Friday, February 5, 2010

A Steeler Great Passed Away

It's no secret that I'm a Pittsburgh Steelers' homer. The Steelers ARE football to me. During football season, I bleed black and gold. "Bullet" Bill Dudley passed away on 2/4. Unless you're a die hard Steeler's fan or a student of the game, you probably wouldn't recognize his name. But, he was truly a unique football player and an American hero as well. Here's a small portion of his story:

Steelers Hall of Famer Bill Dudley, the only player to lead the National Football League in rushing and interceptions in the same season, died Thursday in Lynchburg, Va., where he had lived since 1951. He was 88.

"Mr. Dudley, known as Bullet Bill, may have been the most versatile player in Steelers history -- running and throwing the football, playing defense, returning kicks, punting and kicking.

"We lost one of the all-time great Steelers," team chairman emeritus Dan Rooney said in a statement from Miami, Fla., site of Super Bowl XLIV. "My father knew Bill very well and admired him as both a player and as a member of society. I became very close to Bill throughout the years. He was a dear friend who will be missed by anyone who knew him."

An All-American at the University of Virginia, Mr. Dudley was the first choice in the 1942 NFL draft and signed a $5,000 contract with the Steelers. As a rookie, he helped the last-place Steelers to a 7-4 record in 1942, the best season in their history at the time, and led the league with 696 rushing yards.

His football career was interrupted by World War II and he spent three years as a B-25 and B-29 pilot in the Pacific. He was discharged in November 1945 and returned to the Steelers for the final three games that season.

In 1946, Mr. Dudley led the league in rushing (604 yards), interceptions (10) and punt returns and was named NFL Most Valuable Player. He set a Steelers record for interception return yardage (242), which stood through the 1991 season. His salary for the season was $12,500.

"He instantly made our team better with his versatility and all-around football skills," Mr. Rooney said.

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