Robert Lawrence "Bobby" Layne (1926 - 1986)

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Managed by: Doug Robinson
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About Robert Lawrence "Bobby" Layne

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobby_Layne

Robert Lawrence "Bobby" Layne (December 19, 1926 – December 1, 1986) was an American football quarterback who played for 15 seasons in the National Football League. He played for the Chicago Bears in 1948, the New York Bulldogs in 1949, the Detroit Lions from 1950–1958, and the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1958–1962. He was drafted by the Bears in the first round of the 1948 NFL Draft. He played college football at the University of Texas.

He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967 and inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1968. His number, 22, has been retired by the University of Texas Longhorns and Detroit Lions.

Early years

Layne was born in Santa Anna, Texas and attended Highland Park High School in Dallas. He played football with teammate Doak Walker.

College career

One of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play for Texas, Layne was selected to four straight All-Southwest Conference teams from 1944-1947. He was one of the first inductees into the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame. In the 1946 Cotton Bowl Classic, where Texas beat Missouri 40-27, Layne accounted for every point, scoring four touchdowns, kicking four extra points and throwing for two other scores. In 1946, Layne finished 8th in Heisman Trophy balloting to Glenn Davis of Army and in 1947 he finished 6th to John Lujack of Notre Dame, and was voted the Outstanding Back in the 1948 Sugar Bowl victory over #6 Alabama. Layne finished his Texas career with a school record 3,145 passing yards on 210 completions and 400 attempts. Layne also had success in baseball as a pitcher for Texas as well. In his career as a pitcher he threw two no hitters.

Professional career

Drafted into the National Football League by the Chicago Bears, Layne was the 3rd overall selection in the 1948 NFL Draft and was the 2nd overall selection in the 1948 AAFC Draft by the Baltimore Colts. Layne was offered $77,000 to play for the Colts, but George Halas "sweet talked" him into signing with the Bears. He promised a slow rise to fame in the "big leagues" with a no-trade understanding. After one season, Layne was the third-string quarterback, behind both Sid Luckman and Johnny Lujack, and refused to return to the Bears and tried to engineer his own trade to the Green Bay Packers. Halas, preoccupied with fending off a challenge from the AAFC, traded Layne to the New York Bulldogs for their #1 draft pick and $50,000 cash. The cash was to be paid in four installments. The team won only one game and lost 11, but Layne played well and developed quickly. Layne compared one season with the soon-defunct New York Bulldogs as worth five seasons in the NFL. In 1950, Layne was traded to the Detroit Lions for defensive end Bob Mann. The Lions also picked up the tab and made the final three payments to Halas (Halas would remark later that the Lions should have continued the yearly payments indefinitely to him in view of Layne's performance).

From 1950-1955, Layne was re-united with his great friend and Highland Park High School teammate Doak Walker. In 1952, Bobby led the Detroit Lions to their first NFL Championship in 17 years. Layne would repeat this in 1953 for back to back NFL Championships, but fell short of a three-peat when the Detroit Lions lost to the Cleveland Browns in the 1954 NFL Championship Game. In 1957, Layne was leading the Lions toward another Championship when fate stepped in. In a game late in the season Layne broke his leg in three places during a pileup. His replacement, Tobin Rote, finished the season and led the Lions to victory in the 1957 NFL Championship Game.

During his career, Layne played for the Chicago Bears (1948), New York Bulldogs (1949), Detroit Lions (1950–1958) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (1958–1962). After retiring from 15 seasons in the NFL, Layne held the career records for both passes attempted (3,700) and completed(1,814), as well as yards gained passing (26,768) and passing touchdowns (196). Layne was not the most gifted or talented person in the NFL at the time, his passes sometimes looked like wounded ducks on the field, but his drive, leadership, and clutch play (he is credited with creating the two-minute offense) made him great. Layne was one of the last players to play in the NFL without a facemask.

After football

After retirement, Layne stated the biggest disappointment in his football career was having never won a championship for the Pittsburgh Steelers and especially, Art Rooney. Layne did serve as an assistant coach for the Steelers after his retirement on the staff of Buddy Parker.

Layne was known more for his leadership and determination than for pure athletic ability. According to Doak Walker, "Layne never lost a game...time just ran out on him." Layne was voted into the Texas Longhorn Hall of Honor in 1963 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967. In a special issue in 1995, Sports Illustrated called him "The Toughest Quarterback Who Ever Lived." In 1999, he was ranked number 52 on the Sporting News' list of Football's 100 Greatest Players. Layne may not have been among the greatest quarterback in stats, but he was one of the greatest quarterbacks in leadership and bravery. He used to play without a facemask and usually drove himself to the edge of physical endurance.

Layne, often accompanied by Alex Karras, was also famous for his late-night bar-hopping, and his heavy drinking may have led to his death shortly before his 60th birthday. Layne is reported to have stated: "If I'd known I was gonna live this long, I'd have taken a lot better care of myself." That line was later used by baseball legend Mickey Mantle, a Dallas neighbor and friend of Layne's, who also died in part due to alcohol abuse. Layne also suffered from cancer during his last years, which may have been a factor in his death.

The Curse of Bobby Layne

In 1958, the Lions traded Layne to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Layne responded to the trade by supposedly saying that the Lions would "not win for 50 years".

After the end of the 2008 season, it had been 50 years since the trade, and indeed the Lions have not won a championship in that time, or even been in the championship game. Interestingly, the final season of the curse concluded with the worst season in Lions' and NFL history, at 0-16, and shortly after the season free agent and Lions' player from 2006-2008 Corey Smith perished in the Gulf of Mexico, and former quarterback Jeff Komlo died in a car accident in Greece. During this 50 year period, the Lions have accumulated the worst winning percentage of any team in the NFL. They are one of only two franchises that have been in the NFL since 1970 that have not played in a Super Bowl (the other team is the Cleveland Browns). The Lions made the playoffs nine times in the last 50 seasons, have one post-season win (1991), and three Division titles (1983, 1991, and 1993). The 1st time the Detroit Lions returned to the playoffs after the Layne era was in 1970. This ended a 13-year drought. The Lions lost to the Dallas Cowboys 5-0 in what is still the lowest scoring playoff game of all time.

Coincidentally, in the 2009 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions drafted University of Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford first-overall. He came from Highland Park High School, the same high school as Layne. Stafford also lived in a house on the same street as Layne's.

This story has been disputed as being a hoax, particularly because the quote was never published at the time.

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Bobby Layne's Timeline

1926
December 19, 1926
1986
December 1, 1986
Age 59