Tommy McDonald, who won an NFL championship in the pre-Super Bowl era in 1960 as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, has died, the Pro Football Hall of Fame reported Monday. He was 84 years old.
McDonald teamed with quarterback Norm Van Brocklin to help the Eagles beat the Green Bay Packers and second-year coach Vince Lombardi 17-13 in the 1960 title game.
McDonald caught a touchdown pass in that game, leaving an indelible mark on pro football history in the process.
He was a two-time All-American at the University of Oklahoma and made the Pro Bowl six times in his 12-year NFL career.
At the time he retired in 1968, he was second in league history in touchdown catches, fourth in yards, and sixth in receptions.
And even though 50 years of evolution since McDonald’s last game have changed the passing game to the point where McDonald is just 81st in yards, 148th in catches, and tied for 18th in touchdowns, his legacy as one of the all-time greats lives on in Canton.
McDonald was a mighty mite in his day, standing just 5-foot-7 and weighing just 175 pounds. He is the smallest player to ever be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
His greatness went unrecognized for what seemed like ages after his career. Even though McDonald retired in 1968, it wasn’t until 30 years later, in 1998, that the diminutive pass-catching machine finally got his due and his induction into Canton.
At the ceremony, McDonald reminded everyone why he was such an electric favorite in his day, his youthful enthusiasm not diminished a bit by the long wait.
When he was inducted, McDonald said, “Do I look excited, like I just won the lottery or the jackpot? Yes! I’m in the Hall of Fame!”
A line like that belongs in a movie. As great lines goes, it’s right up there with Jimmy Cagney in “White Heat” saying, “I made it, Ma! Top of the world!”
McDonald’s death comes at a time when he got to live long enough to see some newly-minted heroes from the places he passed through in life.
The Eagles, McDonald’s old team, won their first championship since the little receiver was still playing, winning the Super Bowl in February against the New England Patriots.
And Oklahoma gave the NFL Baker Mayfield, who came into the league with a bang Thursday night and led the Cleveland Browns to their first win in nearly two full years and making the future look bright for one of the league’s most sad-sack franchises.
McDonald and his wife Patricia had two sons, Tom and Christopher, and two daughters, Sherry and Tish.
The Philadelphia Eagles released a statement via Twitter Monday morning as well.
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) September 24, 2018
Always an Eagle. RIP, Tommy McDonald.
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