HC / HC
Class of 1978
"There’s always a place for people who can play. I’ll tolerate how you look and what you do if you can play football and help us win.”
When Weeb Ewbank started his National Football League head coaching career with the 1954 Baltimore Colts, he was 47, not the age you ordinarily look for in a rookie coach. But the popular Ewbank stayed in command for the next 20 years, the first nine in Baltimore and the final 11 with the New York Jets. In so doing, he made an impact on pro football that has done much to insure its emergence as America's most popular spectator sport.
He is the only coach to lead teams from both the National and American Football Leagues to world championships. His Colts won NFL crowns in both 1958 and 1959 and the 1968 Jets followed up their AFL championship with victory in Super Bowl III. Of even more importance than the mere fact of victory itself is the effect that these Ewbank championships had on the growth of pro football.
Millions of fans watched on national television for the first time as the Colts defeated the New York Giants, 23-17, in overtime in 1958. Many still call this game "the greatest ever played" and there is no doubt the highly competitive nature of the contest did much to increase fan enthusiasm and anticipation in the years ahead.
A decade later, Weeb’s old team, the Colts, was heavily favored to make it three straight Super Bowl victories for the supposedly superior NFL over the overmatched AFL. But spurred along by Weeb's careful prodding the Jets pulled one of the most stunning upsets in history. The competitive validity of the Super Bowl was never again in doubt.
In both Baltimore and New York, Weeb inherited young, disorganized teams. In both places, Ewbank instituted a patented building program that proved effective. In each place, his skill of judging and handling players was quickly apparent and a predominant factor in his success.
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Full Name: Wilbur Charles Ewbank
Birthdate: May 6, 1907
Birthplace: Richmond, Indiana
Died: November 17, 1998
High School: Morton (Richmond, IN)
Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame: January 14, 1978
Enshrined into Pro Football Hall of Fame: July 29, 1978
Presenter: Paul Brown, general manager, Bengals and Browns coach who gave Ewbank his first coaching job
Other Members of Class of 1978: Lance Alworth, Alphonse "Tuffy" Leemans, Ray Nitschke, Larry Wilson
Coaching Career: 20 season, 271 games
Weeb Ewbank Enshrinement Speech 1978
Presenter: Art Donovan
Thank you very much. This man came from Baltimore in 1954 and he had headed a team that maybe was the worst team in the National Football League and through the years - 9 or 10 years - we scratched, we pawed we did everything together to become one big united, knitted team. He built the defensive team, then we got a fellow, I almost forget his name, John Unitas who came along in 1956 and Weeb the coach and all the fellows who played from 1954 through 1962 that called me and said if you are going to be the one who will present Weeb Ewbank into the shrine, you tell him we owe him a debt of gratitude that nobody ever did anything for us like he did in the history of National Football League taking us from the worst to the best.
On behalf of myself, when Weeb came and took me to Baltimore I weighed 320 pounds. He said you can't play for me unless you get down to 275 and sure enough I did, I played nine years later and on behalf of all the fellows from the National Football League and the Baltimore Colts, the great ones and I'm not going to name all of them because there are too many. They just said to say to Weeb, from the bottom of our hearts we thank you a hundred ... million times. Thank you very much Weeb.
Thank you, Arthur-- Reverend clergy, past and present enshrinees other members of the dias and ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure to be here and indeed it is an additional honor for me that Arthur accepted to enshrine me. It has been stated he was my first pro player who was inducted into this wonderful shrine. He always was and still is everything to Lucy and me. I am sorry that Paul Brown could not be here. We have been friends for years. He gave me my first opportunity to coach in professional football. It is still a long, cherished and enjoyable association.
I haven’t changed my original feeling when Earl Schreiber, Chairman of the Board of this Hall of Fame, telephoned and informed me about my selection into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It was the most thrilling honor I have ever received. Having played and coached football since High School, which is practically all my life, and now to be enshrined has to be the epitome of all football. The only thing that could better this enshrinement is for me to attain what all of you and all of our goals would be and that would be reaching heaven and eternal life.
Football is a great game. It is more than a way of living. It has been a labor of love to me. Lucy mv number one assistant - who has been with me for more ... than 50 years once said after several attempts to get my at tent ion at the breakfast table on a Monday morning after a ballgame, said she ''you know I just realized, your eye balls are not round there oval''. All coaches’ wives know well what kind of fanatic it takes to be a football coach. I hope they all will be rewarded in heaven. Perhaps this would be a good time to have my family stand. My assistant Lucy, my two of my three cheerleaders, Luanne and Nancy and Jan who was unable to attend. This is the group that suffered most every game I coached.
I could speak for an hour giving names of all those people who helped make this honor possible. Several key ones are here but many, many more are unable to attend. I hesitate to mention specific names because it takes too long and I would unbearably miss the very important. However, I would like to point out that my good parents taught me the importance of always doing the best job of any important task and to my Miami University football coach, Chester Pittster who is 85 years old and wanted to be here today, who taught me the basic football fundamental that were always used even in professional football.
I would like to thank the owners who gave me the opportunity to coach their fine teams. My assistant coached and administrative staff who never let me down. The wonderful college coaches who helped me at draft time. The great and near great players who gave me all they had. The loyal fans who cheered us on the victories and championships. The sports media who reports our games and last but not least, my super family. This weekend and the one at Tampa where all the 1978 enshrinees and their lovely wives will always be foremost in my pleasant memories. Little do you people realize that it is trying to match out game plans to negative the extraordinary abilities as football players. I have been walking by Lance Alworth all day, and it’s the same thing, I haven’t caught him.
In closing, I would like to thank and congratulate the Hall of Fame organization and Canton for their memorable weekend. It is a tremendous thrill to achieve anything in life. However, it is even more thrilling to be recognized for all your achievements in your life’s work by such piers as the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. It is with deep humility my name be placed in this covenant shrine, among those super immortals already enshrined and those to be selected in the future. Thank you very much.