Ollie Matson

American football player and sprinter (1930–2011)

American football player
Ollie Matson
refer to caption
Matson in 1959
No. 33, 30
Position:Halfback
Return specialist
Personal information
Born:(1930-05-01)May 1, 1930
Trinity, Texas, U.S.
Died:February 19, 2011(2011-02-19) (aged 80)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Height:6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight:220 lb (100 kg)
Career information
High school:George Washington
(San Francisco, California)
College:San Francisco (1949–1951)
NFL draft:1952 / Round: 1 / Pick: 3
Career history
  • Chicago Cardinals (1952–1958)
  • Los Angeles Rams (1959–1962)
  • Detroit Lions (1963)
  • Philadelphia Eagles (1964–1966)
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Rushing yards:5,173
Rushing average:4.4
Rushing touchdowns:40
Receptions:222
Receiving yards:3,285
Receiving touchdowns:23
Return yards:4,341
Return touchdowns:9
Player stats at PFR
Pro Football Hall of Fame
College Football Hall of Fame
Olympic medal record
Men's athletics
Representing the  United States
Silver medal – second place 1952 Helsinki 4 × 400 metres relay
Bronze medal – third place 1952 Helsinki 400 metres

Ollie Genoa Matson II (May 1, 1930 – February 19, 2011) was an American Olympic medal winning sprinter and professional football player. He played as a halfback and return specialist in the National Football League (NFL) from 1952 to 1966 for the Chicago Cardinals and the Los Angeles Rams. He played college football for the San Francisco Dons and was selected by the Cardinals in the first round (third overall) of the 1952 NFL draft.

Matson was named an NFL first team All-Pro seven times and selected to the Pro Bowl six times during the course of his professional career. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972, and later included in the NFL’s 1950s all-decade team during the league’s 100th anniversary celebration.

College career

Ollie Matson graduated from George Washington High School in San Francisco in 1948. He was a two-sport athlete excelling in track and field as well as football. He won the City Championship in both the 100 and 220 yd dashes. In his senior year, he entered an open meet held at Kezar Stadium and ran the 440 yd dash competitively for the first time, chasing Herb McKinley, the holder of the world record to a new record of 46.1 secs. Ollie finished second in 47 sec. Races were held on cinder tracks in those times.

Matson attended the City College of San Francisco prior to transferring to the University of San Francisco. While in school, Matson became a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. In 1951, Matson's senior year at USF, he led the nation in rushing yardage and touchdowns en route to leading the Dons to an undefeated season. He was selected as an All-American and finished ninth in Heisman Trophy balloting that year.[1]

Despite its 9–0 record, the 1951 San Francisco team was not invited to a bowl game. It was later reported that the Orange, Sugar and Gator Bowls—all hosted in the Deep South—did not consider inviting any teams that had black players, and USF refused to play without its two African-American members.[1][2]

Matson was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1976.

Olympic Games

Prior to joining the National Football League in 1952, Matson competed in track and field as part of the United States Olympic Team in the 1952 Summer Olympics at Helsinki, Finland. Matson won a bronze medal in the 400-meter run and a silver medal as part of the United States 4x400-meter relay team.

NFL career

Ollie Matson was drafted in the first round of the 1952 NFL draft by the Chicago Cardinals, third pick overall. He went on to share 1952 Rookie of the Year honors with Hugh McElhenny of the San Francisco 49ers.

Matson missed the entire 1953 season while serving in the United States Army.[3] During his year of service at Fort Ord CA, he was named the MVP of the All-Army football team.[4]

During the 1957 season, Matson was used extensively as a wide receiver by Chicago Cardinals head coach Ray Richards.[5] Matson's productivity at the position was questioned in the wake of the team's three win, nine loss finish, with some observers arguing that Matson's effectiveness as a running back was diminished by such use. New Cardinals head coach for 1958 Frank "Pop" Ivy took strong exception to such criticism of Matson lining up as a wide out, declaring:

"I have heard people say that the Cards stuck Matson out there on the flank as a 'decoy' on pass plays, and then forgot about him. That is absurd. He was sent out as flanker with the idea of throwing to him. But most opponents feared him so much that they doubled up on him. They watched him just as closely when he lines up as running back. They'd double team him if he were sitting up in the grandstand eating hot dogs, just to make sure."[5]

Matson finished the aforementioned 1957 campaign as the NFL's sixth most prolific running back, with 577 yards gained in 134 carries, for a 4.3 yard average, with six touchdowns.[6] To this he added 20 catches for 451 yards and 3 touchdowns through the air.[6]

Following the 1958 season, Matson was traded by the Cardinals to the league's then marquee franchise, the Los Angeles Rams, for nine players.[7] Matson would later play for the Detroit Lions and the Philadelphia Eagles, earning Pro Bowl honors six times in his career (1952 and 1954–1958).

When Matson retired in 1966, his 12,799 career all-purpose yards were second only to Jim Brown.[8]

Matson was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972.

NFL career statistics

Rushing/receiving stats

Year Team Games Rushing Receiving Fumbles
GP GS Att Yds Avg Y/G Lng TD Rec Yds Avg Lng TD Fum FR
1952 CRD 12 7 96 344 3.6 28.7 25 3 11 187 17.0 47 3 8 4
1953 CRD Missed season due to Army service
1954 CRD 12 8 101 506 5.0 42.2 79 4 34 611 18.0 70 3 7 3
1955 CRD 12 12 109 475 4.4 39.6 54 1 17 237 13.9 70 2 7 3
1956 CRD 12 12 192 924 4.8 77.0 79 5 15 199 13.3 45 2 6 0
1957 CRD 12 11 134 577 4.3 48.1 56 6 20 451 22.6 75 3 6 1
1958 CRD 12 12 129 505 3.9 42.1 55 5 33 465 14.1 59 3 10 3
1959 RAM 12 9 161 863 5.4 71.9 50 6 18 130 7.2 49 0 9 0
1960 RAM 12 7 61 170 2.8 14.2 27 1 15 98 6.5 24 0 3 0
1961 RAM 14 13 24 181 7.5 12.9 69 2 29 537 18.5 96 3
1962 RAM 13 4 3 0 0.0 0.0 0 0 3 49 16.3 20 1
1963 DET 8 0 13 20 1.5 2.5 9 0 2 20 10.0 17 0
1964 PHI 12 9 96 404 4.2 33.7 63 4 17 242 14.2 32 1 7 1
1965 PHI 14 1 22 103 4.7 7.4 22 2 2 29 14.5 20 1
1966 PHI 14 2 29 101 3.5 7.2 28 1 6 30 5.0 11 1 3 0
Career 171 107 1,170 5,173 4.4 30.3 79 40 222 3,285 14.8 96 23 66 15

Returning stats

Year Team GP PRet Yards Y/R Lng TD KRet Yards Y/R Lng TD
1952 CRD 12 9 86 9.6 23 0 20 624 31.2 100 2
1953 CRD Missed season due to Army service
1954 CRD 12 11 100 9.1 59 1 17 449 26.4 91 1
1955 CRD 12 13 245 18.8 78 2 15 368 24.5 37 0
1956 CRD 12 5 39 7.8 16 0 13 362 27.8 105 1
1957 CRD 12 10 54 5.4 28 0 7 154 22.0 32 0
1958 CRD 12 14 497 35.5 101 2
1959 RAM 12 14 61 4.4 20 0 16 367 22.9 48 0
1960 RAM 12 1 0 0.0 0.0 0 9 216 24.0 42 0
1961 RAM Did not record any stats
1962 RAM Did not record any stats
1963 DET 8 3 61 20.3 30 0
1964 PHI 12 2 10 5.0 9 0 3 104 34.7 43 0
1965 PHI Did not record any stats
1966 PHI 14 26 544 20.9 31 0
Career 171 65 595 9.2 78 3 143 3,746 26.2 105 6

Personal life

Matson married his wife Mary, whom he met when both were San Francisco teenagers in the mid-1940s, in 1952. He and Mary lived in the same Los Angeles home from the time he played for the Los Angeles Rams until his death.

In his later years Matson had dementia (he had been mostly bedridden for several years), which was linked to Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a progressive degenerative disease, diagnosed post-mortem in individuals with a history of multiple concussions and other forms of head injury.[9] According to his son, Ollie Matson, Jr., due to his degenerative brain disease Matson would wash the family's four cars almost daily and barbecue chicken at 6:30 am during his later years.[10]

According to his nephew, Matson had not spoken in the four years prior to his passing.[11]

Death

On February 19, 2011, Ollie Matson died of dementia complications (respiratory failure) surrounded by family at his home in Los Angeles, California.[12] He is one of at least 345 NFL players to be diagnosed after death with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is caused by repeated hits to the head.[13][14]

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ a b Ollie Matson Story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9Z2M1TbuNw#!
  2. ^ Litsky, Frank (February 21, 2011). "Ollie Matson, an All-Purpose Football Star, is Dead at 80". The New York Times.
  3. ^ Litsky, Frank (February 20, 2011). "Ollie Matson, an All-Purpose Football Star, Is Dead at 80". New York Times. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
  4. ^ "Ollie Matson Wins All-Army MVP Award", Jet Magazine, 5 (7), Johnson Publishing Company: 51, December 23, 1953, retrieved July 13, 2017
  5. ^ a b Cooper Rollow, "Cardinals: 1958 Season May Determine Cards' Future in the Windy City", in 1958 Pro Football. Los Angeles, California: Petersen Publishing Co., 1958; pg. 80.
  6. ^ a b "Official 1957 NFL Season Statistics", 1958 Pro Football. Los Angeles, California: Petersen Publishing Co., 1958; pp. 86-90.
  7. ^ Eisenberg, 2009, pg. 10
  8. ^ "Ollie Matson Stats". Pro-Football-Reference.com.
  9. ^ Ollie Matson Obituary http://www.legacy.com/ns/obituary.aspx?n=ollie-matson&pid=148772388
  10. ^ "Faces of Concussions: Football families share lives with CTE". Associated Press. April 21, 2021.
  11. ^ "Ollie Matson Obituary | Ollie Matson Funeral | Legacy.com". Legacy.com.
  12. ^ Melissa Healy, "Aggression, Explosivity Linked to Multiple Concussions in New Study," Los Angeles Times, December 4, 2012.
  13. ^ "The driving force behind Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)". Concussion Legacy Foundation. Archived from the original on July 2, 2023. Retrieved July 2, 2023.
  14. ^ Ken Belson and Benjamin Mueller (June 20, 2023). "Collective Force of Head Hits, Not Just the Number of Them, Increases Odds of C.T.E. The largest study of chronic traumatic encephalopathy to date found that the cumulative force of head hits absorbed by players in their careers is the best predictor of future brain disease". The New York Times. Retrieved July 2, 2023.

Bibliography

  • John Eisenberg, That First Season:: How Vince Lombardi Took the Worst Team in the NFL and Set It on the Path to Glory. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co., 2009.

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