We wrap up our five-week series of senior polls at the Talk of Fame Network with a look at eight players from the pre-1950 era whose careers are deserving of Hall of Fame consideration and discussion.
The first four polls featured senior candidates from the modern era and the winners were Steelers linebacker Andy Russell, Rams quarterback Roman Gabriel, Eagles linebacker Maxie Baughan and Redskins offensive tackle Joe Jacoby.
Our final poll features seven all-decade performers and an NFL pioneer. If this was the slate of candidates for the one senior nomination in the Class of 2019, who would you select? Here are your options:
Lavvie Dilweg. A 1920s NFL all-decade end. There were 18 players selected to the NFL’s inaugural all-decade team for the 1920s and Dilweg remains one of only two who do not have busts yet in Canton. When he retired after the 1934 season, Dilweg was considered the greatest end in NFL history. He played nine season and was a first-team all-pro in five of them. He set the league receiving records that Don Hutson would later break. His hands, both on offense and defense, helped the Packers win three consecutive NFL titles from 1929-31. Dilweg also intercepted 27 career passes but has never been a Hall of Fame finalist.
Ox Emerson. A 1930s NFL all-decade guard. Emerson played eight seasons for the Portsmouth Spartans/Detroit Lions and was a first-team all-pro in six of them, helping the Lions win their first championship in 1935. In 1936, in a 12-game season, the Lions set an NFL record for rushing with 2,885 yards. That mark stood for 36 years until the Miami Dolphins finally broke it in a 14-game season in 1972. Emerson has been enshrined in the University of Texas Hall of Fame and was named to the Lions’ all-time team. He has never been a Hall of Fame finalist.
Cecil Isbell. A 1930s NFL all-decade quarterback. Over the NFL’s first eight decades (1920-2000), there were 21 quarterbacks selected to all-decade teams. Isbell is the only one still not enshrined in Canton. He was the first in the line of great Green Bay quarterbacks, preceding Bart Starr, Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. He was the batterymate of Hall of Famer Don Hutson for five years (1938-1942). Hutson had his only 1,000-yard season playing with Isbell (1,211 yards in the 11-game 1942 season). He also caught 49 of his 99 career TD passes from Isbell, who took the Packers to two NFL title games in his five-year career. He has never been a Hall of Fame finalist.
Bucko Kilroy. A 1940s NFL all-decade tackle. Kilroy played 13 seasons with the Eagles, helping Philadelphia win back-to-back NFL titles in 1948-49. He played both ways, starting on both the offensive and defensive line, and his toughness was renowned. He missed only one game in his career and at one point started 147 games in a row, which was then an NFL record. His blocking helped Steve Van Buren win four rushing titles and he also intercepted five passes on defense. Kilroy later served 47 years in NFL front offices as first a scout, then director of player personnel and general manager. He built the 1985 New England team that went to the Patriots’ first Super Bowl. Kilroy has never been a Hall of Fame finalist.
Mac Speedie. A 1940s NFL all-decade end. Speedie played seven seasons with the Cleveland Browns before bolting for Canada following a personality conflict with Hall of Fame coach Paul Brown. But in those seven seasons, Speedie led the league in receiving four times and helped the Browns reach seven consecutive title games. He led the All-American Football Conference in receiving from 1947-49 and, after the Browns were absorbed by the NFL in 1950, he led the league in receiving a final time in his final season in 1952. There were only six 1,000-yard seasons by receivers in the 1940s and Speedie posted two of them. He was a three-time Hall of Fame finalist.
Duke Slater. The Jackie Robinson of the NFL. He was the first African-American lineman in NFL history and played 10 seasons, earning all-pro honors six times. He missed only one game in his career – a 1924 game against the Kansas City Blues because blacks were prohibited from playing in Missouri. In 1927, when NFL owners discussed banning black players, eight of the nine African-American players disappeared from pro football. Slater was the lone exception — and he remained the league’s only African-American player from 1927-29. He became a charter member of the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951 and was a two-time Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist.
Ed Sprinkle. A 1940s NFL all-decade end. Sprinkle played 12 seasons with the Chicago Bears and Hall of Fame coach George Halas called him, “the greatest pass rusher I’ve ever seen.” Collier’s Magazine once featured him on its cover and dubbed him, “the meanest man in pro football.” A four-time Pro Bowler, Sprinkle also caught 32 passes for 451 yards and seven touchdowns in his career as an offensive end. His defensive play helped the Bears win an NFL title in 1946. In the championship game against the Giants, Sprinkle knocked both New York running backs out of the game – George Franck with a separated shoulder and Frank Reagan with a broken nose – and he also broke the nose of quarterback Frank Filchock. Sprinkle has never been a Hall of Fame finalist.
Al Wistert. A 1940s NFL all-decade tackle. Wistert played nine seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and was a first-team all-pro in six of them, a second-team all-pro two other seasons. Like Kilroy, his blocking helped Philadelphia reach three consecutive NFL title games (1947-49), winning two of them. He served as a team captain for five consecutive seasons (1946-50). The Eagles retired his jersey number 70 and have enshrined him in their Hall of Fame. Wistert played at Michigan and also has been enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. But he has never been a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.