Thursday, March 24, 2022

1956 Pro Football Journal All-Rookie Team

 By John Turney and TJ Troup 
Johnny Unitas
Dittrich of Cardinals was the nominal starter (started all the games), yet Bob Konovsky played just as much as just as well so we tied them on the Second-team. Morrow of Rams was a guard, until last game of the year, and then started at center. Buddy Brown loses his job as the starting right guard for Packers in and in the second half of the season Forrest Gregg starts and some of his highlights against the Niners in December are eye-popping. Plays very well against Leo the Lion. Agile, drive blocking.

Johnny Unitas was what was considered a first-year player, someone who had been to a previous NFL camp but they were still considered rookies and eligible for rookie awards. This definition lasted until at least 1973 and as such we make him the All-Rookie quarterback. If some have an issue they can move Bart Starr to First-team and Earl Morrall to the Second-team.

If Lowell Perry would have stayed healthy or Clyde Conner had a first half of the season like he did the last few games of the year...either one would be a First-teamer.

The Colts halfback Lenny Moore was the United Press Rookie of the Year and deservedly so. rushing for 649 yards and 8 touchdowns and a 7.5 yards-per-rush average. The backup halfback tandem was good as well, a deep year for that position. 
J.C. Caroline was The Sporting News Rookie of the Year, he played offense but was stellar on defense picking off six passes and taking two to the house. 
Sam Huff began 1956 as a defensive tackle for the New York Football Giants with Ray Beck at middle linebacker in the 4-3 defense. Beck goes down with an injury and is replaced by Harland Svare who does not get the job done. 

Finally, Tom Landry turns to Sam Huff to be the middle 'backer and the rest, as they say, was history. Huff was a great middle linebacker for many years ending it as a Hall of Famer. Gonzaga gets the Second-team but remember:  The Niners tried everyone but the Morabito sisters at that position, including 1955 rookie Ed Beatty who recovers three Ram fumbles in an early-season game...two from linebacker, one on special teams to tie Corwin Clatt's record. 

Tom Roggeman got playing time at guard for Bears, but film study, the man was a demon on special teams—hustle, couple thunderous tackles. 

The teams—


  1. One of the most dramatic regular season-ending games occurred between the Colts and the Redskins on Dec 23rd, a full week after all the other teams finished their seasons due to a scheduling conflict. The Giants and Bears would play for the Championship on Dec 30th.

    Going into the game, Colts HC Weeb Ewbank was in danger of losing his job but John Unitas, his chosen "rookie" QB, threw a desperation TD pass to Jim Mutscheller in the final minute, with many players and fans watching on television, giving the north-east audience a glimpse of things to come. Had Baltimore lost, Weeb might have been fired and who knows if a new HC would have stayed with Johnny U ?

    Frank Gifford talks about watching Unitas for the first time in his book. He and Charlie Conerly were waiting for their preseason game against Baltimore to end to catch a flight to New York for a night out. Watching and laughing at the sight of Unitas, they proceeded to watch John run two-minute drills, nearly pulling out the game.
    Though Gifford and Conerly made their flight, they weren't in a partying mood, maybe because they knew, Unitas was a future competitor who could make noise, though at that time, he was just trying to make his team.

  2. ....early in the game against the "Skins, Johnny Hightops was injured, bruised ribs(may have happened week before). Shaw enters game, yet needing the winning touchdown Weeb goes back to John, and he delivers. If memory serves me correct? Pass was tipped, and Jim M. adjusted and grabbed the score. In '57 Unitas took Colts down the field for winning score against the 'Skins in a masterful three minute drive.....preview of things to come.

  3. I'm a Packer fan but I'm rather surprised to see Bart Starr listed here. He started only 1 game and attempted only 44 passes in 1956. Are these selections partly based on what a player accomplished later in his career?

  4. ....not many rookie quarterbacks of merit Ralph....since I value your opinion on many topics, do you believe Earl M. had a better rookie year than Bart? Who would you have for second team?