Of all the records in NFL history, the one that has survived the longest was set on November 28, 1929, when the Chicago Cardinals' big, blond fullback, Ernie Nevers, slammed across six touchdowns and kicked four PATs for every one of his team's points in a 40-6 rout of the arch-rival Bears. Yet that performance was only one of many herculean achievements in Nevers's remarkable career.
At Stanford University, his coach, Pop Warner, called him "the football player without a fault" and compared him favorably with an earlier Warner protégé -- Jim Thorpe! Like Thorpe, Nevers (1903-1976) could do everything on a football field exceptionally well -- run, pass, kick, call signals, and play rock-hard defense.
Equally important, he topped it all with a blazing competitive spirit. Only two broken ankles kept him from All-American recognition in 1924, yet he came back limping late in the season to star against Notre Dame's "Four Horsemen" in the Rose Bowl. Healthy the next year, he made everyone's honor team.
In 1926, Red Grange formed his own pro football league as a rival to the NFL. When Nevers turned pro with the Eskimos of Duluth, Minnesota, he immediately became the NFL's biggest drawing card.
The Eskimos were a touring team, spotlighting big Ernie's skills in every league city as a counter to Grange's appeal. So no one would miss the point, the team was renamed "Ernie Nevers's Eskimos."
It was quite a season. The Eskimos crossed the country, playing 29 games against league and nonleague opponents. Nevers played an incredible 1,713 minutes of football.
The big crowds the Eskimos drew helped the NFL win the "war" against Grange's league. The 1927 season saw another tour. In two years, Nevers played as much football as many played in a half-dozen.
Nevers took a season off to assist coach Warner at Stanford, then joined the Chicago Cardinals for three more years. In his five NFL seasons, the only important All-Pro team he missed was one chosen by the modest star himself for a Midwest newspaper.To learn more about football greats, see: