Jimmy Patton

American football player (1933–1972)

American football player
Jimmy Patton
refer to caption
Patton on a 1961 trading card
No. 20
Personal information
Born:(1933-09-29)September 29, 1933
Greenville, Mississippi, U.S.
Died:December 22, 1972(1972-12-22) (aged 39)
Villa Rica, Georgia, U.S.
Height:5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Weight:183 lb (83 kg)
Career information
High school:Greenville (MS) E. E. Bass
College:Ole Miss
NFL draft:1955 / Round: 8 / Pick: 92
Career history
  • New York Giants (1955–1966)
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Interception yards:712
Int. touchdowns:2
Return touchdowns:2
Player stats at PFR

James Russell Patton (born September 29, 1933 – December 22, 1972) was an American professional football player who was a defensive back in the National Football League (NFL) for the New York Giants. He was a five-time Pro Bowl selection and five-time first-team All-Pro.[1]

Early life

Patton played college football at the University of Mississippi. He would play both running back and safety for the Rebels from 1952 to 1954. He was co-captain of the team in his senior season, which won the Southeastern Conference for the first time since 1947. In 1992, he was named as a member of the Ole Miss Team of the Century.[2] He was drafted in the eighth round of the 1955 NFL Draft.[3]

Pro career

Patton played sparingly in his rookie year, but he made his mark known. On October 30, he served as a returner on three kicks and returned two for touchdowns while recording his first interception in a 35–7 victory over Washington.[4] It was the only interception he recorded that year. Patton had an interception for his second season, but he found himself at a disadvantage next to heavier players that weighed more than his 180-pound frame. Deciding to increase speed, he would play with no hip pads but also played strategy. When once asked how he would deal with a player such as Jim Brown when breaking up the middle, he stated the following: “I don't watch his head. He can fake me with his head. I watch his belt buckle and I keep my eye on it, just the way a batter watches a baseball. He can't wiggle that belt buckle.”[5] He also stated that he would essentially try to pinpoint the location of a pass coming for a receiver within the vicinity of their wishbone.

In 1956, Patton made his first postseason start that year when the Giants went 9-3-1. Facing the Chicago Bears for the 1956 NFL Championship Game, Patton recorded an interception alongside teammate Bill Svoboda as the Giants cruised to a 47–7 victory.[6] It was the only championship that Patton would win in his career, as while the Giants reached the playoffs five further times from 1958 to 1963, they would lose in the NFL Championship Game each time; Patton's one interception in the 1956 game was his only postseason interception of his career.   Patton led the NFL in interceptions in 1958. In that season, he played in all twelve games of the season and had an interception in seven of them, with four of them seeing him pick a pass off twice.[7] He was the first Giant to lead the league in interceptions since Otto Schnellbacher in 1951. While Patton only recorded five interceptions the following year, he was named an All-Pro and Pro Bowler again. This was also the case for the next three seasons, where he recorded six, eight, and seven interceptions. 1963 was his first non-All Pro season in five years, but he recorded six interceptions, which happened in five games. He had his final multi-interception game on December 8 against Washington.[8]

Patton recorded his final interception on December 18, 1966, against the Dallas Cowboys.


On December 22, 1972, Patton was killed in an automobile accident near Villa Rica, Georgia. He was driving alone in his car when he was struck by an oncoming vehicle while attempting to pass another car.[5] He was driving to Virginia to see his sister who was dying of cancer as reported by his sons.

Legacy & Hall of Fame Credentials

Allie Sherman, who coached Patton in his later years, called him a competitor who “had the three qualities found in the best players —consistency, top performance and great heart.”[5] In 1972, he was named to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.[9]

Patton is second in Giants history for most interceptions next to Emlen Tunnell, who he played with for four seasons; Tunnell was among numerous defensive teammates that Patton played with that ended up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which included Sam Huff and Andy Robustelli. When Patton retired, he was one of only seven players with fifty career interceptions. Among the three players with the same amount of 52 interceptions as him in Jack Butler and Bobby Dillon, Patton is the only one that is not a member of the Hall of Fame, and he also is the only one of nine defensive backs with five First-team All-Pro selections not in the Hall.[10][11] The Professional Football Researchers Association named Patton to the "PRFA Hall of Very Good" class of 2010.[12][13] Patton was inducted into the New York Giants Ring of Honor in 2022.[14]

See also


  1. ^ "Jimmy Patton Stats". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
  2. ^ "Team of the Century - Ole Miss". Ole Miss Rebels Athletics. May 23, 2019. Retrieved January 4, 2024.
  3. ^ Riffenburgh, Beau (1986). The Official NFL Encyclopedia, 4th Edition. New American Library Books. pp. 394–5. ISBN 0-453-00524-1.
  4. ^ "Jimmy Patton 1955 Game Log". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved December 30, 2023.
  5. ^ a b c "Jimmy Patton, 39; Ex-Star of Giants". The New York Times. December 27, 1972. p. 42. Retrieved March 8, 2017.
  6. ^ "Championship - Chicago Bears at New York Giants - December 30th, 1956". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved January 4, 2024.
  7. ^ "Jimmy Patton 1958 Game Log". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved January 4, 2024.
  8. ^ "Jimmy Patton Career Game Log". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved January 4, 2024.
  9. ^ https://msfame.com/inductees/jimmy-patton/
  10. ^ "Pro Football DB Hall of Fame Monitor". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved February 12, 2022.
  11. ^ "NFL Career Interceptions Leaders Through 1967". Pro-Football-Reference.com.
  12. ^ "Hall of Very Good Class of 2010". Profootballresearchers.org. Retrieved November 29, 2021.
  13. ^ Judge, Clark (May 7, 2019). "State Your Case: Why have we forgotten former Giants' star Jimmy Patton?". Talk Of Fame. Retrieved January 4, 2024.
  14. ^ Pflum, Chris (August 16, 2022). "Giants to induct seven champions into their Ring of Honor". Big Blue View. Retrieved January 4, 2024.
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New York Giants 1955 NFL draft selections
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New York Giants 1956 NFL champions
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