This past week Philadelphia Eagles legend Steve Van Buren passed away at the age of 91. Ever since I saw an NFL Films feature on him, I have been interested in Van Buren’s historic career.
Listed below is a rundown on a few of Van Buren’s many achievements on the gridiron.
Firsts achieved by Van Buren…
- The first ever NFL player to tally 4,000 and 5,000 career rushing yards.
- The first ever player to officially tally more than 17 touchdowns in a season. He scored 18 touchdowns in 1945. His 15 rushing touchdowns that season were also a NFL first.
- The first ever NFL player to score more than 60 career rushing touchdowns. Van Buren finished his career with 69 rushing touchdowns.
- The first and only player from the Eagles to lead the league in rushing. Van Buren led the league in rushing four times (1945, 1947, 1948, and 1949).
- First Eagles player to be selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was inducted in 1965.
- First ever NFL player to rush for 1,000 yards or more in two different seasons. Ran for 1,008 yards in 1947, and 1,146 yards in 1949.
- First Eagle to rush for over 200 yards in a game. He is still one of only two Eagles to ever pull off the feat (Duce Staley the other in 2000).
- The first Eagles player to rush for three touchdowns in a game.
- The first Eagles player to rush for 100 yards or more in three and four consecutive games.
|10/31/1948||at Pittsburgh Steelers||22-109 yards|
|11/7/1948||at New York Giants||25-143 yards|
|11/14/1948||vs. Boston Yanks||16-137 yards|
|11/21/1948||vs. Washington Redskins||29-171 yards|
- Van Buren was the first player from the state of Louisiana to be drafted in the first round of the NFL draft.
Records that Van Buren still owns today…
- Van Buren holds the NFL record for most consecutive seasons leading the league in rushing attempts. For four seasons (1947-1950) Van Buren led the league in carries.
- Van Buren shares the NFL record for most consecutive seasons (three) leading the league in rushing touchdowns. He led the league in rushing touchdowns from 1947-1949. The last player to match the feat was the Browns’ Leroy Kelley from 1966-1968.
- Against the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 27th, 1949, Van Buren rushed for 205 yards; it’s still an Eagles’ team record for most rushing yards in a game.
- The Eagles record for most rushing touchdowns in a game is three. It’s record that Van Buren first set and still shares with five other players.
- The Eagles leader in career kickoff return average (26.7 yards per return).
- Van Buren’s 15.3 yards per punt return in 1944, is still an Eagles’ team record.
- In a game against the New York Bulldogs in 1949, Van Buren had 35 rushing attempts. It’s a team record that has only been matched by Heath Sherman.
- In 1947, Van Buren scored at least one rushing touchdown in eight consecutive games. It’s an Eagles’ record to this day.
League records that Van Buren once held…
- Career rushing record. In only his sixth season, Van Buren became the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. His 5,860 career rushing yards was the record until 1958, when Joe Perry of the San Francisco 49ers passed it.
- Single-season rushing record. On two occasions Van Buren set the NFL’s single-season rushing record. In 1947, Van Buren broke the mark previously set by the Chicago Bears’ Beattie Feathers, with 1,008 yards. In 1949, Van Buren broke his own mark running for 1,146 yards. A record that stood until 1958, when Jim Brown broke it.
- Career rushing touchdown record. When Van Buren retired in 1951, he rushed for 69 career touchdowns; a league record. It was a record that stood until 1961, when Joe Perry broke it.
- Most rushing yards in a championship game. In the 1949 NFL Championship Game, Van Buren ran for 196 yards in a 14-0 victory over the Los Angeles Rams. It was a record that would last until the calendar year of 1988, when Timmy Smith broke it with 204 yards in Super Bowl 22.
Some memorable games…
- Playing on a snow packed field in the 1948 NFL Championship, Steve Van Buren led the Eagles to their first ever league title with a 7-0 victory over the Chicago Cardinals. The difference was a 5-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter by Van Buren. Despite playing on a slick field, Van Buren ran the ball for 96 yards on 26 carries. Van Buren who had a poor performance in the 1947 NFL Championship (26 yards on 18 carries), fully redeemed himself.
- Running on a rain-soaked field in the 1949 NFL Championship, Van Buren ran the ball 31 times for a championship game record of 196 yards. The Eagles beat the Rams 14-0, winning back-to-back league titles.
- In a game vs. the Steelers in 1949, Steve Van Buren ran the ball for 205 yards. At the time he was one of only two players to ever record a 200-yard game since the NFL started keeping records in 1932. The Eagles won 34-17.
- In his rookie season in 1944, Van Buren rushed for 129 yards against the Brooklyn Tigers. It was his first 100-yard game. Van Buren’s 70-yard run in the game would turn out to be the longest touchdown run of his career. The Eagles won 21-7.
- In a late season game against the New York Giants in 1945, Van Buren returned the second half kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. It was the longest touchdown of his career. Despite a 21 point third quarter lead (all Van Buren touchdowns), the Eagles would lose the game 28-21.
Don’t forget Van Buren’s college career at Louisiana State…
- Van Buren’s 847 yards on the ground in 1943, was a LSU mark that wouldn’t be eclipsed until 1970.
- In 1943, Van Buren scored 98 points (14 TDs, 14 XPs); a team record at the time. He also led college football in scoring that season.
- Van Buren’s seven 100-yard games in 1943, is still a LSU record tied with Charles Alexander (1977) and Kevin Faulk (1996).
- Against Georgia in 1943, Van Buren rushed for a then team record 144 yards.