NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1950s - DEFENSE
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 1950s retroactively in 1969 in celebration of the NFL’s first 50 seasons.
Pro football’s popularity skyrocketed during the 1950s. Much of the nationwide interest was the result of exposure through television. In 1951, the NFL’s championship game was televised coast-to-coast for the first time. By the middle of the decade television began broadcasting a number of regular season games. Arguably one game late in the decade truly placed the NFL into the country’s collective consciousness. That was the 1958 Championship Game won by the Baltimore Colts in overtime. The game is known as “The Greatest Game Ever Played.”
A number of superstars were on the field for that historic contest between the Colts and New York Giants. They were, however, just some of the many great players that helped the NFL grow to the next level and brought about vast expansion in the 1960s.
So, the task the Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee had before them to pick the best players of the 1950s was a difficult one indeed.
The 1950s also brought larger rosters and more specialized play. As a result, for the first time the All-Decade Team included offensive and defensive units.
OFFENSE | DEFENSE
College: Morgan State: Michigan
Pro Career: 1948-49 Los Angeles Dons (AAFC); 1950-57 Cleveland Browns; 1958 Green Bay Packers. HOF: 1976
Ford was converted to a full-time defensive end upon joining the Browns in 1950. He was a noted pass rusher who earned All-NFL honors five straight seasons and played in four Pro Bowls. He had a total of 20 fumble recoveries in his career. His pair of interceptions in the 1954 NFL Championship Game helped the Browns defeat the Lions, 56-10.
College: San Francisco
Pro Career: 1952 Dallas Texans; 1953-1964, 1966 Baltimore Colts. HOF: 1972
Marchetti, a nine-time All-NFL pick, was one of the most devastating pass rushers in league history. He often was double-teamed and even times triple-teamed which opened opportunities for his defensive linemates. One of the Colts’ leaders and served as team captain for many seasons.
College: Boston College
Pro Career: 1950 Baltimore Colts; 1951 New York Yanks; 1952 Dallas Texans; 1953-1961 Baltimore Colts. HOF: 1968
Service in World War II delayed his football career. He began his NFL career at age 26. A punishing tackle, Donovan anchored a Colts defense that led the league in fewest rushing yards allowed in 1957 and again during its championship season in 1959. Named All-NFL five straight seasons in the ‘50s, Donovan was the first long-time Colts player to be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Pro Career: 1950-1963 San Francisco 49ers. HOF: 1969
Leo “The Lion” was the 49ers first-ever draft choice after the team joined the NFL in 1950. Over the next 14 seasons he became an anchor of the team’s defense and earned 10 Pro Bowls
College: Boston College
Pro Career: 1950-1963 Pittsburgh Steelers. HOF: 1969
Rugged and durable, Stautner was a fixture on the Pittsburgh defense for 14 years. He earned All-NFL acclaim four times in the 1950s. He became somewhat of a folk hero among the long-suffering football fans in the city. Stautner, a nine-time Pro Bowl selection, helped the Steelers’ defense earn the reputation as one of toughest units in the NFL during the decade.
College: VMI; Mississippi State
Pro Career: 1955-1966 Chicago Bears
Fortunato was a steady performer on the Bears defense during his 12-season NFL career in the Windy City. He only missed one game in his entire 155-game pro career. Although his best years came in the 1960s, Fortunato’s solid play started to gain him recognition during the ‘50s. He was named second-team All-NFL in 1958 and was voted to the Pro Bowl for the first time.
College: Wake Forest
Pro Career: 1952-1965 Chicago Bears; 1966 Los Angeles Rams. HOF: 1974
One of the all-time finest middle linebackers, George was the “quarterback” of Chicago’s vaunted defense. Starting in 1955, he was a perennial All-NFL pick and Pro Bowl choice. In all, he was named All-NFL eight times and voted to eight straight Pro Bowls. An all-around player, George also intercepted 18 passes during his Hall of Fame career.
College: West Virginia
Pro Career: 1956-1963 New York Giants; 1964-67, 1969 Washington Redskins. HOF: 1982
Huff was as hard-hitting of a player as there was in the National Football League. A five-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-NFL choice, Huff’s duels with the league’s top runners was legendary. Aside from his skills as an awesome tackler, he managed to pick off 30 passes in his career.
Pro Career: 1953-1965 Detroit Lions. HOF: 1973
By the midpoint of the 1950s, the position of middle linebacker had evolved in the NFL. Schmidt mastered the position and subsequently was named All-NFL 10 times and starting in 1955 was voted to ten straight Pro Bowls. The Lions team captain was a true leader who helped Detroit to two NFL championships, the first during his rookie season and the second in 1957.
College: St. Bonaventure
Pro Career: 1951-59 Pittsburgh Steelers
Butler was one of the league premier defensive backs during his nine-season career in the 1950s. By the end of the decade he was a perennial all-league choice having earned first-team All-NFL honors his final three seasons. He led the NFL with 10 picks in 1957 and finished his career with a total of 52 interceptions, four of which were returned for scores.
DICK (NIGHT TRAIN) LANE
College: Scottsbluff Junior College
Pro Career: 1952-53 Los Angeles Rams; 1954-59 Chicago Cardinals; 1960-65 Detroit Lions. HOF: 1974
Undrafted, Lane joined the Rams as a free agent after he spent four years in the U.S. Army. His rookie season was as a great as they come when he intercepted a record 14 passes, a mark that has stood ever since. Lane was traded to the Cardinals in 1954 and again led the NFL in interceptions with 10. In all, he intercepted 68 passes during his Hall of Fame career.
College: Colorado State
Pro Career: 1951-58 Detroit Lions. HOF: 1970
He anchored the Lions’ famed secondary called “Chris’s Crew” from his left safety position. He was named All-NFL six straight seasons from 1952 to 1957 and was a major contributor to the Lions’ three NFL titles in the decade. He was also an exceptional punt returner and returned eight punts for scores during his career.
College: Texas A&M
Pro Career: 1952-53, 1956-1964 Detroit Lions. HOF: 1979
Lary was not only a talented safety who picked off 50 passes in his Hall of Fame career but he averaged 44 yards per punt and won three league punting titles. He also was a lethal return man for the Lions during their heyday of the ‘50s. Lary was named to nine Pro Bowls and All-NFL five times.
College: Toledo; Iowa
Pro Career: 1948-1958 New York Giants; 1959-1961 Green Bay Packers. HOF: 1967
Tunnell, a talented athlete, flourished in the Giants’ “Umbrella Defense” that was perfected in the 1950s. Regarded as the “offense on defense,” he once had more combined interception, kickoff, and punt return yards than that year’s leading rusher (1952). He retired as the NFL’s all-time leading interceptor with 79 picks and was named All-NFL six times.
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