What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions

RIP Ollie Matson – You Were Herschel Walker Before Herschel Walker

If you are under 50, you likely never heard of Ollie Matson. In short, he was a star of the NFL in the 1950’s, and he was the subject of a legendary block-buster multi-player trade back in the day, a trade that paved the way for the Herschel Walker deal some 30+ years later. Dick Marple, a man I consider to be one of the great sports historians, offers the perfect summation of Matson’s legacy.

I don’t know how much you know about this historical figure, but you might want to investigate him.  I was a tyke when the big trade was made.  I remember thinking the Chicago Cardinals got screwed.  I only knew about star running backs, so I had no idea who went to Chicago.  Let’s just say the Cardinals did not build a Dallas-like dynasty with what they got from the Rams.  I thought, growing up, that Ollie was the best pre-Jim Brown RB in NFL history.  I didn’t know about the Olympic stuff, but I still doubt if he was the physical specimen that Herschel was.  However, I do suspect that Ollie had a bit more heart than the Herch-ster did.

If you are one of those under 50 who now needs to start the investigation suggested by Mr. Marple, start with this obituary from Legacy.com.

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Ollie Matson, a Hall of Fame running back who was once traded for nine players during his 14-year NFL career and won two medals at the 1952 Olympics, has died. He was 80. Matson died Saturday of respiratory failure surrounded by family at his home in Los Angeles, his nephew Art Thompson III told The Associated Press.

Thompson said Matson had been mostly bedridden for several years due to a form of dementia. He said Matson hadn’t spoken in four years.

As a senior at the University of San Francisco, Matson led the nation in rushing yardage and touchdowns while leading the Dons to an undefeated season. He was the No. 1 pick of the Chicago Cardinals and third overall in the 1952 NFL draft, and went on to share rookie of the year honors with Hugh McElhenny of the 49ers.

Matson played with the Cardinals from 1952-58 before being traded to the Los Angeles Rams for nine players. He made the cover of Sports Illustrated in 195 7.

He spent 1959-62 with the Rams, then played a single season for the Detroit Lions before finishing his career with Philadelphia from 1964-66.

Matson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972, and into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1976. He was a six-time Pro Bowl selection, winning MVP of the 1956 game. He also made the All-Pro team seven times.

Matson earned a silver medal in the 1,600-meter relay and a bronze in the 400 meters at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.

Born May 1, 1930, in Trinity, Texas, Ollie Genoa Matson II moved to San Francisco when he was in high school. After graduation from George Washington High, where he developed into one of the city’s greatest prep athletes, he enrolled at City College of San Francisco. He spent one year there before transferring to USF.

Thompson said before his uncle’s health declined in the past week, he could walk with assistance and his children often took him on outings.

“For those in his family, he was ‘The Man,'” said Thompson, a former sports writer for The Orange County Register. “Whether it was barbecuing, listening to his collection of Dinah Washington and Sam Cooke albums, winning games of skill, giving sage advice to the younger generation or just maintaining a calm steady hand … we all felt his positive influence.”

Matson is survived by his children Lisa, Ollie III, Bruce and Barbara; his twin sister Ocie Thompson; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. His wife, Mary, whom he married in 1954, is deceased.

Ollie, we hardly knew ye.

About J-Dub

What your view of sports would be if you had too many concussions

2 comments on “RIP Ollie Matson – You Were Herschel Walker Before Herschel Walker

  1. Chris Humpherys
    February 22, 2011

    Great piece, and MAN, ya gotta love those vintage Sports Illustrated covers.

    Matson’s name has definitely been lost in the shuffle over the years.


  2. I learned something today



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This entry was posted on February 21, 2011 by in NFL and tagged , , , .

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