Frank Gifford New York Giants
"To me, Vince (Lombardi) was the difference between my becoming a good pro player and just another halfback. He turned my life around. Anything I accomplished in this game, I owe to him.”
By the time that Frank Gifford joined the New York Giants as their No. 1 draft choice in 1952 he had already experienced unusual gridiron success in both high school and college. At the University of Southern California, Frank played both offense and defense and had won All-America honors as a senior.
It took only a few days for Giants coach Steve Owen to realize he had a prize as Gifford could run, pass, catch, play defensive back, and return punts and kicks. In 1953, he even played two ways in an era of one-platoon specialists, averaging almost 50 minutes every game.
In 1956, he was the NFL's Most Valuable Player as he paced the Giants to a league championship. Six times he was named first- or second-team All-NFL. Then in 1960, a severe head injury suffered in a game against the Philadelphia Eagles put Frank on the sidelines.
When he decided to retire before the 1961 season, there was every reason to believe the sparkling Gifford era was over. But in 1962 he returned to the game he loved. Facing and conquering the dual problems of regaining his touch after a long layoff and of learning a new position – he was switched from halfback to flanker to take advantage of his great pass-catching skills – Gifford attained star status once again.
No better yardstick of Frank's great versatility can be gained than from his eight Pro Bowl selections. He was named to the Pro Bowl at three different positions – first as a defensive back, then as an offensive halfback; and last as a flanker in 1964.
The Giants won big during the Gifford years and, while the team was loaded with many great pro football names, no one played a more dynamic role, year in and year out, in bringing the Giants success than did Frank Gifford.