The network powers-that-be took away our Comments Section in 2020, but here at the EYE we still honor our tradition of noting former Eagles and fans we have lost over the past year.
Regular readers here and at PE.com over the years are now missing several all-time posters, including Philly-born DDD from Dallas, Joe “Woody” Wood from New Mexico, and the beloved “Old Bill” from Chester, Pa. May they rest in peace and occasionally channel their football opinions through us…
Among former players, Eagles legends Greg Brown, Timmy Brown, Dick Coury, Tom Dempsey, Dick Lucas, Howard Mudd, and Pete Retzlaff passed away in 2020.
Even in Philadelphia, few fans remember Greg Brown. That’s because the 6-5, 265-pound defensive end played in those dreary years from 1982 through ’86 when the Eagles were an NFC East bottom-feeder. It is too bad because he deserved better.
Brown, who died September 26 at age 63, was a great story, a hard hat who literally walked off a construction site and into the National Football League.
In the spring of 1981, a University of Illinois coach, John Teerlink, was stopped at a traffic light in Washington, D.C. He was in town on a recruiting trip and this big guy carrying a lunch pail walked in front of his car.
Teerlink recognized Brown as a kid he had coached two years earlier at Eastern Illinois. He honked his horn and waved. Brown hopped in the car. Over dinner, Brown told Teerlink he was making $13.50 an hour working construction. Football, he said, just never worked out.
Teerlink asked Brown if he’d like to try pro ball. Brown said, sure, but who would take a chance on a guy who hardly played at all in college? Teerlink said he would make a few calls. He also slipped Brown $50 and told him to eat a few steaks.
“I didn’t get my hopes up,” Brown said. “I knew it was a long shot. But I did pray on it some.”
Born in Knightstown, Indiana, Timmy Brown grew up in an orphanage with his brother, John. He earned a partial athletic scholarship to Ball State and was a 27th-round draft pick of the Green Bay Packers. He was cut by coach Vince Lombardi after playing just one game.
“I remember thinking, ‘OK, what do I do now? Where do I go?” Brown said.
He came to Philadelphia, where he became an NFL Champion and an Eagles Hall of Famer.
“I was blessed,” Brown said. “I finally had a home and it was Philadelphia.”
Brown died April 4 at the age of 82. He was living with his son Sean in Southern California. The two made the trip to Philadelphia in 2015 when Timmy was inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame. Sean helped his ailing father finish his acceptance speech, a touching moment that moved many in the audience to tears.
“Timmy Brown was an all-time great Eagle and one of the most dynamic multipurpose players of his era. He overcame many obstacles in his life to enjoy success both as an athlete and as an entertainer,” Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie said. “A three-time Pro Bowler and member of our 1960 NFL Championship team, Timmy excelled as a running back and return specialist with his incredible athleticism and signature versatility. He was one of the most exciting players to watch during his career. Those who knew him well have said they will remember him for his outgoing, uplifting personality and the connections he built with his teammates and the community. Our thoughts are with his loved ones during this time.”
Wide Receivers Coach Dick Coury died on August 15 at 90. Coury was one of the assistants on Dick Vermeil’s first staff in 1976 and remained with the Eagles for six seasons. Under his tutelage, Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Harold Carmichael earned three Pro Bowl nominations and posted two 1,000-yard seasons. Coury was part of the team that defeated the Dallas Cowboys to capture the NFC Championship in 1980 to mark the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance. In addition to coaching the wide receivers, Coury provided Vermeil with playcalling advice from the press box on gamedays.
One of his favorite keepsakes from 41 years of coaching at the high school, college, and professional ranks was his ring from the 1980 NFC Championship season that he wore until his passing.
“Once you work with Dick Coury, you never forget him,” Vermeil said by phone on Sunday. “He had a natural compassion for kids. I don’t think I’ve ever been with a coach that could coach so well with almost never raising his voice.
“He was just so even-tempered. You know I’m even-tempered, always mad. He was even-tempered, always calm, always very respectful of every player from the first-string guy to the fourth guy he was going to have to cut. I remember him as a great friend. I have a lot of respect and admiration for him. He made a tremendous contribution to my coaching career and to everybody that he coached.”
Kicker Tom Dempsey passed away April 4 at the age of 73 due to complications from the coronavirus.
Born without fingers on his right hand and toes on his right foot, Dempsey utilized a custom, flat-front shoe to kick. He also lined up directly behind the ball, instead of taking a few steps back and to the side like most kickers.
Dempsey will forever be known for his game-winning 63-yard field goal in 1970 with the New Orleans Saints. It set the record for the longest field goal in NFL history, a mark that stood for over 43 years. The previous long before Dempsey’s field goal was 56 yards.
Dempsey joined the Eagles in 1971 after he struggled in the preseason following the historic kick with the Saints. He rebounded to kick the longest field goal in the league that season (54 yards) and connect on the highest percentage of field goal attempts (70.6). The 54-yarder is still tied for the sixth-longest field goal in franchise history.
In four seasons with the Eagles, Dempsey finished with 66 field goals and 282 points, good for ninth among kickers in Eagles history. During the 1974 season, the NFL moved the goal posts from the goal line to the back of the end zone where they currently stand to try and reduce long field goal attempts. In 1977, the NFL passed what is known as the Tom Dempsey Rule stating that “any shoe that is worn by a player with an artificial limb on his kicking leg must have a kicking surface that conforms to that of a normal kicking shoe.”
Former tight end Dick Lucas, a member of the 1960 Championship Team, passed away on April 29 in Philadelphia due to complications from COVID-19. He was 86 years old.
Lucas was the devoted husband of Barbara (Dunn) Lucas of West Chester, Pennsylvania for 59 years. In addition to his wife, he is survived by his daughter, Dr. Karen L. Lucas (Mark Harms); son, Brian K. Lucas (Shawna); daughter, Andrea L. Lucas (David Schubel); and four grandchildren: Alyssa Lucas, Michelle Lucas, Fiona Harms, and Isabel Harms.
Lucas was an Eagle before his NFL career started as the South Boston native played his college football for the Boston College Eagles. A 10th-round pick of the Chicago Bears in 1956, Lucas delayed the start to his pro career by fulfilling a two-year military commitment at the U.S. Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia. He was honorably discharged as a first lieutenant.
The 6-2, 213-pound Lucas joined the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1958, but suffered a leg injury that kept him out through the 1959 campaign. He was traded from Washington to the Eagles just before the start of the 1960 season. Lucas was unsure that he would get a fair chance with the Eagles, who were in need of help at tight end. Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive tackle Art Donovan, the Baltimore Colts legend and Boston College alumnus, explained how something special was brewing in Philadelphia.
Donovan’s words turned out to be quite prophetic.
Lucas played all 13 games for the Eagles in 1960, including the historic NFL Championship victory over Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers.
“The team was a funny team,” Lucas said in a previous interview for the special, A Championship Season: The 1960 Philadelphia Eagles, that was re-released on Friday. “We always thought we were better than what we were and we played better.”
Offensive Line Coach Howard Mudd, one of the game’s all-time great linemen and assistant coaches, was 78 years old when he passed away on August 12.
Mudd suffered significant injuries in a serious motorcycle accident on July 29 and was hospitalized in an intensive care unit in Seattle until his passing.
Mudd concluded a brilliant 38-year run as an NFL offensive line coach in Philadelphia during the 2011-12 seasons. He was brought out of retirement in 2019 to be a senior offensive assistant for the Indianapolis Colts, which is where he coached for 12 years prior to his tenure with the Eagles.
In 2011, Mudd integrated four new starters along the offensive line and helped the Eagles post 6,386 net yards (then a team record, now second in franchise history) and gain 356 first downs (also a former team record). In that 2011 season, running back LeSean McCoy flourished with 1,624 yards from scrimmage, 1,309 rushing yards, and a franchise-record and NFL-best 20 total touchdowns. McCoy earned All-Pro honors that season along with left tackle Jason Peters, as the Eagles allowed only 32 sacks, the fewest total since 2008. Center Jason Kelce, a sixth-round pick, was a Week 1 starter despite the lockout that prevented any communication with coaches until Training Camp. Kelce is today one of the elite players at his position with three consecutive first-team All-Pro selections on his résumé.
Pete Retzlaff is almost certainly the greatest bargain in Eagles history. In 1956, General Manager Vince McNally claimed Retzlaff off waivers after he was cut by the Detroit Lions. The Eagles paid $100 for his rights.
All Retzlaff did was play 11 seasons in Philadelphia, earn five trips to the Pro Bowl, set the club records for pass receptions and receiving yards, and help the Eagles win the NFL Championship in 1960. It was quite a return on such a modest investment.
Retzlaff, who died April 10 at the age of 88, was inducted into the Eagles Hall of Fame in 1989 and, hopefully, he will one day be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton. He surely deserves it.
Retzlaff finished his career with 452 receptions for 7,412 yards, a 16.4-yard average, and 47 touchdowns. He tied Baltimore’s Raymond Berry for the NFL lead with 56 receptions in 1958. He broke into the league as a fullback but he moved to split end with the Eagles and played his last four seasons at tight end.
Retzlaff’s career took off in 1958 when the Eagles acquired quarterback Norm Van Brocklin in a trade with the Los Angeles Rams. At the time, the 6-1, 215-pound Retzlaff was splitting time between the backfield and the line. Van Brocklin saw him on the practice field one day and told the coaches to put him at split end.
“The Dutchman (Van Brocklin) said I ran patterns like Elroy Hirsch, who was his favorite receiver with the Rams,” Retzlaff said. “That boosted my confidence tremendously. Elroy Hirsch was one of my idols. I loved to watch him play. I thought, ‘If the Dutchman said that, I guess I must be OK.'”