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Fan_Since_64

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#25 - Tommy McDonald
« on: July 22, 2009, 08:29:44 PM »



#25
Tommy McDonald


Tommy McDonald, who played wide receiver for the Eagles from 1957 thru 1963, was not only one of the greatest players to ever play for the Birds, but certainly among the most charismatic and popular, too.

Tommy was drafted by the Eagles in the 3rd round in 1957 out of Oklahoma, where he had been a star halfback on Bud Wilkinson’s national championship teams. At 5’9” and 176 pounds, he was too small to play running back in the NFL, and spent much of his rookie season returning kicks (he led the league in punts returned with 26). However, the feisty and ever-enthusiastic McDonald clamored for the opportunity to play at offensive end, and was given the chance to do so late in the season with impressive results - in his first game as a wide receiver for the Eagles, against Washington, he caught two passes totaling 97 yards, both for TDs. The longest was a spectacular 61-yard play that showcased the talents that would become his trademarks: a dash downfield and a leaping grab between two defenders followed by a 29-yard sprint to the end zone.

Under the tutelage of QB Norm Van Brocklin, who arrived in ’58, Tommy blossomed into one of the most dangerous deep receivers in the NFL’s history. He tied for the league lead in TD receptions that season with 9 – on just 29 catches.

By the time his career ended with the Eagles following the 1963 season, McDonald had caught 287 passes for 5499 yards (a 19.2 average, highest of any of the Top 20 pass receivers in team history) and 66 TDs (an outstanding TD-to-reception ratio of 4.35). His high for passes caught in a season was a then-team record 64 in 1961, when he also set an Eagles record for pass receiving yardage with a league-leading 1144 yards; he topped his own record, barely, with 1146 yards in ‘62 (Pete Retzlaff set new standards in both categories in ’65). He twice scored 13 TDs in a season, in 1960 and ’61 (his total led the NFL in the latter season), and reached double figures in TD receptions four years in a row (1959-62).

Tommy’s 237 receiving yards vs. the Giants at Franklin Field in 1961 (on 7 catches) is still a team record. He had 187 yards on a career-high 11 receptions against the Cardinals in ’61 as well. Altogether, he had 17 100-yard receiving games for the Eagles, including five of over 150 yards, and five in 1961 alone. In a career filled with long TD receptions, his longest was 91 yards, on a pass from Norm Van Brocklin vs. the Giants in 1958.

A fearless receiver, McDonald was known for running excellent crossing patterns and catching the ball in traffic. He had good hands and was outstanding when it came to running after making the catch. In combination with his speed and ability to skillfully run deep patterns, he was a defensive back’s nightmare. Defenses attempted to take advantage of his small size by being as physically intimidating as possible, and he tended to draw more pass interference penalties than the usual. Yet he was durable and just kept bouncing up after being hit (another of his characteristic traits) and making big plays. Often, Tommy dispensed with wearing a facemask, one of the last non-kickers to do so.

In his lone post-season appearance, the 1960 NFL Championship game against Green Bay at Franklin Field, Tommy caught 3 passes for 90 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown reception that was in turn set up by a 22-yard pass from Van Brocklin.

As a punt returner, McDonald had a total of 71 returns for 387 yards (a 5.5 average), including a then-team record 81-yard TD return vs. the Giants in 1959 (since broken by Vai Sikahema, also against the Giants, in ’92). All but six of his punt returns came in his first three seasons. He also returned 51 kickoffs for 1055 yards, a 20.7 average, with no TDs. Again, all but two of those returns came before 1960.

Including the punt return, he scored a total of 67 TDs for Philadelphia. He also threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Timmy Brown against Washington in 1962 (one of two passes he completed during his career, both for the Eagles. He had been known for throwing the option pass while at Oklahoma). He tied a team record with 4 touchdowns in a game vs. the Giants in ’59 (the punt return plus three TD receptions of 19, 33, and 55 yards), and scored three TDs on five occasions.

Tommy was named to All-NFL first or second teams in all four seasons from 1959 thru 1962. He was selected for the Pro Bowl five consecutive times with the Eagles, following the 1958 to ’62 seasons. He was chosen as flanker on the Eagles All-Time team that was selected in 1965, as a wide receiver on the Eagles 75th Anniversary All-Time team, and is a member of the Eagles Honor Roll. In 1998, McDonald was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

As one of Head Coach/GM Joe Kuharich’s first deals in the housecleaning following two last-place finishes and a change of ownership after the 1963 season, McDonald was traded to the Dallas Cowboys for K Sam Baker, G-C Lynn Hoyem, and DT John Meyers. After a season in which he caught 46 passes and scored two TDs (one, ironically enough, against the Eagles at Franklin Field), he was dispatched to the Los Angeles Rams, where he caught a career-high 67 passes for 1036 yards and 9 TDs in ’65, earning one last trip to the Pro Bowl. After a second season with the Rams, he played for the Atlanta Falcons in ’67 and finished his career with the Cleveland Browns in 1968. Altogether, he caught 495 passes for 8410 yards (a 17.0 average per reception) and 84 TDs (85 including the punt return). Not bad numbers for a guy considered too small when he came into the league.

As impressive as the statistics and honors are, they don’t tell the whole story of Tommy McDonald. He was the smallest player in pro football during his heyday, and yet he somehow seemed larger than life. Stories of his flaky and outlandish behavior long ago became the stuff of legend in Philadelphia – such as hanging from a 4th story balcony by one hand at the Hershey Community Club while pretending to be an ape; climbing out of the back window and onto the roof of teammate Bobby Walston’s station wagon while it was moving, and crawling across the top until he could lean over the windshield and make faces at the driver; jumping out of another car that he was a passenger in at a stoplight and playing with a toy that he had found, to the bemusement of passersby; and pretending to drown in the whirlpool bath - whether exaggerated or not, they became commonly told tales. It was not an exaggeration to say that he had a fun-loving and impulsive personality, a true character in the best sense. Yet he was also hard-working and fiercely competitive on the field, driving himself to excel.

Tommy McDonald was an exciting and memorable player, certainly one of the most spectacular and feared wide receivers to ever play in the NFL; he also brought an exuberance and spirit to everything he did with the Eagles. Anyone who saw his boyish excitement at being elected to the Hall of Fame, and his high-energy acceptance speech, knows that even in advancing age that buoyant personality and spirit shine on.

Tommy McDonald’s career record with the Eagles:

PASS RECEIVING

Year
1957
1958
1959
1960
1961
1962
1963
G
12
10
12
12
14
14
14
Rec.
9
29
47
39
64
58
41
Yds.
228
603
846
801
1144
1146
731
Avg.
25.3     
20.8   
18.0 
20.5 
17.9
19.8
17.8   
TD
3
9
10
13
13
10
8

PUNT RETURNS

Year
1957
1958
1959
1960
1962
G
12
10
12
12
14
Ret.
26
18
21
1
5
Yds.
127
135
115
2
8
Avg.
4.9
7.5
5.5
2.0
1.6
TD
0
0
1
0
0

KICKOFF RETURNS

Year
1957
1958
1959
1960
G
12
10
12
12
Ret.
11
14
24
2
Yds.
304
262
444
45
Avg.
27.6 
18.7 
18.5 
22.5 
TD
0
0
0
0
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Fan_Since_64

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Re: #25 - Tommy McDonald
« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2009, 08:40:36 PM »

Other Eagles who wore #25:

Osborne Wilson (G, 1933)
Leonard Gudd (E, 1934)
Hank Reese (C/LB/PK, 1935-36)
Emmett Kriel (G, 1939)
Russ Thompson (T, 1940)
Hugh McCullough (DB, 1943)
Toy Ledbetter (HB/DB, 1950, 53-55)
Pete Retzlaff (RB, 1956 - way more significant at #44)
Red Mack (WR, 1964)
Bob Shann (DB, 1965, 67)
Larry Conjar (FB, 1968)
Tom Sullivan (RB, 1972-77 - the runner-up)
Bill Bryant (DB, 1978)
Zach Dixon (RB, 1980)
Dennis DeVaughn (DB, 1982-83)
Anthony Toney (FB, 1986-90)
Tom Gerhart (DB, 1992)
Charlie Garner (RB, 1994)
Greg Tremble (DB, 1995)
Deral Boykin (DB, 1996)
Willie Clark (DB, 1997)
Allen Rossum (DB/KR, 1998-99)
Je'rod Cherry (DB, 2000)
Monty Montgomery (DB, 2001)
Dorsey Levens (RB, 2002, 04)
Lamar Gordon (RB, 2005)
Dustin Fox (DB, 2006)
Lorenzo Booker (RB, 2008)
« Last Edit: July 22, 2009, 08:53:45 PM by Fan_Since_64 »
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fansince61

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Re: #25 - Tommy McDonald
« Reply #2 on: July 23, 2009, 10:22:38 AM »

I remember my dad and I taking an early walk over to the game at Franklin Field from the 25th Street Train Station in the early 60's.  Three guys were walking ahead of us and one of the them was running circles around the other two big guys while picking up and throwing walnuts at the tennis players playing in the courts that lined the left walkway.  He would throw the walnut at the player farthest away and timed it so the walnut and the ball arrived to the player at the same time :-D   As we got closer the bigger players were Gummy Carr and Tom Brokshier and the overactive walnut chucker was none other than Tommy McDonald.  His autographed picture sits next to my desk at work :yay
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Don Ho

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Re: #25 - Tommy McDonald
« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2009, 05:58:07 PM »

I remember McDonald breaking out the boom box at his HOF acceptance speech and getting all nasty on stage.  Pure energy.

Nice to see Tom Sullivan on that list of #25.  One of my early favorites as a kid.
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Re: #25 - Tommy McDonald
« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2009, 07:36:32 PM »

IGY's favorite playa.
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MDS

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Re: #25 - Tommy McDonald
« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2009, 08:59:30 PM »

how old are you people
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Don Ho

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Re: #25 - Tommy McDonald
« Reply #6 on: July 28, 2009, 02:08:59 AM »

how old are you people

We're just very mature.
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