Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 1974 celebrates 50-year anniversary

Hall of Famers Published on : 7/8/2024
Fifty years ago, on July 24, 1974, the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrined four outstanding athletes who made major contributions to the game of professional football. This year, the Hall of Fame celebrates the 50-year enshrinement anniversary of running back/quarterback/halfback TONY CANADEO, linebacker BILL GEORGE, offensive lineman/placekicker LOU GROZA and defensive back DICK “NIGHT TRAIN” LANE.

Canadeo played superbly in several positions in the offensive and defensive backfields over his 11-year NFL career. One of the first “do it all” players, he came into the professional ranks as a ninth-round draft pick from Gonzaga University in 1941. A two-time All-NFL player, he totaled 8,667 multi-purpose yards over his career. In 116 games, he rushed for 4,197 yards and 26 touchdowns, threw for 1,642 yards, caught 69 passes for 579 yards and scored 186 points. As a returner, he was most impactful on kickoffs, totaling 1,736 yards on 75 returns. He returned 46 punts for 513 yards. Canadeo’s career was interrupted by a year of service (1945) to fight in World War II. In 1949, he became the third player in league history to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season.

An all-decade player for the Bears in the 1950s, George is known as one of the first stars at the middle linebacker position. The eight-time Pro Bowler is credited as one of the first defenders to fake a blitz and dropping into coverage and intercepting a pass (in a contest versus the Eagles). The eight-time All-Pro recorded 19 fumble recoveries and picked off 18 passes, returning them for 144 yards. He started all but three of his 173 games played over his 15-year NFL career. George was named an All-Pro seven consecutive seasons, from 1955 to 1961, and recorded 28.5 career sacks (an unofficlal stats at that time). His best season came in 1961, when he sacked the quarterback 11.5 times. While George was known as a defensive force, he also contributed on special teams occasionally, scoring 25 points in 1954 on four field goals and 13 PATs.

Groza played a whopping 216 games over 21 seasons, still the longest tenure by a member of the Cleveland Browns. The final active player from the original 1946 Browns organization, Groza built his career as a two-way player, but not the usual offensive-defensive positions one might surmise. “The Toe” was a nine-time Pro Bowler on offense and special teams – six times at tackle and three as a kicker. He was an excellent placekicker for his era, scoring 1,608 points on 234 of his 405 attempted field goals and 641 of his 657 extra-point attempts. Overall, that’s an 82.4% success rate on all kicks. The four-time All-Pro also caught one pass for 23 yards and a touchdown.

Lane, a seven-time Pro Bowler, started 143 of the 157 games he played as a pro. Entering the league on an undrafted contract, he got his start with the Rams in 1952 after walking into the team offices and asking for a tryout. A retired army veteran when he made that audacious move, he secured a roster spot after transitioning to defense and played his 14 seasons as a defensive back. The “Night Train” took the league by storm his rookie year with 14 interceptions in the 12-game schedule. Lane earned a first-team (3) or second-team (7) All-Pro nod every year from 1954 to 1963. One of the most prolific ball hawks in the game’s history, he picked off 68 passes – still fourth all time – for 1,207 return yards and five touchdowns, including two seasons with 10 or more interceptions. He also recovered 11 fumbles for 57 yards and a score. On top of his stellar skills as a defender, Lane chipped in eight receptions for 253 total yards that included a 98-yard touchdown play on offense.

2024 Pro Football Hall of Fame anniversary classes