Friday, May 12, 2011
Posted: 10 a.m.
By Ray Didinger
A reader, Dan Willig, sent along an interesting e-mail. He noted that head coach Andy Reid described No. 1 draft pick Danny Watkins as a tough guy in the mold of Jon Runyan.
It started Dan thinking: Who are the toughest guys ever to play for the Eagles. Runyan certainly would make the list but who else? Dan asked if I could come up with an All-Philly Tough team.
It took awhile, but I finally put one together. Some guys made the list for their ability to play through injury. Others made the list with the way they played. Nasty, in other words. Still, others made it because they were just plain Philly tough.
Ive covered the Eagles for more than 40 years so most of these players Ive seen up close and personal. For the others, I relied on the testimony of those who played with or against them.
Tommy McDonald (1957-63) The smallest player in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (5-9, 172 pounds), McDonald was utterly fearless. His favorite route was the slant across the middle, the route most receivers are afraid to run. He was the last NFL player not to wear a face mask. He only wore one at the very end of his career when it was made mandatory.
Terrell Owens (2004-05) His career in Philadelphia ended badly, but nothing can take away from his performance in the Super Bowl when he caught nine passes for 122 yards on a leg still not fully healed from a fibula fracture. Patriots safety Rodney Harrison said, You could tell he was still hurting, but he played through it. He was tremendous.
Keith Krepfle (1975-81) Looked like a choir boy, but he was a tough hombre. He once drove Dallas linebacker Hollywood Henderson 25 yards downfield while blocking on a run. Coach Dick Vermeil reran the play a dozen times at the next team meeting to show how the Eagles would ultimately beat the Cowboys. We have to be tougher than they are, Vermeil said. Krepfle was.
Jon Runyan (1999-2008) The first big-money free agent signed by Reid, Runyan was a bargain at 30 million. He played nine seasons with the Eagles and never missed a start. He played through numerous injuries, including a cracked bone at the bottom of his spine. He started 144 consecutive regular season games with the Eagles. He played every snap to the whistle and occasionally beyond.
Bob Brown (1964-68) Nicknamed Boomer because thats the sound you heard when he hit someone. He was a massive man (6-4, 290) for that era and he possessed a mean streak as wide as his shoulders. John Madden coached Brown in Oakland and called him the most aggressive offensive lineman that ever played. Rams defensive end Deacon Jones said Brown had a cold-blooded mentality. Hed kill a mosquito with an ax.
Frank Bucko Kilroy (1943-55) A Philly native, Kilroy was one of the best linemen of his era and one of the most notorious. He was featured in a 1955 Life Magazine story that focused on violence in pro football. The article, Savagery on Sunday, described Kilroy as the toughest of the bad men. He started a brawl with the Chicago Cardinals by kicking their star halfback Charlie Trippi right in front of their bench. I was a bad boy, Kilroy once said, but only at times.
Todd Herremans (2005-current) The only current player on the team, but it is because he is a throwback who plays like an old-school lineman. He is a lot like Runyan which is why I believe he should be the Eagles right tackle, but thats another story in the way he finishes blocks and puts people on the ground. Herremans plays hurt and plays hard all the time.
Guy Morris (1973-83) Morris was a guard and tackle in college, but he learned to play center when he joined the Eagles. In his first start against Minnesota, he fired out and put Vikings middle linebacker Jeff Siemon on his back. He went on to play 158 games for the Eagles and then played four more years in New England before retiring to a career in coaching.
Ron Jaworski (1977-86) Before Brett Favre came along, Jaws was the NFLs ironman quarterback. He started 116 consecutive games with the Eagles, a streak that began with the 1977 opener and continued until he went down with a broken leg in 1984. He took many big hits the blindside shot from Chicagos Mike Hartenstein is one of the hardest licks ever but he always got up. He never flinched and never complained; he just lined up and played.
Wilbert Montgomery (1977-84) Played his best game, the NFC championship game, with a strained knee, bruised thigh and bruised hip. He spent two hours in the training room before the game then went out in sub-zero wind chill and carried the ball 26 times for 194 yards as the Eagles defeated Dallas. At 5-10, 195 pounds, he took a fierce beating, but finished with more carries (1,465) and more rushing yards (6,538) than any player in team history.
Tom Woodeshick (1963-71) The final game of the 1968 season, the game that is best remembered as the day the fans threw snow balls at Santa, was the game that proved the toughness of the 6-0, 225-pound Woodeshick. His facemask was broken and the jagged end of the mask opened a bloody wound above his eye. As the doctor was stitching him up, Woodeshick begged to go back in the game. The doctor refused, fearing Woodeshick might lose his eye. And this was on the final day of a 2-12 season.
Reggie White (1985-92) The Minister of Defense was a great player, but he also was a very tough guy. He did not miss a game in eight seasons with the Eagles. He appeared in 121 consecutive contests. He once suffered a severe hamstring pull and the medical staff actually feared it was torn. It looked like White would be sidelined for awhile, but he shocked everyone by not missing a game. He credited the healing power of prayer.
Mel Tom (1967-73) A native of Hawaii, he used his hands so freely his nickname was Hawaiian Punch. The Eagles werent very good in those years and Tom would take out his frustration on the opposition. He once KOd Roger Staubach with a forearm to the head, drawing a hefty fine from the league and adding fuel to the Eagles-Cowboys rivalry.
Jerome Brown (1987-91) Well never know how good Brown could have been because he was killed in a car crash at age 27. But he was a big part of that Eagles defense under coach Buddy Ryan. Jerome was like a wild man on the field, said Mike Golic, who played alongside him. Every play was like a search-and-destroy mission.
Charlie Johnson (1977-81) A Vietnam veteran who joined the Eagles as a 25-year-old rookie, Johnson played a key role on the Super Bowl XV team. He was the nose guard in the 3-4 defense, which meant taking on double teams on every play. He still recorded 115 tackles, a huge number for a nose tackle, in the Super Bowl season.
Chuck Bednarik (1949-62) His nickname Concrete Charlie says it all. Bednarik is the last true 60-minute man in pro football. He played both ways, center and linebacker, in the 1960 championship season. He was 35 years old, yet he played every play (except kickoffs) in the title game against Green Bay. His crushing hit on Frank Gifford (which KOd Gifford and sidelined him for a year and a half) was selected The Greatest Tackle of All-Time by NFL Films.
Seth Joyner (1986-93) Intense and intimidating, Joyner was the scowling face of the Gang Green defense. He demonstrated his toughness every week, but particularly in the 1991 House of Pain game in Houston. Playing with a 102-degree fever, Joyner had eight tackles, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two sacks in a 13-6 win over the Oilers. If there is a better linebacker in the NFL, I havent seen him, said Dan Dierdorf, calling the game on ABC-TV.
Bill Bergey (1974-80) Opponents feared him and rightly so. At 6-2 and 250 pounds, Bergey was a destructive force. He played the game hard and clean, but he left a lot of damage in his wake. He once required a police escort to leave Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh after knocking two Steeler quarterbacks, Terry Bradshaw and Terry Hanratty, out of the same game. Bergey didnt hit people, he blew them up.
Tom Brookshier (1953, 1956-61) The most physical cornerback and best open-field tackler in team history. The rules of the day allowed defenders to rough up receivers and knock them off their routes and no one did it better than Brookshier. Even the great Jim Brown said: I could run over most (defensive) backs but not Brookshier. He came in low and hard.
Sheldon Brown (2002-09) Dealt out two of the hardest hits in Eagles history. The first was a full-speed shot on a kick return against Dallas in his rookie year. The other was his hit on the Saints Reggie Bush in the 2007 playoffs, a hit so memorable it was written up in Sports Illustrated and revisited as an NFL Films feature. Brown played eight seasons in Philadelphia and appeared in every game, 128 straight, eighth on the teams all-time list.
Brian Dawkins (1996-2008) No explanation necessary. Anyone who saw Dawkins play knows why he is on the list. A ferocious hitter, Dawkins lit the fire for the Eagles defense for 13 years. He appeared in more games (183) than any position player in team history.
Andre Waters (1984-93) Popular among Eagles fans, not so popular with opponents, who nicknamed him Dirty Waters for his aggressive play. Sadly, Waters paid a steep price for his jarring tackles. Years of head trauma and multiple concussions resulted in brain damage that researchers believe contributed to Waters committing suicide in 2006 at age 44.
Bobby Walston (1951-62) He was a full-time player in addition to being a kicker, which puts him ahead of all the kicking specialists. But more than that Walston was a true tough guy. He played tight end at 190 pounds and never missed a game in 12 seasons. He had a broken jaw in 1954 but refused to sit out. He borrowed a pair of pliers from an equipment manager and removed the wires from his jaw so he could play the next game.
Brian Mitchell (2000-02) He excelled because unlike other kick returners, he attacked the wedge. John Harbaugh, who coached Eagles special teams in those years, put it well when he said: If you try to arm-tackle Mitch, hell rip your arm off. He returned kicks like a guy running between the tackles.
Louie Giammona (1978-82) There were quite a few candidates for this spot Ike Kelley, Vince Papale and Ike Reese all came to mind but, pound for pound, no one was tougher than the 5-9, 180-pound Giammona, who returned kicks in addition to blowing up the wedge in coverage.
OK, thats my team. If you feel I overlooked someone or you think you can come up with a better lineup, feel free to submit it. Ill run the best submissions in next weeks mailbag.
E-mail Ray Didinger at firstname.lastname@example.org
Related: Didinger's Mailbag: Bloodlines, LBs, sleepers Buy Eagles gear