Tom Fears was a big-play receiver with the Los Angeles Rams from 1948 through 1956. He first played football at Santa Clara, took three years out for military service during World War II, and then finished up with a pair of All-America seasons at UCLA.
Although originally drafted as a defensive back, Rams coaches realized his ball-hawking skills would be best utilized on offense. It was a wise decision. Fears went on to lead the league in receptions in each of his first three NFL seasons. He improved his total each year, setting a new league record with 77 catches in 1949 and then smashing his own mark with 84 in 1950.
In a game against the Green Bay Packers that year, Tom caught a then-league record 18 passes. One week later, the Rams defeated the Chicago Bears 24-14 to win the NFL Western Division title and Fears scored all three touchdowns on sensational pass plays of 43, 68, and 27 yards.
Although the 6-2, 216-pound Fears did not possess unusual speed, he ran extremely precise patterns, specializing in the buttonhook route, and was absolutely fearless when catching in a crowd. Time and again Tom demonstrated his big-play abilities, but no play was more memorable than his game-winning reception in the 1951 NFL Championship Game against the Cleveland Browns. In the fourth quarter, with the score tied at 17 apiece, Fears grabbed a short 13-yard toss from quarterback Norm Van Brocklin and raced an additional 60 yards for the tie-breaking touchdown and victory. It was the Rams first title since moving from Cleveland following the 1945 season.
While one play doesn't make a successful career, in Fears' case, such heroics were standard achievements for nine seasons with the Rams. His career marks include 400 receptions for 5,397 yards and 38 touchdowns.
Full Name: Thomas Jesse Fears
Birthdate: December 3, 1922
Birthplace: Guadalajara, Mexico
Died: January 4, 2000
High School: Manual Arts (Los Angeles, CA)
Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame: January 12, 1970
Enshrined into Pro Football Hall of Fame: August 8, 1970
Presenter: Harold "Hal" Dean, former Rams teammate
Other Members of Class of 1970: Jack Christiansen, Hugh McElhenny, Pete Pihos
Pro Career: 9 seasons, 87 games
Drafted: 11th round (41st overall) by Philadelphia Eagles
Uniform Number: 80 (55)