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Al Pollard

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Al Pollard
Al Pollard 1951.jpg
Born: September 7, 1928
Glendale, California
Died: March 3, 2002(2002-03-03) (aged 73)
Devon, Pennsylvania
Career information
Position(s) Fullback, halfback
Height 6 ft 0 in (183 cm)
Weight 196 lb (89 kg)
College Loyola Marymount, Army
NFL draft 1951 / Round: 21 / Pick: 251
Career history
As player
1951 New York Yanks
1951–1953 Philadelphia Eagles
1954–1956 British Columbia Lions
1957 Calgary Stampeders

Alfred Lee Pollard (September 7, 1928 – March 3, 2002) was a professional football fullback and halfback. After a brief stint at Loyola University, he decided to transfer to the United States Military Academy (Army) in the spring of 1949 where he played under the renowned Vince Lombardi as his backfield coach. In his 1950 season, he was Army's statistical leader in scoring and rushing, resigned from the school after being involved in an all sports wide cribbing scandal which decimated the ranks of Army's Sports teams. He was drafted by the New York Yanks in the 21st round of the 1951 NFL Draft, and Pollard played a total of 30 games in the NFL with the Yanks and the Philadelphia Eagles, scoring one career touchdown. In 1954, he left the Eagles for opportunity and played in the Western Interprovincial Football Union, later known as the Canadian Football League, for the BC Lions, achieving "All Canadian" status. After retiring from football in 1957, he pursued a number of business ventures in Canada including a beverage distributorship and a well regarded Steakhouse restaurant. He move back to Pennsylvania and became a color commentator on Eagles broadcasts, first with CBS television from 1961–1964, and then on WIP radio, where he worked with play-by-play man Charlie Swift from 1969-1976. Pollard also anchored a postgame Eagles program for WCAU-TV. During his broadcasting years, he worked as a regional sales manager with a large commercial printing company and developed an ice skating and tennis court facility in Berwyn, Pa . He died of lymphoma on March 3, 2002.

Early life and high school[edit]

Pollard was born in Glendale, California, on September 7, 1928.[1] His mother was Phyllis Pollard.[2] He starred as a halfback at Loyola High School, where he excelled at executing T formations. In 1946, his senior year, he scored 23 touchdowns and gained a total of 1,772 yards from scrimmage.[3] These achievements earned him his second consecutive "Player of the Year" award for Southern California high school football players by the Helms Athletic Foundation.[4]

College[edit]

Loyola[edit]

Not heavily recruited by major colleges, Pollard decided to attend Loyola University, now known as Loyola Marymount, where high school coach William H. Sargent would be coaching.[3][5] His 1947 recruiting class was known as the "Golden Boys", and the Los Angeles Times said he was the most glamorous of them.[2] Injuries plagued his redshirt freshman campaign, and he dropped out of Loyola on February 18, 1949.[6] This decision surprised Loyola officials; Pollard said he simply needed rest.[2]

Army[edit]

Pollard transferred to the United States Military Academy on March 22, where he played under coach Red Blaik.[6] Vince Lombardi was their backfield coach.[3] Due to transfer rules, Pollard was forced to sit out the 1949 season, and he enrolled at Rutherford Preparatory School to pass West Point's entrance exam.[7] While at Army, he was known to focus his attention mainly on football, and not care much for academics. Gil Reich, his roommate at West Point, noted that he and several other friends of Pollard frequently helped each other so as to not see anyone drop out.[8]

In his only season on the football team (1950), he was Army's statistical leader in rushing, averaging 7.3 yards per carry, and in scoring, with 83 total points.[3][9] Prior to Army's game with Penn, a scout for the latter team said Pollard was the best fullback in college football.[6] In December, the Helms Athletic Foundation named him to their 1950 All-American team, along with fellow Army cadet Dan Foldberg.[10] He was also named to the Associated Press and United Press All-East teams.[11][12] The Associated Press praised his running capabilities, commenting that "any time he lugs the ball he's liable to go all the way."[11]

Following the end of that season, he was one of the 90 cadets, also including coach Blaik's son, who were forced to resign from the academy because of a cribbing scandal.[3] The scandal was chronicled in the ESPN original film Code Breakers.[13] According to Pollard in a 1951 interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, the whole fiasco "broke [his] heart."[3] Following the scandal, he received scholarship offers from five major schools and a number of smaller ones. Pollard called Moose Krause, athletic director at Notre Dame, about transferring and playing for their football program, but was informed the Notre Dame Fighting Irish had not accepted transfers for six years. Although he was technically a sophomore, Pollard's class had graduated and he declared himself eligible for the 1951 NFL Draft.[14]

Professional career[edit]

National Football League[edit]

Paul Myerberg of USA Today named Pollard the fifth best player from Army to play in the NFL.[15] Pollard was selected by the New York Yanks as the eighth pick in the 21st round of the 1951 NFL Draft and 251st overall.[1] In his third practice with New York, Pollard tore a ligament.[16] He played six games with the Yanks, where he rushed for two yards and received 18. In addition, he returned three punts and five kickoffs for 34 and 134 yards, respectively.[1] The Yanks, who offered him a salary of $7,000, waived him in November, and he was signed to the Philadelphia Eagles for $100.[3]

Finishing the last six games of the 1951 season, he carried the ball 24 times and in the process gained 119 yards.[3] He also recoved two fumbles, returned 15 punts for 114 yards, and returned 14 kickoffs for 326 yards. Pollard's best season statistically was in 1952, when, in 12 games, he rushed for 186 yards and his sole touchdown in the NFL, received eight passes for 59 yards, recovered three fumbles, and returned 28 kickoffs for 528 yards. In 1953, he played in 12 games which saw him rush for 44 yards and receive for 33, recover three fumbles, gain 106 yards in 20 punt returns, and gain 150 yards in 13 kickoff returns.[1]

Pollard was at the center of a small brawl with the San Francisco 49ers in their game on September 28, 1953. The brawl erupted in the fourth quarter, when San Francisco's Charley Powell squared off against Pollard. The Eagles ended up losing 31–21, and Pollard received no disciplinary action, although Powell was ejected.[17]

Western Interprovincial Football Union[edit]

In September 1954, he heard his minutes would be slashed, and after the second exhibition game, Pollard retired from the Eagles.[3] As he was under contract, Pollard was threatened with legal action from General Manager Vince McNally.[18] He avoided the legal tangle by never officially signing with another team again, thus voiding the reserve clause on his contract.[19] Pollard explained his rationale in a 1954 interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer: "I just got fed up... I knew they wouldn't give me much of a chance to play... I carried the ball only 23 times in 12 games last year, so something had to be wrong."[3]

When considering joining the Western Interprovincial Football Union (now Canadian Football League), Pollard reported being given a good deal of propaganda to turn him away.[20] He was picked up by the British Columbia Lions of the WIFU, with whom he played for until 1956. Pollard then played a single season for the Calgary Stampeders in 1957.[3] He did not see much action with the Stampeders and ended his career due to health problems.[21]

Later life and broadcasting career[edit]

While in Canada, Pollard opened a beverage store and a restaurant.[22] He became sports director of CKLG radio station in Vancouver. After moving back to Pennsylvania, Pollard was a color commentator on broadcasts of Eagles games for WIP radio and worked with Charlie Swift, the play-by-play man, from 1969 to 1976. The former anchored a postgame Eagles program for WCAU-TV and occasionally commented for CBS television. His voice and knowledge of sports was praised by Eagles publicist Jim Gallagher.[3]

Between 1976 until the mid-1980s, upon retiring from broadcasting, Pollard owned and managed an ice skating rink and tennis court facility in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. He also was regional sales manager for a large commercial web printing company and participated in organizations such as Eagles Alumni. In addition, he chaired the committee which ran the Liberty Bowl.[3]

Death[edit]

On March 2, 2002, Pollard died at his home in Devon, Pennsylvania, at the age of 73. The stated cause of death was lymphoma.[3] Patricia, his wife of 47 years; children John, Kurt (1962–2007), and Melissa Mozer; and eight grandchildren survived him in death.[22][23] He was buried on March 7 at SS. Peter and Paul Cemetery in Marple Township, Pennsylvania.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Al Pollard Past Stats, Statistics, History, and Awards". DatabaseSports.com. 2006. Archived from the original on 7 August 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c "Al Pollard Quits Lions---'to Rest'". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest Archiver. 19 February 1949. p. B3. Retrieved 24 January 2010. (Subscription required (help)). 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Pray, Rusty (6 March 2002). "Al Pollard, football player, broadcaster". Philadelphia Inquirer. NewsBank. Retrieved 14 December 2009. (Subscription required (help)). 
  4. ^ "Don Swartz, Loyola Tackle, Voted Player of the Year in So. Cal. "AAAA" Football for 1963" (PDF). Helms Athletic Foundation. 30 December 1963. Retrieved 24 January 2010. 
  5. ^ "Series D, Series 9". William H Hannon Library. Loyola Marymount University. Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 25 January 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c Finch, Frank (23 September 1951). "Al Pollard Makes His Local Pro Debut". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest Archiver. p. B13. Retrieved 6 October 2010. (Subscription required (help)). 
  7. ^ Zimmerman, Paul (3 March 1949). "Pollard Trains Sights on Berth at West Point". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest Archiver. p. C1. Retrieved 6 October 2010. (Subscription required (help)). 
  8. ^ Olderman, Murray (6 September 1952). "Pollard, Pollock Present Interesting Study Of Players Involved In West Point Cribbing". Sarasota Herald. Google News Archive. p. 6. Retrieved 18 October 2010. 
  9. ^ "Three Cadets Make All-East". Times-News. Hendersonville, North Carolina: Google News Archive. 1 September 1951. p. 8. Retrieved 27 September 2010. 
  10. ^ "Helms Selects Pair of Bears". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest Archiver. 11 December 1950. p. C3. Retrieved 6 October 2010. (Subscription required (help)). 
  11. ^ a b "Army's Pollard, Blaik, Jr., Make Future Plans". The Lewiston Daily Sun. Associated Press. 1 December 1950. p. 27. Retrieved 27 September 2010. 
  12. ^ "Pollard Named on UP All-East Football Team". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest Archiver. United Press. 28 November 1950. p. C3. Retrieved 6 October 2010. (Subscription required (help)). 
  13. ^ "Code Breakers". ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures. 2007. Retrieved 13 December 2009. 
  14. ^ "Pollard of Army Eyes Yank Eleven". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. 18 August 1951. Retrieved 18 October 2010. 
  15. ^ Myerberg, Paul (7 May 2009). "The Quad Countdown: No. 117 Army". The New York Times College Sports Blog. The New York Times. Retrieved 15 December 2009. 
  16. ^ Frank, Deford (13 November 2000). "Code Breakers". Sports Illustrated. Time, Inc. Retrieved 27 September 2010. 
  17. ^ "Riotous Climax In Eagles-San Francisco Game". The Miami News. Google News Archive. 28 September 1953. p. 25. Retrieved 30 September 2010. 
  18. ^ "Eagles Move to Keep Pollard From Canada". Milwaukee Sentinel. Google News Archive. 24 August 1954. p. 11. Retrieved 15 December 2009. 
  19. ^ "Eagle Ace For Lions". Ottawa Citizen. Google News Archive. 14 April 1955. p. 71. Retrieved 30 September 2010. 
  20. ^ "Gridders Being Told Wrong Info -- Pollard". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Google News Archive. 15 January 1955. p. 18. Retrieved 27 September 2010. 
  21. ^ "Al Pollard Quits; Suspend Lineman". Montreal Gazette. Google News Archive. 19 September 1957. p. 22. Retrieved 25 January 2010. 
  22. ^ a b Florence, Mal (9 March 2002). "Al Pollard, 73; Prep Star Played for Army, Eagles". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest Archiver. p. B17. Retrieved 13 December 2009. (Subscription required (help)). 
  23. ^ "Kurt A. Pollard- Sales representative, 45". Philadelphia Inquirer. NewsBank. 19 October 2007. p. B11. Retrieved 15 December 2009. (Subscription required (help)).