When Ollie Matson first signed to play with the Chicago Cardinals in 1952, he was hailed as the fleet-footed ball carrier that would hopefully lead the Cardinals out of pro football’s basement.
Seven years later, when traded by the Cardinals to the Los Angeles Rams for an unprecedented nine players, he was tabbed as the star that could give the Rams a long awaited championship.
This is the telegram sent by the Los Angeles Rams to the National Football League office on Feb. 28, 1959 announcing the trade of nine players to the Chicago Cardinals in exchange for Hall of Fame halfback Ollie Matson. The deal was orchestrated by the Rams’ general Manager and future NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle.
Obviously, the greatness Matson achieved on National Football League gridirons must be considered an individual accomplishment. He never enjoyed the winning team momentum to carry him along and only two of the 14 teams on which he played finished over the .500 mark.
Matson was named the MVP of the 1956 Pro Bowl.
Enemy defenses almost always concentrated on him alone. Yet his career record is exceptional.
During his 14 pro seasons Ollie earned first- or second-team All-NFL honors six times and was selected to play in six Pro Bowls.
Matson delayed his pro signing so that he could compete as a member of the American track team in the 1952 Olympics. He won a bronze medal in the 400-meter race and a silver medal from the 1,600-meter relay.
Matson finished his NFL career with three productive seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. Altogether, he gained 12,844 yards on rushing, receptions, and returns.
He rushed for 5,173 yards and caught 222 passes for another 3,285 yards. He scored 40 touchdowns running, 23 on receptions, 9 on kick returns, and one on a fumble recovery.
Ollie Matson with former President Richard Nixon.
Matson with Family at the 1972 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival.
Ollie Matson was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972. He was presented Joe Kuharich who coached him at the University of San Francisco, and in the NFL with the Cardinals and Eagles.
Ollie Matson's Hall of Fame mural.
Ollie Matson's Hall of Fame bust.