Tom Fears

Thomas Jesse Fears (December 3, 1922 – January 4, 2000) was an American football split end for the Los Angeles Rams in the National Football League (NFL), playing nine seasons from 1948 to 1956. He was later an NFL assistant coach and head coach of the New Orleans Saints, and is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He played college football for the UCLA Bruins football team and is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.

Tom Fears
refer to caption
Fears c. 1955
No. 55, 80
Position:Split end
Personal information
Born:December 3, 1922
Guadalajara, Mexico
Died:January 4, 2000 (aged 77)
Palm Desert, California
Height:6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight:216 lb (98 kg)
Career information
High school:Los Angeles (CA) Manual Arts
College:UCLA
NFL Draft:1945 / Round: 11 / Pick: 103
Career history
As player:
As coach:
As administrator:
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Receptions:400
Receiving yards:5,397
Touchdowns:38
Player stats at NFL.com
Coaching stats at PFR

Early life

Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Fears was the son of an American mining engineer, Charles William Fears, who had married a Mexican woman, Carmen Valdes. The family moved to Los Angeles when Tom was age six. There, he began to display his ample work ethic by unloading flowers for 25 cents an hour, and later serving as an usher at football games for double that amount.

Fears first played football at Los Angeles' Manual Arts High School, where he met Toby Freedman of Beverly Hills High School. They became longtime friends. Upon graduation, he enrolled at Santa Clara University. He spent one year at the school before being drafted in World War II and spent the next three years in military service. After his father became a Japanese prisoner of war, Fears sought to become a fighter pilot to fight Japan. He became a pilot, but was instead shipped to Colorado Springs to play football for a service team.

Upon his release, he had been drafted by the Rams in 1945, but remained in school and transferred to UCLA, winning All-American honors each of his two seasons at the school. His senior campaign nearly ended in abrupt fashion in 1947, when he and some Bruin teammates were investigated for posing in local advertisements for a Los Angeles clothing store. When it was determined that Fears and the other players worked for the store, and were not identified as athletes, the matter was dropped.

This job had been one of many provided by school boosters, and included a brief bit as a pilot in the Humphrey Bogart film, "Action in the North Atlantic." The largesse by such people led Fears to joke that his $6,000 first-year contract and $500 bonus from the Rams meant that he was taking a pay cut.

Playing career

Los Angeles Rams

Selected as a defensive back by the Los Angeles Rams in the eleventh round (103rd overall) of the 1945 NFL Draft, he is distinguished as being the first Mexican born player to be drafted into the National Football League. Fears quickly made his mark as a wide receiver in 1948, while also displaying his versatility by playing on defense and at split end. During his first three seasons at the professional level, he led all NFL receivers in catches, and broke the league's single-season record with 77 catches in 1949.

The record would be short-lived as he increased that mark to 84 during the 1950 NFL season, including a then-record 18 catches in one game against the Green Bay Packers on November 12. He also helped the team advance to the NFL title game with a trio of touchdown receptions in the divisional playoff against the Chicago Bears, winning All-Pro accolades for the second consecutive year.

During the ensuing offseason, Fears became embroiled in a contract dispute with the team for the second straight year. The year before, he hinted at leaving the team to work for General Motors Corporation, then announced on March 13, 1951 that he was retiring to work for a local liquor distributor. Neither threat materialized, and despite offers from four Canadian Football League teams, Fears signed for $13,000.

That season, Fears played in only seven games, but helped lead the Rams to their third straight championship game appearance. After two disappointments, the franchise captured its first NFL title since moving to the West Coast, with Fears an integral part of the title game victory when he caught the winning score. His 73-yard touchdown reception midway through the fourth quarter broke a 17-17 deadlock with the Cleveland Browns.

After bouncing back in 1952 with 48 receptions for 600 yards and six scores, the beginning of the end of his career began after he fractured two vertebrae in an October 18, 1953 game against the Detroit Lions. Limited to just 23 receptions that year, he would average 40 catches the next two years, but after a preseason injury in 1956, he hauled in only five passes and retired on November 6. For the remainder of that campaign, he served as an assistant coach, finishing his playing days with 400 catches for 5,397 yards and 38 touchdowns.

Coaching career

Packers, Rams and Falcons

Fears was out of the game for the next two years, but returned briefly as an assistant in the first year of Vince Lombardi's reign with the Packers. Business conflicts back in California caused him to leave the position at midseason, but Fears resumed his coaching career the following year with the Rams under former teammate Bob Waterfield. After two seasons in that role, Fears returned to Green Bay for a four-year stint as an assistant, where he was part of championship teams in 1962 and 1965.

Fears applied for the head coaching job with the St. Louis Cardinals (football) after the 1965 NFL season, but after not being chosen, he joined fellow Packer assistant Norb Hecker, who had been named head coach of the expansion Atlanta Falcons. In the first game of the 1966 regular season, Fears caused controversy when he accused Rams coach George Allen of attempting to garner inside information on the team from a player that had been cut, charges that were never proven.

New Orleans Saints

After that 2-12 first season in Atlanta, Fears became a head coach for the first time when he was hired by the expansion New Orleans Saints on January 27, 1967. He was the first Latino head coach in the NFL.[1][2] Despite the promise of the team scoring on the first-ever kickoff return in franchise history, Fears' nearly four years at the helm of what became a perennial losing franchise were an exercise in frustration.

In 1970, Fears was recognized for his professional playing career when he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That March, rumors of Fears replacing the departed Don Shula with the Baltimore Colts surfaced, but Don McCafferty was hired by the Maryland team in early April. Issues between Fears and Saints owner John W. Mecom Jr., primarily Fears seeking the additional role of general manager, fueled such speculation. On April 20, the matter ended when he was given control over all player personnel matters.

Fears' tenure in his new dual roles, however, would be short, when the team ended the first half of the 1970 NFL season with a 1-5-1 mark, resulting in his dismissal on November 3 after compiling an overall mark of 13-34-2. His last game as coach of the Saints was a 30-17 loss to the team he played for, the Rams, the same team which defeated the Saints in their first game in 1967.

Eagles, WFL and USFL

He resurfaced in 1971, serving as offensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles, but when head coach Ed Khayat (Fears' defensive line coach in New Orleans) was fired at the end of the 1972 NFL season, Fears was out of work again.

After spending 1973 off the gridiron, Fears was named head coach of the fledgling World Football League's Southern California Sun on January 14, 1974. The fragile financial condition of the entire league resulted in Fears leading the team for less than two years before the WFL folded in October 1975.

Fears' disappointment was soothed somewhat when he was named to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1976, the same year he was named president of the All-Sports Council of Southern California, which helped amateur sports in the area. One year later, he returned to coaching as an assistant at San Bernardino Junior College.

During this period, he was also working as a technical adviser for movies with a football connection, and in 1979, began a football scouting service. The two roles came together in controversial fashion when Fears began working on the production of "North Dallas Forty", a film that took a look at the sordid side of the professional game.

Fears had three clients: the Packers, Houston Oilers and Pittsburgh Steelers, but after the movie was released, Fears saw all three teams drop his services. Claiming that the NFL had blacklisted him, Fears spoke with league commissioner Pete Rozelle (who had worked for the Rams during Fears' playing days), but never again found work in the league.

Remaining on the fringes of the sport, Fears in 1980 worked as a coach for the Chapman College club football team, then became a part-owner of the Orange Empire Outlaws of the California Football League the following year. In 1982, he was hired as player personnel director of the new United States Football League's Los Angeles Express. Bolstered by huge spending from team owner William Daniels, the team reached the conference championship game, but saw financial troubles doom not only the team, but the league as well.

Fears' final position in football came in 1990, when he was named head coach of the Milan franchise in the fledgling International League of American Football. Four years later, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, spending the final six years of his life battling the disease.

Fears was the first Mexican-born NFL player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

References

  1. ^ "History: Latin-Americans in Pro Football". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on October 11, 2011.
  2. ^ Branch, John (November 15, 2008). "For Alberto Riveron, From Cuba to N.F.L.'s First Hispanic Referee". The New York Times. p. SP1. Archived from the original on October 11, 2011.

External links

Records
Preceded by
Jim Keane
NFL Single-game receptions record
December 3, 1950 – December 17, 2000
Succeeded by
Terrell Owens
Preceded by
Don Hutson
NFL Single-season receptions record
1949–1960
Succeeded by
Lionel Taylor
1947 All-Pacific Coast football team

The 1947 All-Pacific Coast football team consists of American football players chosen by various organizations for All-Pacific Coast teams for the 1947 college football season. The organizations selecting these teams included the conference coaches, the Associated Press (AP), and the United Press (UP).The 1947 USC Trojans football team won the PCC championship in 1947, finished the season ranked #8 in the final AP Poll, and had four players receive first-team honors. End Paul Cleary, tackle John Ferraro, and halfback Don Doll received first-team honors from the coaches, AP and UP, and Cleary and Ferraro were later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Tackle Bob Hendren was selected as a first-team honoree by the AP.The California Golden Bears football team finished in second place in the PCC with a 9–1 record and were ranked #15 in the final AP Poll. The Golden Bears landed two players on one or more of the All-PCC first teams. Guard Rod Franz and fullback John Graves were chosen as a first-team honorees by the coaches, the AP, and the UP, and Franz was later induced into the College Football Hall of Fame.

The Oregon Ducks finished in third place in the PCC and landed three players on one or more of the first team squads. Quarterback Norm Van Brocklin was a consensus first-team pick by the coaches, the AP, and the UP, and was later inducted into both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame. Halfback Jake Leicht received first-team honors from the coaches and the UP, and center Brad Ecklund was selected by the coaches as a first-team player.Despite finishing in fourth place with a 5-4 record, the UCLA Bruins had more first-team selections, five, than any other team in the conference. The UCLA first-team honorees were end Tom Fears (coaches, AP, UP), center Don Paul (AP, UP), tackle Bill Chambers (coaches, UP), guard Mike Dimitro (coaches, AP), and halfback Al Holsch (AP). Fears was later inducted into both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame.

1948 Los Angeles Rams season

The 1948 Los Angeles Rams season was the team's 11th year with the National Football League and the third season in Los Angeles. The Rams debuted the first helmet logo in league history in 1948, an idea that was conceived by running back Fred Gehrke. The season opener against the Lions was the final Wednesday night game in the NFL. In his first NFL game, future Pro Football Hall of Famer Tom Fears scored twice in the fourth quarter, and had his only pick-six of his career in a 44–7 victory.

1949 All-Pro Team

The 1949 All-Pro Team consisted of American football players chosen by various selectors for the All-Pro team of the National Football League (NFL) for the 1949 NFL season. Teams were selected by, among others, the Associated Press (AP), the United Press (UP), and the New York Daily News.

1950 All-Pro Team

The 1950 All-Pro Team consisted of American football players chosen by various selectors for the All-Pro team of the National Football League (NFL) for the 1950 NFL season. Teams were selected by, among others, the Associated Press (AP), the United Press (UP), and the New York Daily News.

1950 NFL playoffs

The 1950 National Football League playoffs took place after the 1950 regular season ended with a tie for first place in both the American and National conferences. The ties forced one-game playoffs to determine who would play in the NFL championship game. It was the only time in the NFL's championship-game era that two such tiebreaker playoff games were needed in the same year. The Cleveland Browns and New York Giants tied for first place in the American Conference, while the Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams tied for first place in the National Conference. The Browns proceeded to beat the Giants 8–3, and the Rams beat the Bears 24–14 in their playoff game. Cleveland then beat the Rams in the championship game the following week.

Playing their first year in the NFL after four years in the rival All-America Football Conference, the Browns battled with the Giants for the lead in the American Conference for most of the regular season. Cleveland ended with a 10–2 win–loss record, having lost its only two games against the Giants. The Giants, meanwhile, lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Cardinals. In the National Conference, the Bears and Rams were also near the top of the standings in the second half of the 12-game season, and both ended with 9–3 records.

The Browns and Giants and the Rams and Bears played their playoff games on December 17. In Cleveland against the Giants, the Browns won a low-scoring game in freezing conditions on two field goals by placekicker Lou Groza and a late-game safety. The Rams beat the Bears in 92-degree heat in Los Angeles, thanks largely to a strong performance by quarterback Bob Waterfield, who threw three touchdowns to end Tom Fears. The results set up a championship matchup between the Browns and Rams. The Browns won the game 30–28 on a Groza field goal with 28 seconds to play.

1950 NFL season

The 1950 NFL season was the 31st regular season of the National Football League. The merger with the All-America Football Conference (AAFC) expanded the league to 13 teams. Meanwhile, television brought a new era to the game. The Los Angeles Rams became the first NFL team to have all of its games – both home and away – televised. The Washington Redskins became the second team to put their games on TV. Other teams arranged to have selected games televised.

1951 NFL Championship Game

The 1951 National Football League Championship Game was the 19th NFL championship game, played December 23 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California.It was a rematch of the previous year's game in Cleveland, with the Los Angeles Rams (8–4) of the National Conference meeting the defending league champion Cleveland Browns (11–1) of the American Conference. In the league championship game for the third straight year, the Rams were seeking their first NFL title since moving to California in early 1946 (the Cleveland Rams won the 1945 title, then left a month later). The Browns were favored to win this title game on the road by six points.This was the first NFL championship game to be televised coast-to-coast, and was blacked out by the league in the southern California area. The DuMont Network purchased the championship game TV rights from the NFL in May for five years (1951–55) for $475,000.The home underdog Rams upset the Browns 24–17 for their second NFL championship before a then-record crowd for the title game of 59,475. The "World Championship" banner awarded to the Rams was given as a gift to Tom Bergin after the game in gratitude for hosting the post-game dinner. As of 2016 it still hangs in the Tom Bergin's Irish pub in Los Angeles, the only one in private ownership. This was also the first time that the Browns under Paul Brown did not finish the season with a championship after 4 wins in the AAFC and a championship in their first NFL season in 1950.

As of 2018, this remains the Rams' only NFL championship as a California team. The Rams won their first NFL championship during their final season in Cleveland, and also won a Super Bowl during their time in St. Louis.

1968 New Orleans Saints season

The 1968 New Orleans Saints season was the team's second as a member of the National Football League (NFL). They improved on their previous season's output of 3–11, winning four games. The team failed to qualify for the playoffs for the second consecutive season, and finished third in the Century Division of the NFL Eastern Conference.

1970 New Orleans Saints season

The 1970 New Orleans Saints season was the team's fourth as a member of the National Football League. After spending their first three seasons in the NFL's Eastern Conference, the Saints moved in 1970 to the West Division of the new National Football Conference. They failed to improve on their previous season's output of 5–9, winning only two games. The team failed to qualify for the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.

Following a 1–5–1 start, coach Tom Fears was fired by owner John W. Mecom Jr. and replaced by J.D. Roberts, whose first game was a 19–17 victory over the Detroit Lions at Tulane Stadium in which Tom Dempsey set an NFL record with a 63-yard field goal on the final play; it broke the record held by Bert Rechichar of the Baltimore Colts by seven yards, set seventeen years earlier. Dempsey's record was tied by three: Jason Elam (Denver Broncos, 1998), Sebastian Janikowski (Oakland Raiders, 2011), and David Akers (San Francisco 49ers, 2012). It was broken by Matt Prater of the Broncos in 2013, at 64 yards at elevation in Colorado.

The victory over the Lions was last of the season for the Saints, but both victories came over teams in the thick of the NFC playoff race. The other, a 14–10 triumph over the New York Giants in week three, cost the Giants the NFC East division championship. The Lions qualified for the playoffs as the wild card from the NFC, but were nearly forced into a coin toss with the Dallas Cowboys, a situation which was only averted when the Giants lost their season finale to the Los Angeles Rams.

1970 Pro Bowl

The 1970 Pro Bowl was the National Football League's twentieth annual all-star game which featured the outstanding performers from the 1969 season. The game was played on Sunday, January 18, 1970, at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles. The final score was West 16, East 13. Gale Sayers of the Chicago Bears was named the game's offensive Most Valuable Player (MVP) after rushing for 75 yards on nine carries. George Andrie of the Dallas Cowboys was selected as the defensive MVP.Attendance at the game was 57,786. Norm Van Brocklin of the Atlanta Falcons coached the West squad while the East was led by the New Orleans Saints' Tom Fears. This was the last Pro Bowl to feature the Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference format. After the AFL–NFL merger was completed, future Pro Bowls would pit the AFC against the NFC.

Foreign players in the National Football League

Compared to other major professional sports leagues in the United States, the National Football League (NFL) has the lowest percentage of foreign-born players. In 2017, roughly 1 out of 39 active players (2.56%) were born outside the US. In recent NFL Drafts, teams have made efforts to search internationally for prospects. A record 12 international players were drafted in the 2015 NFL Draft. As of the beginning of the 2018 NFL season, Canada is the most represented foreign country in the NFL, with 13 players, followed by Germany with 6 players.Internationals have played in the NFL since the league's founding season in 1920. There have been nine foreign-born players inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Many international players have found success on special teams; two of the three highest scorers in NFL history were foreign born: kickers Morten Andersen of Denmark and Gary Anderson of South Africa. Canada is the all-time most represented foreign country, with 107 players, followed by Germany with 80 players and Jamaica with 40.

J. D. Roberts

John David "J. D." Roberts (born October 24, 1932) was an American football player and coach, serving as head coach of the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League (NFL) from the middle of the 1970 season until his dismissal after four preseason games in 1973.

Joe Wendryhoski

Joseph Stanley "Joe" Wendryhoski (March 1, 1939 – November 6, 2008) was a professional American football player who played guard for five seasons in the National Football League.

Wendryhoski was born on March 1, 1939 in West Frankfort, Illinois, where he attended Frankfort Community High School. He played college football at the University of Illinois from 1958 to 1961 and was voted all-Big Ten Conference in 1960.At 6 feet (1.8 m), 2-inches tall and 245 pounds, Wendryhoski played center and offensive guard. He was selected in the 1961 AFL draft by the New York Titans, but did not sign with the club; instead Wendryhoski played briefly for the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League that season. After being out of football for a few years, the Chicago Bears picked him in the 1964 Draft, before trading him to the Los Angeles Rams. He played three seasons (1964-66) for Los Angeles, appearing in a total of 31 games for the team. Left unprotected in the 1967 NFL Expansion Draft, he became an inaugural member of the New Orleans Saints. Wendryhoski anchored the Saints offense for two seasons (1967-68), playing every offensive snap as the starting center under head coach Tom Fears. He recovered a fumble for the Saints in 1968, the only fumble recovery of his career.Wendryhoski, along with several of his Saints teammates, appeared in the film Number One, which starred Charlton Heston as a fading New Orleans quarterback.

After retiring from the Saints, Wendryhoski served as a vice president for the Saints Hall of Fame Museum (now located in the Louisiana Superdome) from its inception in 1988. Wendryhoski lived in Metairie, Louisiana, where he ran a real estate business, and also had a residence in Wisconsin.He died at age 69 on November 6, 2008 in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, after a brief battle with cancer.

List of National Football League annual receptions leaders

This is a list of National Football League players who have led the regular season in receptions each year.

List of New Orleans Saints head coaches

The New Orleans Saints are a professional American football team based in New Orleans, Louisiana. They are a member of the South Division of the National Football Conference (NFC) in the National Football League (NFL). The NFL awarded the city of New Orleans the 16th franchise in the league in November 1, 1966, All Saints Day, five months after the 89th United States Congress approved the merger of the NFL with the American Football League (AFL) in June of that year. In January 1967, the team was given the current "New Orleans Saints" name, and began playing in their first season in September of that year. Since the franchise's creation, it has been based in New Orleans. The team's home games were originally played at Tulane Stadium from 1967 to 1974, it was demolished in 1979, when the team relocated its home games to its current stadium, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (formerly Louisiana Superdome from 1975 to 2011).The New Orleans Saints have had 16 head coaches in their franchise history—ten full-time coaches and six interim coaches. Sean Payton has been the head coach of the Saints since 2006. Payton served as the assistant head coach/passing game coordinator and assistant head coach/quarterbacks for the Dallas Cowboys for three seasons before he joined the Saints in 2006. In the 2009 season, he led the team to its second NFC Championship Game and first NFC Championship title, Super Bowl (XLIV) appearance, and NFL Championship. Tom Fears, the franchise's first head coach serving from 1967 to 1970, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1970, and is the only coach to be inducted into the Hall of Fame while spending his entire coaching career with the Saints. Hank Stram, who coached the Saints from 1976 to 1977, and Mike Ditka, who coached the Saints from 1997 to 1999, were also inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2003 and 1988, respectively. Sean Payton has coached the most games for the Saints, with 170. Payton has the highest winning percentage while coaching the Saints, with .588, and his 102 wins are the most in franchise history. J. D. Roberts has the lowest winning percentage (.219) and fewest wins (seven) for a full-time coach. Jim Haslett, Mora, and Payton are the only head coaches to lead the Saints into the playoffs. Mora, Haslett, and Payton have won the AP Coach of the Year Award and the Sporting News NFL Coach of the Year.

List of New Orleans Saints seasons

This article is a list of seasons completed by the New Orleans Saints American football franchise of the National Football League (NFL). The list documents the season-by-season records of the Saints' franchise from 1967 to present, including postseason records, and league awards for individual players or head coach.

Los Angeles Rams awards

This page details awards won by the Los Angeles Rams American football team. The Rams were formerly based in St. Louis (1995–2015) and Cleveland (1936–1942, 1944–1945), as well as Los Angeles (1946–1994, 2016–present).

Los Angeles Rams statistics

This page details statistics about the Los Angeles Rams American football franchise, formerly the St. Louis Rams and the Cleveland Rams.

Southern California Sun

The Southern California Sun were an American football team based out of Anaheim, California that played in the World Football League in 1974 and 1975. Their records were 13-7 in 1974 and 7-5 in 1975. Their home stadium was Anaheim Stadium. They were coached by former Rams great and Hall of Famer Tom Fears and owned by trucking magnate Larry Hatfield. The team drew national attention for their (at the time) outlandish magenta and orange uniforms.

Former USC greats Anthony Davis and Pat Haden played for the Sun in 1975 along with former Oakland Raiders QB Daryle Lamonica, also known as the "Mad Bomber."

The Sun won the 1974 Western Division title, but lost their playoff game against The Hawaiians when three of their best players--Kermit Johnson, James McAlister and Booker Brown—sat out the game. The three players were owed back pay, and claimed the missed checks breached their contracts. This episode aside, the Sun were one of the WFL's better-run teams, and at least had the potential to be a viable venture had the WFL been run in a more realistic and financially sensible manner. A year later, they were leading the West when the league folded on October 22, 1975 in midseason.

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