On Dec. 19, 1948, the Philadelphia Eagles played the Chicago Cardinals for the NFL championship in a heavy blizzard. Running back Steve Van Buren almost didn't make it there that day. Let's let Ray Didinger of CSN Philly explain why:
He awoke that morning, saw the heavy snow and went back to sleep, assuming the game would be postponed. An hour passed and Van Buren decided he should go, just in case. He could not move his car so he took public transit from his home in Drexel Hill to Shibe Park in North Philadelphia trudging the last seven blocks through knee deep snow.
Once he arrived, he helped push the tarp off the field—both teams pitched in to assist the grounds crew—then he scored the winning touchdown. After the game, he celebrated in the locker room then walked to the Broad Street Subway and retraced his steps home.
Imagine Ahmad Bradshaw helping the grounds crew clear the field before the Super Bowl then hopping on the 1 train to get home afterward. But if that anecdote is indicative of how long ago this was, so is this: Van Buren's 5,860 career rushing yards don't even rank in the top 80 all-time in NFL history. But when he retired in 1951 after eight seasons—all with the Eagles—Van Buren was the league's all-time leader. Before him, only one other player had rushed for 1,000 yards in what was then a 12-game season. By the time Van Buren retired, he had done it twice. He led the league in rushing yards four times. He led the Eagles to back-to-back championships in '48 and '49. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965. Arguably the Eagles' best player ever, Steve Van Buren died Thursday at the age of 91. RIP.