Former Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Eddie LeBaron, Jr. passed away yesterday at the age of 85.
LeBaron, who stood just 5'7", was often referred to as the "Littlest General." The citation, however, was as much in praise of his leadership skills and military record as it was about his stature. LeBaron, a college football sensation at the University of Pacific, accepted a commission in the U.S. Marine Corps in August of 1950, and spent nine months in Korea, seven of which were on the front line, where he was twice wounded.
In a hard-fought battle at Korea's Heartbreak Ridge, LeBaron, left cover under heavy fire to contact the forward observation post of a mortar platoon, in sight of the enemy. After an assaulting rifle platoon in his area lost its commander, he took charge and resumed the attack. For his heroic efforts, he was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
LeBaron, who was selected in the 10th round of the 1950 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins, returned from service to play in the NFL. He was named the NFL's Rookie of the Year in 1952 and led the league in passing in 1958. During his time in Washington, he played for Hall of Fame owner George Preston Marshall, with Hall of Famers Sammy Baugh and Bill Dudley, was coached by Earl "Curly" Lambeau.
LeBaron spent seven seasons with the Redskins before heading to Dallas to become the franchise’s first starting quarterback. He retired after four seasons with the Cowboys (1960-63). In Dallas, he played with Hall of Famer Bob Lilly and was under the leadership of Tom Landry and Tex Schramm.
The “Littlest General” was a four-time Pro Bowl selection during his 11-year career and completed 898 passes for 13,399 yards and 104 touchdowns while adding 650 yards and nine touchdowns on the ground.
Later in his career he served as the general manager of the Atlanta Falcons (1977-1982) and the team's executive vice president/chief operating officer (1982-1985).
LeBaron was honored by the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002 when he was the featured speaker in the Hall of Fame’s “A Salute to Veterans” program. LeBaron talked of his military service and how the values and skills he learned while serving our country helped him succeed on the football field and his professional life afterwards.
The Hall of Fame preserves many artifacts from LeBaron’s career including his rookie contract from 1952 and a uniform worn by the quarterback while with the Cowboys.
Here is how the NFL community has responded to his passing:
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