Hall Recall: Benny Friedman

01/01/2005

By Gil Brandt, NFL.com
Special to Profootballhof.com

Before being voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this past February, Benny Friedman's claim to fame was that Tim Mara, owner of the Giants, purchased a whole team in 1928, the Detroit Wolverines, in order to get Friedman on the squad.

Benny FriedmanIn 1927, before Friedman, the Giants were 4-7-2 and finished in sixth place in a 10-team league. In 1929, Friedman threw 20 touchdown passes to lead his team to a 13-1-1 record, but finished in second place to the Green Bay Packers, who were 12-0-1.

In his eight seasons in pro football, Friedman's teams were never able to finish first, but during his career he threw 66 TD passes, which was remarkable for the era he played in.

It's believed, as the league didn't keep statistics on completion percentage at the time, that he completed approximately 50 percent of his passes -- the norm at the time was about 35 percent, so it's clear he was throwing the football like few others could. Everyone who knew him said he was an amazing athlete, who in 1928 with the Detroit Wolverines led the league in both rushing touchdowns and passing touchdowns, a feat that had never been accomplished before.

Personal thoughts

In the mid-1970s, Friedman ran a quarterback camp for high school athletes (it may have been the first of its kind) in the summer at California Lutheran College. During the time his "QB School" (as he liked to call it) was taking place, the Dallas Cowboys spring training camp was being held in the same area in Thousand Oaks, Calif. We practiced on the same fields and ate at the same cafeteria, and I had the opportunity to talk with him -- at the time he was about 75 years old.

He had interesting thoughts on the rules being different and how the pay structure had changed over the years. He couldn't get over how much players were making vs. what they made back in the day.

Benny FriedmanWe discussed the NFL in its formative years. Friedman was a big star in that period -- he was supposed to be the new great star when Red Grange retired. He grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and was a standout at Michigan. His versatility was well renowned. He was a very confident person and always talked in a confident manner. Interestingly, during his career, he wore five different jersey numbers, starting with No. 1 during his first year in the league.

Even with Friedman being in his mid-70s, amazingly, he was able to perform very well for his age, throwing the ball and teaching passing fundamentals. It was a great image, with him passing the ball all over the place with great confidence and spending time with those young quarterbacks.

With Friedman's induction into the Hall of Fame coming in August, here are some facts and tidbits about him, his fellow enshrinees and current members.

 Thirty-nine media people are on the Pro Football Hall of Fame Board of Selectors, one from each league city and two from New York City, plus six at-large voters and one from the Pro Football Writers of America.
 A player must be retired for five full years before he is eligible for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. A player who ends his career in 2005 is eligible in 2011.
 Gale Sayers was the youngest player to be enshrined at 34 years of age. Jim Brown at 35, Dick Butkus, Earl Campbell and Barry Sanders at 36 round out the five youngest.
 Steve Young is the first player from Brigham Young to be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
 Sammy Baugh is the only living member of the charter class (1963) of the Hall. He is 91 years old. In 1943, he was the passing, punting and interceptions leader in the NFL.
 There are 229 members in the Hall of Fame: 197 players, 21 coaches and 17 contributors. Six are counted in more than one category.
 There are 125 colleges and seven junior colleges represented in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Notre Dame and Southern Cal have the most with 10 players, and Michigan is in third with seven players.
 Ten high schools have two players in the Hall of Fame. None of the 10 are located in the same state.
 Nine players selected in the 1964 draft are the most from any one draft year. Four were selected in the first round.
 The class from 2004 is the only class ever to have all its members enshrined that were all first-round draft picks: Bob Brown (1964), Carl Eller (1964), John Elway (1983) and Barry Sanders (1989).
 From 1936-- the first year of the draft -- through 1984, a player selected in every year except 1943 and 1959 has been enshrined into the Hall of Fame.
Players from 36 states and the District of Columbia have been selected to the Hall of Fame. Also, players from seven foreign countries have been enshrined.
 The state of Pennsylvania has the highest attendance with 26 players, followed by Texas with 24, Ohio with 21, Illinois with 16 and California with 13.
 The city of Chicago has 11 players, followed by seven from New York, Pittsburgh with six and Cleveland with five.
 Fifteen Hall of Famers have been selected MVP in the Super Bowl.
 Nine players wore jersey No. 16, the most of any number by players in the Hall of Fame.
 Benny Friedman, Class of 2005, wore No. 17 along with four other numbers during his pro football career. He also wore 1, 6, 21 and 26. Carl Hubbard and John "Blood" McNally tie for the most as each wore seven different jersey numbers during their careers.
 Dan Marino is the tallest of 21 modern-era quarterbacks in the Hall of Fame. He is 6-foot-4.
The Chicago Bears have the most people in the Hall of Fame with 26, followed by Green Bay with 20.
 Eleven undrafted free agents are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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