NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1940s
The National Football League's All-Decade Teams have been determined by the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee selected the All-Decade Team of the 1940s retroactively in 1969 in celebration of the NFL’s first 50 seasons.
The 1940s marked continued growth of the National Football League. The decade also brought among a number of changes in the game. Perhaps among the most influential change in the NFL was that free substitution of players was introduced into the rules.
As was started in 1932, the annual official All-NFL teams were picked by the teams’ coaches. This continued through the 1942 season at which time news services determined the teams. The All-NFL teams were selected by the Associated Press and the United Press.
World War II interrupted, delayed, or ended a number of players’ careers during the decade. At the end of the war a new league – the All-America Football Conference – surfaced and produced many great players. In fact, when it came time to retroactively pick the All-Decade Team of the 1940s, the Hall’s Selection Committee chose several stars from the rival league.
Pro Career: 1938-1940, 1942-47 Cleveland/Los Angeles Rams
Benton was one of the first ends who emerged during the T-Formation era. Like a fine wine, his receiving numbers seemed to improve every year. He led the NFL in receiving yards in 1945 and ’46. He had an NFL single-game record 303 yards receiving against the Detroit Lions in 1945.
Pro Career: 1941, 1944-1950 Philadelphia Eagles
Ferrante was one of the few players to make it in the NFL without college experience. He turned out to be among the smartest pass catchers in the game. He registered more than 400 receiving yards five times in his eight-season career. He was key contributor in the Eagles’ march to two straight NFL championships in 1948 and 1949.
College: Louisiana State
Pro Career: 1940-41, 1945-1950 Chicago Bears
Kavanaugh was the Bears third round choice in the 1940 NFL Draft. He immediately became a deep threat for the Bears’ passing game and helped the team capture the league title in his rookie year. He went on to be an impact player on two more Bears championship teams. His career numbers read: 162 receptions for 3,626 yards and 50 TDs. His touchdown mark and career reception average (22.4) remain Bears team records.
College: Ohio State
Pro Career: 1946-1956 Cleveland Browns (AAFC/NFL) HOF: 1975
Lavelli was the top All-America Football Conference receiver as a rookie and scored the winning TD in the 1946 AAFC title game. A four-time all-league selection, “Glue Fingers” caught 386 passes for 6,488 yards, 62 TDs during his career. He had a record 24 catches in six NFL title games.
Pro Career: 1947-1955 Philadelphia Eagles. HOF: 1970
Pihos was the Eagles fifth-round draft pick in 1945 even though he couldn't play until 1947. A 60-minute star on Eagles title teams in 1948-49, he hauled in the winning TD pass in the 1949 NFL championship. He was All-NFL six times in nine seasons, including once as a defensive end.
Pro Career: 1946-1952 Cleveland Browns (AAFC/NFL)
Speedie was discovered by the legendary Paul Brown while playing service ball during World War II. After his military commitment, he joined the Browns and took the game by storm. He surpassed the 1000-yard receiving mark in two of his first four seasons and logged a total of 211 receptions during that span. He led the league in receptions with 62 in his final NFL season.
College: Hardin-Simmons, Navy
Pro Career: 1944-1955 Chicago Bears
Sprinkle may have been the first player to achieve fame strictly from his pass rushing ability. Labeled “The Meanest Man in Football,” Sprinkle was extremely quick but also had the ability to overpower opposing linemen. During his career he was voted to four Pro Bowls and was selected for several all-league teams.
Pro Career: 1942-44 New York Giants
Although he played only a brief time, the footprint he left on the playing field was memorable. An immediate starter as a rookie, by his second season was an elite player as evidenced by his all-pro selection. In the prime of his career, Blozis insisted on joining the Army even though he could have been exempt because of his size (6-6, 250). Just six weeks after playing in the 1944 NFL Championship Game, Blozis was tragically killed while searching for members of his platoon in the snowy mountains of France.
College: Holy Cross, Notre Dame
Pro Career: 1948-1955 Chicago Bears. HOF: 1975
Connor was New York Giants' No. 1 draft pick in 1946 but was instantly traded to the Boston Yanks and then to the Bears. A two-way performer throughout his career, he was an All-NFL selection at three positions - offensive tackle, defensive tackle and linebacker. Known for his exceptional ability to diagnose enemy plays, Connor played in four Pro Bowl games.
FRANK (BUCKO) KILROY
Pro Career: 1943 Phil-Pitt; 1944-55 Philadelphia Eagles
Kilroy began his career as a two-way lineman before taking his place in the middle of the Eagles defense. As a hard-hitting player, Kilroy was a relentless defender who never quit until the whistle was blown. After his playing career, Kilroy went on to succeed as a scout, personnel director, general manager and club vice president.
BUFORD (BABY) RAY
Pro Career: 1938-1948 Green Bay Packers
A free agent from Vanderbilt, Ray was a dominating blocker and defensive tackle. In 1939 he blocked a punt for a safety against Detroit to give his team a late 12-7 victory. At 6’6” Ray was a giant of a lineman for his time. He weighed more than 280 pounds in college but dropped 30 pounds in his first season in Green Bay. Ray was a member of two Packers championship teams and became a long-time Packers scout after his retirement.
College: Oregon State
Pro Career: 1941-42, 1945-1953 Philadelphia Eagles; 1943 Phil-Pitt
Sears was a rugged player who played on both the offensive and defensive lines. A four-time All-NFL selection, Philadelphia head coach Earle “Greasy” Neale often cited Sears as the team’s most valuable defensive lineman. So valuable was he that the Eagles convinced Sears to come out of retirement to play one final season in 1953.
Pro Career: 1943 Phil-Pitt; 1944-1951 Philadelphia Eagles
Wistert was a two-way star for much of his career. At 214 pounds he was one of the NFL’s smallest tackles but he made up for his size with his speed and agility. For many years he served as the main blocker and personal escort for running back Steve Van Buren. Wistert was a first- or second team All-NFL selection eight times during his career.
Pro Career: 1944-45 Philadelphia Eagles; 1946-1954 San Francisco 49ers (AAFC/NFL)
Banducci, who joined San Francisco after a two-year stint with the Eagles, was the last of the original 49ers to play in the NFL. Throughout his tenure, he proved to be one of the most outstanding linemen in professional football. A team leader and captain for many years, he was selected as a first- or second-team all-league member seven times.
Pro Career: 1940-42, 1946 New York Giants
Edwards’ military service during World War II seriously curtailed his time on the gridiron. The time he did play, however, could rate among the best ever. In his four years of play, he was selected to an all-league team three times. He also played a huge role in the Giants drive to two NFL championship game appearances.
GARRARD (BUSTER) RAMSEY
College: William & Mary
Pro Career: 1946-1951 Chicago Cardinals
Ramsey was a two-time All-Service Team selection while serving in the Navy during World War II before joining the Cardinals. A reliable blocker on offense and a fearsome defender, he was a key ingredient in the Cardinals success in the 1940s which included an NFL championship in 1947 and a title game appearance in 1948.
College: Ohio State
Pro Career: 1946-1953 Cleveland Browns (AAFC/NFL). HOF: 1977
Willis, one of four players who permanently broke pro football’s color barrier, played two ways, but excelled as a defensive middle guard. His lightning quickness was his constant trademark and was the main talent that earned him a spot on the Browns roster. A seven-time all-league selection, Willis made a touchdown-saving tackle against Giants in the 1950 NFL title game.
College: Oregon State
Pro Career: 1941, 1943-44, 1946-48 New York Giants
Younce, one of the most versatile linemen in the National Football League, was the Giants sixth round draft choice in 1941. He found playing time right away on the offensive and defensive lines. In his second season, he also served as the team’s punter. In fact, he led the NFL in punts and punting yards in 1944. To top things off, he also handled the team’s placekicking duties on extra points and missed just one PAT attempt in his entire career.
Pro Career: 1939-1947 Green Bay Packers
Brock was an excellent two-way player. As a center he was an elite player and as a linebacker he had a strong nose for the ball. A team leader, he was a key contributor in the Packers winning two world championships during his tenure.
CLYDE (BULLDOG) TURNER
Pro Career: 1940-1952 Chicago Bears. HOF: 1966
Turner was the Chicago Bears number one draft pick in 1940. He didn’t disappoint as he immediately became a starter. One of the most athletic members of his team, he was a terrific blocker, superb pass defender and a flawless ball-snapper. During his career he was selected to seven All-NFL teams. As center, he anchored the offensive line on four NFL championship teams.
Pro Career: 1938-1946 Detroit Lions; 1946-1950 Philadelphia Eagles. HOF: 1968
Wojciechowicz was twice an All-America on Fordham’s famed "Seven Blocks of Granite" line. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1938 with their first pick. Known for his exceptionally wide center stance over the ball, he was a mainstay with the Lions until he was traded to Philadelphia in 1946. The two-time all-league selection helped guide the Eagles to two straight championships (1948-49).
College: Texas Christian
Pro Career: 1937-1952 Washington Redskins. HOF: 1963
Baugh, a two-time All-America at TCU, was Washington’s number one draft choice in 1937. He is noted as the league’s first big-yardage passer and spurred an offensive revolution in the NFL. An All-NFL selection seven years, he captured a rare “Triple Crown” in 1943 when he led the NFL in passing, punting and interceptions. He led the NFL in passing six times and registered a total of 21,886 yards, 187 TDs passing, a 45.1-yard punting average. He also intercepted 31 passes as a defensive halfback.
Pro Career: 1939-1950 Chicago Bears. HOF: 1965
The Bears number one draft choice in 1939, Luckman became the first great professional "T-Formation" quarterback. After he led his team to an upset 73-0 demolishing of the Washington Redskins in the 1940 NFL Championship, there was a mad rush of teams that converted to the offensive system. A superb signal-caller and ball handler Luckman was an All-NFL selection five times and the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1943. His career numbers include 14,686 yards passing and 137 TDs.
Pro Career: 1945-1952 Cleveland/Los Angeles Rams. HOF: 1965
Waterfield, the Rams' future choice in the 1944 draft, made an immediate impact as a pro. Not only was he the NFL's Most Valuable Player as a rookie in 1945, but he led his team to an NFL championship. The victory was keyed by his two TD passes. The next year the Rams moved to Los Angeles and Waterfield continued his elite play. He won All-Pro honors three times and led the league in passing twice. His career marks include 11,849 yards, 97 TDs passing; 573 points on 13 TDs, 315 PATs, 60 FGs; 42.4-yard punting average.
Pro Career: 1941-44, 1946-1952 Green Bay Packers. HOF: 1974
Tony Canadeo was a versatile halfback for the Green Bay Packers. When he arrived in Green Bay in 1941 he served mainly as an understudy to veteran quarterback Cecil lsbell. That changed in 1943 when he became the Packers' No. 1 passer. His performance that year earned him All-NFL honors. After military service, he resumed his football career as a heavy-duty running back. In 1949 he became only the third player in NFL history, and the first-ever Packers player, to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.
Pro Career: 1942, 1945-1946 Pittsburgh Steelers; 1947-49 Detroit Lions; 1950-51, 1953 Washington Redskins. HOF: 1966
Dudley was Virginia's first All-America selection in 1941. The Steelers promptly claimed him with their first draft choice in 1942. Although he was small in size, he was exceptionally versatile and awesomely efficient in his play. In 1946 he won a rare "triple crown" when he led the NFL in rushing, interceptions and punt returns. The NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1946, “Bullet Bill” gained 8,217 combined net yards, scored 478 points, and had 23 interceptions during his career.
Pro Career: 1940-41, 1945-1950 Chicago Bears. HOF: 1966
McAfee was a phenomenal two-way star who was a long-distance scoring threat on every play. He took the league by storm when he returned a punt for a TD to give the Bears a last-second victory in his first-ever game. Although his Navy service came at the peak of his career, McAfee managed to score 234 points, gain 5,313 combined net yards, and intercept 25 passes in eight seasons. His career punt return average of 12.78 yards remains an NFL record.
Pro Career: 1947-1955 Chicago Cardinals. HOF: 1968
Trippi was the Cardinals number one future draft pick in the 1945 draft. Although they had to wait almost two years for him to play, the Georgia All-America was worth the wait. Trippi, who signed a $100,000 contract with the team, instantly contributed. He was the final link in Cards' famed "Dream Backfield" and led them to a victory in the 1947 NFL Championship as he scored two TDs. Extremely versatile, he played halfback five years, quarterback two years, and defense two years.
STEVE VAN BUREN
College: Louisiana State
Pro Career: 1944-1951 Philadelphia Eagles. HOF: 1965
Van Buren was one of the greatest runners in NFL history. The number one pick in the 1944 draft, he was an All-NFL selection six straight years and provided his Eagles with one of the league’s most potent running games. Four times he won the NFL’s rushing crown and topped that off with a punt return title in 1944 and a kickoff return title in 1945. His career numbers read: 5,860 yards rushing and 464 points scored. He is the first player to rush for 1,000 yards more than once.
BYRON (WHIZZER) WHITE
Pro Career: 1938 Pittsburgh Steelers, 1940-41 Detroit Lions
White was a Heisman Trophy runner-up and consensus All-America in 1937. Extremely intelligent, White was a Phi Beta Kappa and had just received a Rhodes scholarship to study at Oxford University in England. He was convinced by Pittsburgh Pirates owner Art Rooney, however, to delay his education to play football. It paid off as White led the NFL in rushing as a rookie. After his studies, he returned with the Detroit Lions for two seasons before serving in World War II.
Pro Career: 1946-1950 Chicago Cardinals; 1951-53 Detroit Lions
Harder, who was an All-America selection at Wisconsin, was the Cardinals first round choice in the 1944 draft. Although the Cards had to wait for Harder to complete his military service, it turned out to be a wise pick. He led the NFL in scoring three straight years (1947-49) and helped guide the Cards to the 1947 NFL title. He went on to play three solid seasons with the Lions to finish his career.
College: South Carolina State, Nevada
Pro Career: 1946-1953 Cleveland Browns (AAFC/NFL); 1955 Pittsburgh Steelers. HOF: 1968
Motley was one of four players to permanently break professional football’s color barrier in 1946. He was a devastating pass blocker, perhaps the best of his era, and a peerless runner on the Browns' famed trap play. Motley, who was also an exceptional linebacker early in his career, is the all-time AAFC rushing leader and led the NFL in rushing in 1950. His career numbers read: 828 carries for 4,720 yards, 85 receptions and 234 points.
College: Holy Cross
Pro Career: 1939-1943, 1946-47 Chicago Bears
Osmanski was called by many to be one of the greatest ball carriers of all-time. He was selected by the Bears in the first round of the 1939 draft after an All-America career at Holy Cross and an MVP performance in the 1939 College All-Star game. He led the NFL in rushing his rookie season and was a member of four championship Bears teams.
One step closer
The official list of finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2010 was announced Friday afternoon. The group that includes three first-year eligible players, 11 other modern-era players, a long-time coach, and two senior candidates was named by the Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee.
NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1930s
PART TWO OF A SERIES. In leading up the announcement of the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 2000s during Pro Bowl week, Profootballhof.com examines the previous eight All-Decade Teams. The 1930s team was highlighted by perhaps the toughest player ever to compete in the NFL. Learn about Chicago Bears legend Bronko Nagurski and the other members of the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1930s.