Gold Jacket Spotlight: The Man Everyone Calls 'Sonny'
He was born Christian Adolph Jurgensen II, but no one in the National Football League uses his given name.
He is – and always will be – Sonny.
This week the Gold Jacket Spotlight shines on one of the game’s finest pure passers, Sonny Jurgensen, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 1983.
A fixture in Washington for more than five decades as a player and broadcaster, Sonny began his 18-year NFL career in Philadelphia in 1957. He was a fourth-round draft pick (43rd player overall) out of Duke, a multi-sport athlete whose 10 career interceptions as a defensive back were as noteworthy as his modest passing statistics in college.
Sonny played on his lone NFL title-winning team as a backup to future Hall of Famer Norn Van Brocklin with the Eagles in 1960. Together they passed for nearly 3,000 yards, and when Van Brocklin retired following that season to become head coach of the expansion Minnesota Vikings, Sonny stepped into the starting role and kept the Eagles among the league’s top passing offenses over the next two seasons.
In 1961, Sonny earned All-Pro honors and the first of his five Pro Bowl nods with a record-shattering year under center. He passed for an NFL-record 3,723 yards and tied the league record with 32 touchdown passes, a mark that stood as the Eagles’ team record until 2017. The team went 10-3-1, one-half game behind the New York Giants in the NFL’s East Division in its bid to repeat as champions.
He followed that season by again leading the league with 3,261 passing yards, but the 1962 Eagles struggled to a 3-10-1 record and finished last in their division. When he missed a chunk of the 1963 season due to injury, the ride ended in Philadelphia.
Sonny was traded to Washington. He called it “an opportunity to start fresh again.”
Five games into the 1964 season, he extracted a bit of revenge on his old team: 385 yards passing and five touchdowns in a 35-20 victory.
Sonny played 11 years in Washington, leading the NFL in completions and yardage three times in that span.
For his career, Sonny totaled 2,433 completions, 32,224 passing yards, 255 touchdowns, five 3,000-yard seasons and a handful of NFL records at the time of his retirement. He was a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1960s.
When his playing days ended, Sonny moved into broadcasting, eventually clocking 38 years as an analyst and play-by-play man in Washington until his second retirement in 2019.
On this ninth week of Gold Jacket Spotlight, it is fitting to shine it on a player who wore No. 9 with Hall of Fame flair: the man known to fans everywhere as Sonny.
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