Vintage Football Autographs

from leather helmets to the "golden years"--1920s thru 1960

Kay Eakin  (1917-1993)

Halfback—(Arkansas) New York Giants 1940-41, Miami Seahawks 1946; Western Army All-Stars 1942  [#1 Passing NCAA 1939]

He was the most brilliant punter.
    Steve Owen

This Jack Sords cartoon appeared in newspapers in November 1939.  He is buried in Fort Smith National Cemetery, Fort Smith, Arkansas.

“Ox” Emerson (1907-1998)

Guard—(Texas) Portsmouth Spartans 1931-33, Detroit Lions 1934-37, Brooklyn Dodgers 1938 [All Pro 1932-36]

He was a really fine lineman.
    Ace Parker

 

This drawing was published in the PFRA's Coffin Corner and made a nice visual image for Ox to sign.  Emerson received many honors throughout his career. Among them were selection for the NFL All-30's All-Pro Team (Associated Press) and the Detroit Lions All-Time All-Pro Team (Detroit Times). Red Grange selected him for the Saturday Evening Post's All-Time All-Pro Team. He was inducted into the University of Texas Hall of Honor in 1966 and the Greater Austin Sports Foundation's Hall of Honor in 1993.

In the last year of his life, Ox sent this letter (drafted by someone else for him, but signed by him) accompanying the signed drawing (above).  I often asked players to tell me who the toughest, most bruising players were that they played against.  Many of those who played in the 1920s and 1930s named Bronko Nagurski.  Ox concurred, naming "without qualification" Nagurski.  He wrote, "I can honestly say some of my fondest memories are those days in early professional football."  Of playing on the 1935 championship Lions team, he wrote, "I was fortunate to have played on a championship team in 1935."

He is buried in Cook-Walden Capitol Parks Cemetery, Pflugerville, Texas

Lon Evans  (1912-1992)

Guard—(Texas Christian) Green Bay Packers 1933-37  [All Pro 1936-37]

The Fort Worth native graduated from Texas Christian University, where he was an all-conference lineman for the Horned Frogs football team in the early 1930s. Evans' prowess attracted the attention of professional football scouts, and he played five seasons with the Green Bay Packers. Evans spent the off-seasons acting in bit parts in Hollywood movies, appearing in Mutiny on the Bounty and a smattering of other films. After retiring from football in 1938, Evans officiated games for the National Football League and worked in sales and manufacturing. In the late 1950s, he turned to politics, suffering his first and only defeat in a run for the Texas House of Representatives in 1958. His law enforcement career began shortly afterward, when he went to work as an investigator for the Tarrant County district attorney's office. In 1960, he was elected sheriff. He held this office until his retirement in 1984.

Weeb Ewbank  (1907-1998)

Coach—(Miami, Ohio) Baltimore Colts 1954-62, New York Jets 1963-73   [Coach of the Year 1958, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1978]

He had a reputation around the league as both a tremendous coaching talent and a rat bastard . . . .Weeb was a screwball who held insane grudges, concentrated too much on what I considered the unimportant aspects of the game, thought he was smarter than God, and deep down inside was one mean sonofabitch . . . .Weeb was also a perfectionist.  He started out in life as a schoolteacher, and that's what he remains to this day.  You had to play by the rules as long as they were his rules . . . .I suppose that's what made him such a great coach.  He did everything he wanted to do his way, but he tried to make it seem that we were actually doing it our way.  He wanted total control, from game plans to the menu for team meals.
    Art Donovan

He is buried in Oxford Cemetery, Oxford, Ohio.

Beattie "Big Chief" Feathers  (1908-1979)

Halfback—(Tennessee) Chicago Bears 1934-37, Brooklyn Dodgers 1938-39, Green Bay Packers 1940; Paterson Panthers (American Association) 1939  [All-American 1933, College Football Hall of Fame 1955, #1 Rushing 1934, All Pro 1934]

The Bears had this little scatback in those days by the name of Beattie Feathers.  Well, Bronko [Nagurski] could open up the whole defensive line for him.  He would burst it open, and Feathers would be right on his butt, following him through, and then he’d break one way or the other.  It gave Feathers an advantage no other running back had, and he set a rushing record in 1934, over 1,000 yards, the first ever to do that.  After that year we worked at special defenses to go up against that, and we were able to stop Feathers pretty well in later years.
    Mel Hein

John “Ace” Federovitch (1917-2003)

Tackle—(Davis & Elkins) Chicago Bears 1941,1946

Wes Fesler  (1908-1989)

End—(Ohio State) Coach—Wesleyan 1941-42, Pittsburgh 1946, Ohio State 1947-50, Minnesota 1951-53   [All-American 1928-30, College Football Hall of Fame 1954; Basketball—All American guard 1931]

Fesler was the greatest athlete I've ever seen.  I've never seen a human animal so well coordinated.

    Dick Larkins
 

Aldo Forte  (1918-2007)

Guard—(Montana) Santa Ana Army Air Base Flyers (PCFL) 1942, Fleet City 1945; Chicago Bears 1939-42, Los Angeles Wildcats (AFL) 1944, Detroit Lions 1946, Green Bay Packers 1947

Dan Fortmann  (1916-1995)

Guard—(Colgate) Chicago Bears 1936-43  [College Football Hall of Fame 1978, All NFL 1938-43, Pro Football Hall of Fame 1965]

In 1936, the first year they had the draft, all the names were put on a blackboard.  If a man's name wasn't on that blackboard, you couldn't pick him.  So there was always a big scramble for free agents.  We came into the session with about 14 names, and when we got down to our last selection there were two names left on the board.  One of them was Danny Fortmann, a guard from Colgate.  I said to myself, "Fortmann, that sounds like a nice name, and Colgate is certainly a fine school.  I'll take him."  He became a Hall of Famer.
    George Halas

I received this and other signed documents from Fortmann in the late 1980s or early 1990s. He was afflicted with Alzheimer's Disease and at some time his wife began signing for him.  Is this her signature or his?  I don't know.

Harrison "Sam" Francis  (1913-2002)

Back—(Nebraska) Chicago Bears 1937-38, Pittsburgh Steelers 1939, Brooklyn Dodgers 1939-40 [1936 Olympics, shotput, bronze medal; All-American 1936, College Football Hall of Fame 1977]

Francis is a left-handed passer and a left-footed kicker, but he does everything right, if you get what I mean.  He can throw the ball a mile, and at a mile a minute clip, yet it lands "soft."  And if he isn't the best kicker in college football, where is his superior?
    Henry McLemore

This Art Krenz cartoon appeared in newspapers in November 1936. In my letter accompanying this graphic sports cartoon, I also enclosed a news article reporting his1936 All-American selection.  He saw that it had been signed by Kent Ryan. Francis and Ryan were close friends during World War II while serving in the Pacific.  Francis asked if I could send him Ryan's address so they could get in touch. Helping old teammates and friends get reacquainted has been one of the rewarding facets of my autograph collecting. All-Americans who signed this news article include Francis, Ryan, Ace Parker, Larry Kelley, and Steve Reid.

He is buried in Springfield National Cemetery, Springfield, Missouri.

Watch a Video Clip of:

  • Ed Danowski
  • Bob Devaney
  • Hugh Gallarneau
  • Otto Graham
  • Red Grange
  • Lou Groza
  • Tom Harmon
  • Ken Kavanaugh
  • Sid Luckman
  • Pug Lund
  • Harry Newman
  • Bill Osmanski
  • Kyle Rote

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