Ollie Matson

Ollie Genoa Matson II (May 1, 1930 – February 19, 2011) was an American Olympic medal winning sprinter and professional American football running back who played in the National Football League (NFL) from 1952 to 1966. Drafted into the NFL by the Chicago Cardinals, Matson was traded to the Los Angeles Rams for nine players following the 1958 season.

Matson was named to the Pro Bowl six times during the course of his career and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972.

Ollie Matson
Ollie Matson
No. 33
Personal information
Born:May 1, 1930
Trinity, Texas
Died:February 19, 2011 (aged 80)
Los Angeles
Career information
High school:San Francisco (CA) Washington
College:San Francisco
NFL Draft:1952 / Round: 1 / Pick: 3
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Rushing yards:5,173
Rushing average:4.4
Rushing touchdowns:40
Receiving yards:3,285
Receiving touchdowns:23
Player stats at NFL.com
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

College career

Ollie Matson graduated from George Washington High School in San Francisco in 1948.

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 African American 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, 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 3 win, 9 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 6 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 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.

Personal life

He 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 suffered from 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 hadn't spoken in the four years prior to his passing.[11]


On February 19, 2011, Ollie Matson died of dementia complications (respiratory failure) surrounded by family at his home in Los Angeles, California.[12]

See also


  1. ^ a b Ollie Matson Story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9Z2M1TbuNw#!
  2. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/21/sports/football/21matson.html
  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): 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. ^ https://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/M/MatsOl00.htm
  9. ^ Ollie Matson Obituary http://www.legacy.com/ns/obituary.aspx?n=ollie-matson&pid=148772388
  10. ^ Jimmy Golen, "Football Families Share Lives with CTE," Associated Press. Corvallis [OR] Gazette-Times, July 30, 1917, pp. B1, B3.
  11. ^ http://www.legacy.com/ns/ollie-matson-obituary/148772388
  12. ^ Melissa Healy, "Aggression, Explosivity Linked to Multiple Concussions in New Study," Los Angeles Times, December 4, 2012.


  • 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.

External links

'51 Dons

'51 Dons is a 2014 documentary film directed by Ron Luscinski and written by Luscinski, Tom Davis and Danny Llewelyn. Narrated by Johnny Mathis, it covers the 1951 San Francisco Dons football team and its unique stand against racism. The team, including future NFL players and Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees Bob St. Clair and Gino Marchetti, declined an invitation to play in the Orange Bowl that would have required them to leave their African-American players Ollie Matson and Burl Toler home. This act was one of the contributing factors that led to the end of organized football at the University of San Francisco. The university's athletic news director, Pete Rozelle, went on to become the commissioner of the NFL, where he reshaped American football.

1951 San Francisco Dons football team

The 1951 San Francisco Dons football team was an American football team that represented the University of San Francisco as an independent during the 1951 college football season. In their fourth season under head coach Joe Kuharich, the Dons compiled a 9–0 record, outscored opponents by a total of 338 to 86, and were ranked No. 14 in the final AP Poll.Four players from the team went on to successful careers in the National Football League: Gino Marchetti, Ollie Matson, Bob St. Clair, and Red Stephens. The Dons were invited to play in the 1952 Orange Bowl on the condition that the team's African-American stars Matson and Burl Toler would not play. The Dons refused the offer. The 1951 Dons, and their fight for racial equality, were the subject of the 2014 documentary '51 Dons.Two days after the final game of the 1951 season, the University of San Francisco disbanded its football program.

1956 Pro Bowl

The 1956 Pro Bowl was the National Football League's sixth annual all-star game which featured top performers from the 1955 season. The game was played on January 15, 1956, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California in front of 37,867 fans. The East squad defeated the West by a score of 31–30.The West team was led by the Los Angeles Rams Sid Gillman while Joe Kuharich of the Washington Redskins' coached the East squad. Chicago Cardinals back Ollie Matson was selected as the game's outstanding player.

Athletics at the 1952 Summer Olympics

At the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, 33 athletics events were contested, 24 for men and 9 for women. There were a total number of 963 participating athletes from 57 countries.

Athletics at the 1952 Summer Olympics – Men's 400 metres

The men's 400 metres sprint event at the 1952 Olympic Games took place between July 24 and July 25.

Athletics at the 1952 Summer Olympics – Men's 4 × 400 metres relay

The men's 4 × 400 metres relay event at the 1952 Olympic Games took place on July 26 & July 27. The Jamaican team won the final. Herb McKenley's third leg of 44.6, credited with pulling Jamaica into contention from 10 metres back, is considered one of the greatest relay legs in history. George Rhoden, the 400 metres champion and Mal Whitfield the 800 metres champion ran virtually shoulder to shoulder the entire last lap, but Whitfield was never able to take the lead.

Bill Dando

William R. Dando (born April 30, 1932) is a former American football player and coach. He served as the head football coach at John Carroll University in 1964 and at the University at Buffalo from 1977 to 1989, compiling a career college football record of 63–68–1. Dando began his college playing career at the University of San Francisco. He was a member of the 1951 Dons who were uninvited to a bowl game that year because they had two African American players on the team: Ollie Matson and Burl Toler. The University at Buffalo Alumni Association inducted Coach Dando into the university's Athletic Hall of Fame inn 1998. Bill Dando, UB's 19th head football coach, whose commitment to the program and the great athletes and students that he produced are credited with creating the base for the university's rise to Division I-A. When hired as head coach in 1977, Dando had to rebuild a program, at the Division III level, that the university had dissolved at the Division I level in 1970. Among the highlights of Dando's 13 seasons with the Bulls are the 1983 team, which posted a record of 8-2 and whose offense recorded numbers that still stand as UB records, and the 1986 team, which posted a record of 9-2, finishing fifth in the East and 20th in the NCAA Division III poll.

Burl Toler

Burl Abron Toler Sr. (May 9, 1928 - August 16, 2009) was an American football official in the National Football League (NFL) for 25 seasons from 1965 to 1989. He served as a field judge and head linesman throughout his career and is most notable for being the first African-American official in the NFL. He also officiated in one Super Bowl, Super Bowl XIV in 1980, and wore the uniform number 37.

On April 21, 2008 Toler Sr. was inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame. Several years after his death, on May 9th, 2017, the University of San Francisco renamed one of the campus's student dormitories in his honor.

Charlie Capozzoli

Charlie Capozzoli (19 June 1931 – 22 January 2013) was an American long-distance runner who competed in the 1952 Summer Olympics.

Don Brown (running back)

Don Albert Brown (August 20, 1937 – June 25, 2013) was an American football player. He played one season in the American Football League (AFL) in 1960. He was born in Dayton, Texas and attended Dayton High School where he played high school football from 1953 to 1955. He then attended University of Houston where he played for the football team as a running back and defensive back from 1956 to 1958, earning an All-America honorable mention during his senior year. He played for the College All-Stars in 1959 against the defending NFL champions, the Baltimore Colts. In the game, he was involved in a serious collision with Bill Pellington which left him unconscious for several minutes.

He was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams, but immediately traded for Ollie Matson of the Chicago Cardinals. This trade was significant, as he was one of nine players traded for Matson. After the Cardinals, he had a brief stint with the Green Bay Packers with under head coach Vince Lombardi before returning home to try out for the newly formed Houston Oilers, where he ended his professional career in 1961.

Elmer Angsman

Elmer Joseph Angsman Jr. (December 11, 1925 – April 11, 2002) was an American football running back in the NFL.

He was born on the south side of Chicago in 1925, the son of Elmer and Helen Angsman. Elmer attended Mount Carmel High School and also starred for Notre Dame in college from 1943 to 1945(playing on the 1943 National Championship team 1943 college football season and the College All-Star team that defeated the world champion Cleveland Rams.), played 7 seasons in the NFL, all with the Chicago Cardinals. After graduating from Notre Dame in three years with a degree in journalism, Angsman was the youngest player ever drafted to play in the NFL at the age of 20 with the 16th overall pick of the 1946 draft. Angsman was part of Charles Bidwill’s "Dream Backfield". Although Bidwill did not live to see it, the talented corps that included Charley Trippi, Paul Christman, Pat Harder, and Angsman went on to achieve great success. In the 1947 NFL championship game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Angsman scored twice on runs of 70 yards each. The final touchdown, a run up the middle like the first against Eagle coach Greasy Neale's famed 5-2-4 defense, put the game out of reach. Angsman finished the game with 10 carries for 159 yards. His 15.9 yard per carry average is still an NFL post-season record (10 carries or more). The 1947 title was the Cardinal franchise's last championship. Don Paul, a former defensive back for the Cardinals and later the Cleveland Browns, once said "He was...A straight ahead north and south runner who would just as soon leave cleat marks on your balls as run around you."

Angsman and the Cardinals never reclaimed the glory of the 1947 championship season. In 1948, Angsman led the Cardinals in rushing, with 412 yards and 7 touchdowns, and the Cards edged the Chicago Bears for the West Conference title. They met the Eagles once again in the 1948 NFL Championship Game title game now referred to as "The Blizzard Bowl". The field was covered by snow and the entire game was played in a storm. The Cardinals running attack was greatly hampered and the Eagles star Steve Van Buren was the only player who could run effectively in the conditions. Angsman mustered only 33 yards on 10 carries. Only 5 passes were completed by both teams combined. Van Buren's 5 yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter was the only scoring as the Eagles won their first championship, 7-0.

The Cardinals' visionary coach, Jimmy Conzelman, quit after the 1948 season and the Cardinals drifted into mediocrity. Angsman had his best season in 1949 with 674 yards rushing on 125 carries and 6 touchdowns. He, Pat Harder, and Charlie Trippi shared running duties and combined for 1,674 yards and 16 touchdowns that year (in comparison, Steve Van Buren set the NFL single season rushing record in 1949 with 1146 yards). However, the future of NFL success lay in dynamic passing attacks such as that possessed by the Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland Browns. Angsman's production fell off significantly in 1950 and 1951, with 363 and 380 yards, respectively, and an average under 3.5 yards per carry. By 1952, with stunning rookie halfback Ollie Matson joining the club, Angsman was relegated to a seldom-used backup role. He retired after the 1952 season at age 27. He finished with career statistics of 683 carries, 2908 yards (4.3 avg), and 27 touchdowns. He caught 41 passes for 654 yards and 5 touchdowns. Angsman was selected to the first ever Pro Bowl 1951 Pro Bowl in 1950.

After his NFL career, Angsman was a color commentator beginning in 1958 with CBS Radio CBS Radio, later ABC American Football League on ABC and finishing with NBC List of NFL on NBC announcers in 1972. Angsman called college and pro games most notably the 1968 Sugar Bowl and several Orange Bowl games. He is a member of the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame. Angsman owned various companies after commentating finding success in paper manufacturing and eventually retiring to Juno Beach, Florida. In April 2002, Elmer Angsman died of a heart attack while playing golf with lifelong friends.

He is survived by wife-Diane Angsman, son-John Angsman, grandchildren- Jim Angsman, Jeff Angsman, Jackie Angsman, Jay Angsman, Joe Angsman

Gene Cole

Gerrard Eugene Cole (February 18, 1928 – January 11, 2018) was an American athlete who competed mainly in the 400 metres.Born in New Lexington, Ohio, Gene Cole attended Lancaster High School (Ohio). He competed for the United States in the 1952 Summer Olympics held in Helsinki, Finland in the 4 x 400 metre relay where he won the silver medal with his teammates 400 metres bronze medalist Ollie Matson, Charles Moore and Mal Whitfield.

Marty Engel

Marty Engel (born January 25, 1932) is an American athlete. He competed in the men's hammer throw at the 1952 Summer Olympics.

Red Stephens

Louis "Red" Edmund Stephens (May 10, 1930 – April 6, 2003) was an American football offensive lineman in the National Football League for the Washington Redskins. He was a member of the famous 1951 San Francisco Dons who went undefeated (9-0) but were denied an invitation to the Orange Bowl because they refused to not include their two African-American star players: Ollie Matson and Burl Toler. The squad had ten future NFL players, five future NFL Pro-Bowlers, and three future NFL Hall of Famers – a record for a single college team.

Drafted in the 23rd round (267th pick) by the Chicago Cardinals in 1952, he started for the Washington Redskins from 1955 through 1960. He was given the game ball against the Green Bay Packers, Oct. 19th, 1958. Other honors included, 1955 – Associated Press: 2nd Team All-NFL at Right Guard, and 1956 – Sporting News: 1st Team All-NFL at Left Guard. In 1970, he was inducted into the University of San Francisco's Hall of Fame for football.

After professional football he was an assistant coach for the University of Notre Dame from 1960 to 1963. He was then a scout for the Philadelphia Eagles 1963–1966.

Reggie Pearman

Reggie Permian (23 May 1924 – 11 June 2012) was an American middle distance runner who competed in the 1952 Summer Olympics. Born to Bermudian immigrants in Manhattan, he was a World War II and Korean War veteran. He graduated from NYU.

San Francisco Dons football

For information on all University of San Francisco sports, see San Francisco DonsThe San Francisco Dons football program were the intercollegiate American football team for University of San Francisco located in San Francisco, California. The team competed in NCAA Division II as a Division II Independent football program. The school's first football team was fielded in 1917.

United States at the 1952 Summer Olympics

The United States competed at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland. 286 competitors - 245 men and 41 women - took part in 133 events in 18 sports. It won 76 medals (40 gold), including 6 podium sweeps; the highest number of medal sweeps in a single Olympiad by one country since World War II and still a record (though achieved a few more times since).

Victor Dyrgall

Victor Dyrgall (October 8, 1917 – October 4, 2006) was an American long-distance runner. He competed in the marathon at the 1952 Summer Olympics.

Warren Druetzler

Warren Oliver Druetzler (June 8, 1929 – September 21, 2017) was an American athlete, who competed mainly in the 1500 m. Druetzler was a finalist in the 1500 m at the 1952 Summer Olympics.

Ollie Matson—awards and honors

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