This year marks the centennial anniversary of the National Football League (NFL) and we celebrate this great event through the prism of the amazing 21-year career of quarterback Earl Morrall (1934-2014). Morrall is an NFL legend as indicated by his different monikers: King of the Comebacks, the Best of the Back-Ups and the Champion of the Understudy. Any one who has played football at any level or in any venue knows the importance of the quarterback (QB) position, and can relate to the enormous competition to be the signal caller. Morrall exemplified the preparation and commitment to excellence we all strive for, especially in sports. By his own words he said that "when you get the chance to do the job, you have to do the job." Morrall showed why it was prudent to be prepared at a moment's notice for such an opportunity.
Morrall elevated the importance of the understudy, and much more. During the first twelve years of his NFL career he was a backup QB for the San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Detroit Lions and New York Giants. In an era of legendary NFL QBs (Bobby Layne, Norm Van Brocklin, Y.A. Tittle, Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr, et al) Morrall showed himself to be a competent, efficient professional always ready to take the helm when needed if the number one signal caller was unable to play. When Morrall joined the Baltimore Colts, his legend unfolded. Taking over for an injured Johnny Unitas in 1968, Morrall led the Colts to an NFL Championship while earning MVP and All-Pro honors. Two years later, he again came off the bench to replace an injured Unitas, this time in Super Bowl V, to lead the Colts to a last second victory thereby winning the World Championship! Two years later, this time with the Miami Dolphins, Morrall took over as the QB from the injured Bob Griese and helped lead the Dolphins to an undefeated season plus win a playoff game. While Griese returned as the starter for the AFC Title and Super Bowl games to cap the Dolphins' first World Championship, Morrall continued to work closely with head coach Don Shula (who was his former coach while playing for the Colts) in what can best be described as an informal but active player/coach role. Having Morrall available to immediately step into the QB role enabled the Dolphins to not only achieve the only perfect season in NFL history, but go on to repeat as back-to-back Super Bowl champs the very next season! Following his NFL career, Morrall mentored legendary collegiate QBs Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar and Vinny Testaverde at the University of Miami thereby passing along the art of quarterbacking to a new generation.
Ironically, in this the 100th year of the NFL, there has been a rash of injuries to a rather large number of star QBs, thereby again elevating the importance of having a good substitute in the wings. It would seem that NFL teams are all now eagerly searching for this generation's Earl Morrall just in case the situation requires an effective substitute to step in. Earl Morrall showed what it means to be a leader and a great team player. Don Shula described Morrall as an "intelligent quarterback who's won a lot of ball games for me." There have been a lot of NFL QBs who are heroes of the game. While heroes get remembered, legends never die. Earl Morrall was a legend, and now almost 50 years since his stellar gridiron accomplishments, we salute this Galaxy Good Guy as one of the best to ever play the game, albeit in a back-up role!
Please join us in celebrating the centennial anniversary of the National Football League by sharing your favorite NFL football memories with us by posting to the Galaxy FACEBOOK page (and be sure to "like" us when doing so) or via e-mail to the GNN web site. Likewise, I am always receptive to hearing from our wonderful Galaxy audience and/or connecting via LinkedIn.
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