CHAD: Stories about Bud Grant, Bert Rechichar too good not to spread around

SHARE CHAD: Stories about Bud Grant, Bert Rechichar too good not to spread around
SHARE CHAD: Stories about Bud Grant, Bert Rechichar too good not to spread around

To give thanks on this Thanksgiving weekend to a kinder, gentler NFL of yesteryear and to my long-suffering loyal readers, I offer today two remarkable stories from the too-good-to-be-true decade of the 1950s:

– Who is the only person to play in the NBA and the NFL?

– Who is the only person, on his first field-goal attempt, to break the NFL record for longest kick?

The first man, many of you might know. The second man, hardly any of you will know.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Bud Grant, 88, and Bert Rechichar, 85.

Most remember Grant as the longtime coach of the Minnesota Vikings who was 0-4 in Super Bowls. And he was an all-time great on the sidelines, with a 158-96-5 regular-season record in 18 seasons with the Vikings and 11 NFC Central titles in a 13-year span.

But everything about Grant before he became Vikings coach is even more extraordinary.

A three-sport athlete at the University of Minnesota — football, basketball and baseball — Grant was chosen in the fourth round of the NBA draft by the Minneapolis Lakers and in the first round of the NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles.

He left school early to join the Lakers for the 1949-50 season. His season started with a half-court buzzer-beater on his first shot and ended with an NBA championship.

After two seasons averaging 2.6 points with the Lakers, he joined the Eagles in 1951, forgoing George Mikan for Chuck Bednarik and becoming the first — and still only — man to play in the NBA and the NFL.

At defensive end in his rookie season, Grant led the Eagles in sacks. He switched to wide receiver the next season, finishing second in the league with 997 yards on 56 receptions.

He jumped to the Canadian Football League’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1953 and led the Western Conference in receptions three times in four seasons. He also intercepted a CFL-record

five passes in a playoff game Oct. 28, 1953.

In 1957, Grant became the youngest coach in CFL history at age 29. In 10 seasons, he led the Blue Bombers to six Grey Cup appearances and four titles. He then became Vikings coach in 1967, leading them to four Super Bowls. He’s in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

This all sounds like fiction, except it’s fact.

(Column intermission: The Gannon University men’s basketball team is off to an 0-2 start with Stepson of Destiny Isaiah Eisendorf — nine points, eight rebounds a game — looking a bit sluggish. He had better pick up his game.)

Then there’s a fact that sounds like a Ripley’s ‘‘Believe It or Not’’ entry. Say hello to Bert Rechichar.

I discovered Rechichar’s tale by accident online from a wonderful 1997 Baltimore Sun story by the late, great John Steadman.

Rechichar was a hard-hitting defensive back who once, after tackling Heisman Trophy winner Howard ‘‘Hopalong’’ Cassady, told him: ‘‘Listen, Cassady, this ain’t Ohio State. This is the National Football League, and we tear out your eyeballs.’’

During the Baltimore Colts’ home opener on Sept. 27, 1953, against the Bears, Rechichar, a second-year player, returned an interception 36 yards to tie the score 7-7. Then, with four seconds left in the first half, Rechichar was headed to the locker room as Colts kicker Buck McPhail lined up a long field-goal attempt. But Colts assistant Otis Douglas had a second thought and called for Rechichar to come back and try the kick instead of McPhail.

Rechichar trotted back onto the field — not even knowing how long the kick would be — and told holder Tom Keane, ‘‘Get that ball down because I’ve got to go to the bathroom.’’

The kick — his first in the NFL — was good. From 56 yards.

It broke a 19-year-old NFL record for the longest field goal (54 yards by the Lions’ Glenn Presnell in 1934) and remained the record for 17 years (63 yards by the Saints’ Tom Dempsey in 1970).

It gave the Colts a 10-7 lead en route to a 13-9 victory. And Rechichar, thankfully, got to the bathroom in time.

ASK THE SLOUCH

Q. While reading your last installment online, a turkey coupon popped up in the middle of your column. Have you sold out to Madison Avenue, or was this a sign from a higher authority regarding the quality of the second half of your essay? (J.B. Koch, Macomb, Michigan)

A. I don’t much care for the tone of your inquiry.

Q. If Donald Trump engaged Dick Vitale in a debate, how long would it take for either to realize the other was speaking? (Bob Lynch, Albany, New York)

A. If Trump-Vitale were the oratorical version of the Alexander Hamilton-Aaron Burr duel, I don’t think either man survives.

Q. Do you believe in the future of daily fantasy sports? Is it here to stay, or is it the hula hoop? (Thomas Krause, Indianapolis)

A. Three words for you: fantasy synchronized swimming.

Q. Is it true the new Louisville fight song will be Motley Crue’s ‘‘Girls, Girls, Girls’’? (Ron Colter, Alexandria, Virginia)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email asktheslouch@aol.com. If your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

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