teacher and coach. By playing for the Reds, Steverson became the first player from Arizona State University to play in the NFL. 

    After his retirement from pro football, Steverson began teaching at Arizona State and in 1950 he founded the ASU men’s gymnastics club team and guided it through the first decade of varsity competition until 1968. He has been associated with Arizona State as a player, coach, teacher, alumni, and fan for over 75 years.  In 1975 Steverson was inducted as a charter member of the Arizona State University Sports Hall of Fame.

Norris Steverson, halfback, Arizona State Univ

After my interview I wrote the following oral history chapter on Norris Steverson:

    I grew up on the West Coast at a time when football was just getting started. We didn’t have any real pro teams in Arizona, but the colleges played. My mother was a teacher and my father held several jobs. He worked as a farmer, bartender, and was an engineer for awhile. Then, when I was about 10-years-old, they divorced. I was an only child, so they sent me to Mesa, Arizona, to live with my grandparents.

    I was pretty good at all the major sports. We didn’t play much golf or tennis, just the major sports. We played baseball, basketball, track, and of course, football. Football was always my favorite sport and that continued well into high school. I ended up lettering in all four sports in high school and I thought I could continue in college. So after graduation, I decided to go to Arizona State Teachers College, which is now Arizona State University.

    Arizona State let me play all four sports, which was fine with me. I loved keeping busy and that’s what I did. But it was an off-the-field event that made me very popular around campus. In Hollywood at that time, the movies named Clara Bow as the “It Girl.” So Arizona State held a contest to find the school’s “It Girl” and “It Man.” So as a freshman, I won the “It Man.” I beat out the whole campus for this prestigious title. Everybody got to know me really well after that.

    I was considered a triple-threat player while at Arizona State. I could run, pass, and kick. In 1930, I was elected captain. That was a nice honor for me. We struggled as a team my first couple of years, but we put it all together in 1931. Our crowning moment came against our chief rival, Arizona, that year. The school hadn’t beaten Arizona since 1899, and we needed that win to finish in first place in the newly established Border Conference.

    I remember the week leading up to the game. The student body was very concerned if we could win, so we wanted to win very badly. We had the ball first, but we couldn’t do anything with it, so we punted. As Arizona’s offense got rolling after our punt, my heart started to sink. But we held them, and on the following punt, I returned it for about 35 yards to set up a touchdown. From then on, I felt good about our chances.

    I had a hand in all three touchdowns we scored that day and we beat them 19 to 6. I think it was the school’s biggest win and I think it was another several years until we beat Arizona again [1949]. The school newspaper in Tuscon said there were three reasons the Wildcats lost the game: Steverson, Steverson, and Steverson. At the end of that season, I was named to the first All-Border Conference team and won honorable mention honors for All-American. This made me even more popular on campus. I remember years later when I had to make some phone calls for a class reunion, I couldn’t believe how many people remembered me from my football accomplishments.

    Before my junior year, our Athletic Director, Aaron McCreary, wanted to talk to me about my future. He told me if I make physical education my major, then the school would hire me after I graduated. So I gave it a try. It took a lot of hard work but I got it done. After graduation, I taught physical education at Arizona State.

    Since we didn’t have any good pro teams in Arizona, I never really thought about playing pro football. But in early 1934, George Halas and his Chicago Bears were barnstorming the country and they were going to stop in Phoenix and play a game against a team of Arizona all-stars. I was contacted by Cecil Mulleneaux who played at ASC in Flagstaff [Arizona State College at Flagstaff. Now Northern Arizona University] and who was playing with the Cincinnati Reds of the NFL. He was in charge of putting the Arizona team together and he asked me to play. Well, I hadn’t played any competitive football in over two years since I graduated, so I thought I give it a try.

    Despite getting beat pretty bad [55-0], I was voted the top all-star from the Arizona team, and the vote was done by the Bears players. George Halas was so impressed by me that he signed me to a contract with the Bears after the game. I was going to get $90-a-game for the 1934 season, which today doesn’t sound like a lot of money. It was a tremendous thrill to sign with the Bears. I was very much looking forward to playing with Red Grange and Bronko Nagurski, they were the best. Just being part of the Bears was more than I could have imagined. I couldn’t wait.

    But it never happened. Right before training camp with the Bears, my contract was sold to the Cincinnati Reds. Cecil Mulleneaux needed players, so he had Halas trade me to the Reds. I was very disappointed about being traded. Sometime in the mid-seventies, Halas visited Arizona State and told me he always regretted trading me. That made me feel a little better about the whole thing.

    I did play for the Cincinnati Reds in 1934, but that didn’t last too long. The Reds weren’t a very good team. We were absolutely terrible. We didn’t win a game, and halfway through the season, they had money trouble and disbanded. The league moved the team to St. Louis to finish out the rest of the season. I decided not to play for the St. Louis team. After the Reds disbanded, I was on my way home to Arizona when I was contacted by a friend to see if I wanted to play a few games with the semi-pro Tulsa [OK] Oilers. It was on my way home, so I agreed. They paid me a little bit, but nothing special.

    I was very proud that I played professional football in the NFL, but I think it wasn’t the lifestyle for me. There was too much down-time. I wanted to keep busy. I was always good at observing and analyzing sport activities. I guess that’s what made me want to teach and coach. I spent over 40 years teaching and coaching at USC, Arizona, and Arizona State. I coached swimming, tennis, gymnastics, and football at Arizona State. Later, before I retired, I even taught a class on trail-riding because it was one thing I always wanted to do.

    I’ve pretty much lived near Mesa all my life. I’ve always loved living out here in Arizona. I met my second wife, Margaret, here. She too was a graduate of Arizona State, and in 1945 we got married. In December of 2003, we celebrated our 58th wedding anniversary. My memory hasn’t been that good lately, but Margaret’s is very sharp, so I’m glad she is here to help me.

    I still enjoy the game of football. The style of the game hasn’t changed, you’ve still got to get the ball into the endzone. I try to watch a few games a week when they are on. I used to go to all the Arizona State games here.  I had a streak going for about 25 years never missing a home game, until about the last couple of years when my health kept me away. They were nicknamed the Bulldogs when I played, so I try to keep up with them now.

Norris Steverson played just five games with the 1934 Cincinnati Reds until they disbanded because of financial problems. On July 20, 2003, Norris celebrated his 93nd birthday with his wife of 58 years Margaret Steverson. On March 23, 2004, Steverson passed away in Mesa, Arizona at the age of 93.

Author with Norris Steverson, Mesa, AZ, 2002 

Norris Steverson with wife Margaret, Mesa, AZ, 2002

Despite playing just a handful of games in the NFL, I remember my time with Norris and his wife with fond memories. Happy Birthday, Norris!

Monday, July 19, 2021

The Tasmanian Devil—Dave Pureifory

 By John Turney 
Every NFL player has a story, a journey if you will. 

Dave Pureifory totaled 323 tackles (56 for losses) at Eastern Michigan and was the first EMU football player to be named All-American for two seasons. He was a First-team selection of the AFCA-College Division Team in 1970 and 1971, and First-team All-NAIA in 1970. He was also a Second-team All-American on the AP-College Division teams of 1970 and 1971. 

Pureifory, 6-1, 250 pounds (he grew to be 265) timed a 4.8 in the forty and benched 450 pounds, was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 6th round of the 1972 NFL Draft and spent 1972 and 1973 backing up defensive ends Clarence Williams and Alden Roache and performing well on special teams, blocking/deflecting a couple of punts, getting some snaps on the edge and even kicking off. 
1972 playing right defensive end
In 1974 the Packers were moving to more of an odd-man 4-3 from the even fronts that had been playing since the Lombardi days. Defensive coordinator coach Dave Hanner was planning on using Pureifory like the Chiefs were using Curley Culp or the Giants were using John Mendenhall—over the center on likely run downs, but then "turning him loose" on pass down, lining him up on a guard, usually on the right side of the line.

Pureifory on the nose with the usual left tackle the 3-tech on the right

Pureifory at right tackle, with McCoy at his usual left tackle position
An ankle injury set these plans back and cut into Pureifory's playing time and Steve Okoniewski ended up playing more than Dave, who also played a couple of games at defensive end but by all measures, it couldn't have been the kind of season he'd hoped for after waiting two seasons to get his shot at being a starter. 
Pureifory at left tackle, spelling usual left tackle Mike McCoy
Interestingly, the Pack didn't use the aforementioned scheme all the time. Sometimes you can see Mike McCoy as a three-technique, flopping sides, with Pureifory or Okoniewski on the nose, in other games it was pretty clear it was a left/right defensive tackle scheme. 

It is interesting that they mixed and matched both kinds of fronts and did so through 1975.
The next season Okoniewski backed up Pureifory who had a breakout year as a starter and racked up 11 sacks, including five against the Rams including one for a safety. He also blocked his third punt in four years, not counting a deflected punt his rookie year and also kicked off a couple of dozen times. 

1975, again, Pureifory on the nose
In 1976 Mike McCoy was again the starter at left tackle and Pureifory split time with Dave Roller who returned from the World Football League in late 1975 to join the Packers for the last six games and had shown some good pass rush ability. It was a pretty good threesome at tackle combining for 19½ sacks and batting down 11 passes between them.

In 1977 McCoy was traded to the Raiders and Pureifory and Roller were the tackles but there was a change in the fronts back to what they dabbled in back in '74—the Packers wet from playing left- and right defensive tackles to 'flopping' them—Pureifory played nose and Roller played 3-technique, playing on the shoulder of the guard. 

But once again, like in '74, the Packers didn't do it every game, some games they played a more traditional left- and right- alignment for their defensive tackles. So the 'flop' was not an every-game thing. 
Nose tackle, overshift to right

Nose tackle, overshift to left

Even front vs Bears, Pureifory the right tackle

Even front vs Saints, right tackle

Pureifory, right tackle, here undershift, playing 3-tech

Again, Pureifory, right tackle, here undershift, playing 3-tech

Overshift, Pureifory, the right, tackle but he's on the nose in this odd-man front

Versus the Bucs, Pureifory the dedicated nose, C. Williams flops sides as the 3-tech
As can be seen from the stills, the fronts were based on the opponent and gameplan but it's fair to say Pureifory played more nose than before, but he was not simply a dedicated nose tackle, either.

Carl Barzilauskas was brought in for 1978 for 4th and 5th-round picks and Pureifory became expendable. Roller, apparently was slated moved to the nose and Barzilauskas became the three-tech and the Pack unloaded Pureifory. 

So, for next five months he became a vagabond.

In early May the Packers shipped him to the Steelers (a 4-3 team) for a fifth-round pick. In August the Steelers sent him to the Patriots (a 3-4) team for a sixth-round pick. 

Six days later the Patriots waived him, and the next day the Bengals (a 3-4 team) claimed him. He lasted two months with the Bengals and was cut. Six days after that the Lions (a 4-3 team) signed him and he finished the season with the Silver Rush.

Pureifory was excited to join the Steelers and expected to earn a starting job there, next to Joe Greene. The prior season Steve Furness filled in for both left end L.C. Greenwood and Ernie Holmes and did fine but in 1978 Holmes was gone and the Steelers needed insurance in case younger players like ohn Banaszak or Gary Dunn were not ready or Furness was needed more as an end (as he ended up being).

With those circumstances, he opened up to the media for, really, the first time in his career. He criticized the Packers defensive scheme "Their style was a little outdated . . . it's over, it's dead. Let's leave it that way." Which was seemingly a shot at coach Dave Hanner. 
Dave Hanner
He also added "I expect to start. I figure I m as good as anyone in the league. I like to think I do everything well—cover the run, rush the passer. You have to be all those things to play in the National Football League".

This sudden outburst, which was quite mild, came as a surprise to the Packers media, who rarely heard him speak to the media, he just didn't do it often in Green Bay during his six years there. Steelers assistant coach Woody Widenhofer, who coached Purifory at Eastern Michigan, said he understood the quiet man. "He's always been a very serious individual. All business. Maybe it's because he had it tough as a kid. He had to work hard his whole life".

Regardless the stay in Steelerland was short. He had a nagging back issue and through camp it seemed the young Steelers linemen were proving themselves to be good players and Joe Greene was healthier in 1978 than he had been the last few seasons so they sent Dave to New England. 

It is impossible to know what happened there since the stay was so short. With the Bengals, he was a backup to three recent first-round picks and another high pick and when the Bengals needed some offensive line help he was cut to make room.
Pureifory #68 at left defensive tackle with the Bengals
With the Lions, Pureifory played end which he had not played since 1973 or so but he adapted well. In fact, he became a starter right away, taking over for Ken Sanders who got injured (Sanders, himself an interesting story, had averaged 6½ sacks a season from 1973-77, including 9 in 1977). But in 1977 Sanders was off to a slow start and got hurt against the Chargers and had knee surgery leaving the left end position to Pureifory. 
6-1 Pureifory and 6-6 Bubba Baker, bookend defensive ends

Dave and Bubba
The next four years he averaged 9 sacks per 16 games and drew praise from Jackie Slater as one of the tougher ends he ever had to block due to the leverage he could generate by getting low and getting under a blocker. 

His Lions coach Monte Clark was one of his biggest fans (even as he had his issues with Bubba Baker, the right end) and thought Dave should have been a Pro Bowler in 1980 when he was voted the team defensive MVP, and also in 1981 which he thought was Dave's best season. 
Nineteen eighty-two was his final NFL season and it was a good one, nabbing seven sacks in nine games and getting a chance to play in the post-season for the first time since his rookie season. And in that game, he had a severe knee injury. This time he made a few tackles and shared a sack of Joe Theismann with William Gay. 

In 1983 he failed his Lions physical and retired from the NFL. But the football bug was still with him, it seemed because in November he signed a contract with the USFL's Michigan Panthers (and presumably passed their physical). He didn't last long there because early in February of 1984 he was traded to the  Birmingham Stallions where he played two more professional seasons racking up 10 sacks in 1984 (and 41 tackles) and 4 sacks in 1985 while playing on the same line as Reggie White.
In the years he got significant playing time, 1974-82, he averaged 8 sacks per 16 games and kept that up that pace in his two USFL seasons. He could block a punt for you, play either end or tackle. He could even place kick for your team in a pinch, both kickoffs and field goals and PATs.

He was considered one of the two strongest Packers while he was there (Gale Gillingham was the other) and had very good quickness as well. He wasn't a great player, he had maybe four seasons "above the line" that were Pro Bowl-quality or near there. But overall he's another one of those solid players, unique because he had the body type that didn't really fit what coaches were looking for but he made the most of what he had through hard work and taking his job seriously.

We wonder what might happen now, if a guy 6-1, 265-pounds with a 4.8 forty and a 450 bench came along. With the success of Aaron Donald, might they try him as a dedicated three-technique rather than more of a nose?  We're not suggesting he'd be as good as Donald who is just special and super rare, we're just thinking out loud about the similarities in size and strength and that the bias of the day for shorter players would have been to play on the center (which is likely what drew the Curley Culp/John Mendenhall comparisons in the first place) rather than a three-technique.  

As it was his 11½ sacks in 1981 is one of the best-ever for a defensive end that was 6-1. Elvis Dumervil had 12.5 in 2007,  Dwight Freeney had three seasons with more—one with 16.0 another with 13.5, and another with 13.0. The Vikings Al Noga had 11.5 in 1989. Depending on how one counts Pureifory's 1982 season (7 in 9 games, that projects to 12.5) that is another top season. 

Another issue is how one would count Keith Willis the Steelers nickel left end in 1983, who had 14.0 sacks. As a non-starter, some could question if he should be listed with the starters we've mentioned.

The last caveat is how you look at guys like Andy Robustelli and Gene Brito. Both played in the era where 6-1 was considered small, but it was not that small, Ed Sprinkle played in that era and he was 6-1, 206. Robustelli was 6-1, 230 at the end of his career but smaller earlier in his carer, in the early to mid-1950s. Brito was 6-1, 225 or so. 

Perhaps those players from that far back are not really the same thing as Freeney, Dumervil, Pureifory, and Noga who are true anomalies. 

Upon Purefory's untimely death at age 59 in 2009, Monte Clark said in a statement, "Dave was an intense, tough guy. He was extremely quick, and that made him tough to block because he got off the ball so fast". 

Intense, quick, tough. Like a Tasmanian Devil. 

Every NFL player has a story, a journey, and deserves to have it told. We hope you liked Dave Pureifory's story. 

Career stats 1976-82—