Remembering Bob Carroll


12:55 p.m.

We announced the senior nominees for the Class of 2010 yesterday. Normally on such a day, my phone would ring shortly after the announcement. On the other end would be Bob Carroll who would share his thoughts and opinions on the selections.

That call never came yesterday. That’s because Bob died in his sleep early yesterday morning. My heartfelt sympathies go out to Bob’s family.

It was a rather strange feeling to read his obituary this morning.  Because for many, many years he sent the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s research staff hundreds of obits.

They were death notices and articles on the lives of NFL players. You see, Bob was one of the most knowledgeable pro football historians that ever lived. His devotion to researching the sport, while not known to the general public, was legendary in the circles of those of us who delve deep into the game’s past. Bob is responsible for much of the accurate information we now have on the NFL’s history especially the early years.

In 1997, one of the most comprehensive publications on the NFL’s history was published. It was called Total Football and it was edited by team led by Bob. Inside the 1,652-page book was a voluminous player register. It included details on more than 17,000 NFL players. Thanks to the work of Bob (and many others), it included for the first time full names, birthdates, places of birth, and death dates on players. Bob had spent years and years digging to uncover these facts on players. Making the task so monumental was that it was common in the early 1920s for NFL players to play under assumed names to avoid problems with college eligibility rules of the time. It was a painstaking process to find this personal data.

But for those of us who knew Bob, we were never shocked by the amount of time he devoted to researching the sport for which he had such a passion. Our research staff regularly corresponded with Bob for information.

In fact, just two weeks ago I sought Bob’s help for a project related to the oldest living NFL alumni. Ever since Total Football was published and revised a few years later as Total Football II, Bob continued to maintain the player records. He always sent us the latest obituaries so we could update our files in Canton.

But, there was lot more than just obits that Bob provided us. For nearly three decades, he unselfishly shared his labor of love with us. Our Archives & Information Center is filled with his compilations of accurate NFL history that he researched. Among his contributions were detailed feature articles on some of pro football’s most important moments, game accounts of early NFL games, and pick-by-pick lists of every NFL draft .

Bob, a retired school teacher, was also a talented artist. His drawings were featured in the Coffin Corner, the newsletter of the Pro Football Researchers Association (PFFA) among other publications. In the late 1970s, Bob was one of the founders of PFRA and oversaw the organization until his death. PFRA members have worked to continually tell the story of the NFL’s past in an accurate and thorough manner. It has been an incredibly valuable asset for the research team in Canton. 

Bob will certainly be missed by all of us at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

It was always apparent that Bob cared a great deal about the sport and had a special fondness for what we do here at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In fact, his obit ended by stating that memorial contributions can be made in his name to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, 2121 George Halas Drive, NW, Canton, Ohio, 44708.

While his funeral arrangements are private, emails have already begun to discuss a way to celebrate Bob’s life and work. Appropriately, the location being discussed for the rendezvous is Canton!

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