Appreciation – Joe Perry: When 1,000 Yards was 1,000 Yards!


By Harold Bell

On April 25, 2011 the NFL lost one of its “Original Pioneers” Joe Perry.  He was a member of the San Francisco 49ers from 1948 to 1950.  The league was then known as the All- American Football Conference (AAFC).  Mr. Perry was 84 years old.

Joe Perry attended Compton Junior College where he played in the same backfield with “The Mack Man” the great Hugh McElhenny.  Together they were unstoppable winning a championship in 1946.  Mr. Perry scored 22 touchdowns to put the school on the map.

His college career was interrupted when he was drafted into the U. S. Army.  He joined the 49ers in 1948 as what is known today as a “Free Agent.”

Mr. Perry enjoyed a successful 10 year career with the Bay Area team.  He was traded to the Baltimore Colts where he played from 1961-1962.

It was a little kept secret that he had left his heart in San Francisco. He returned there to finish his NFL career in 1963.

He was the first NFL running back to have back to back 1,000 yards (1953-1954).

Today’s NFL running backs measure their success on whether they can gain 1,000 yards while playing twice as many games as the great Joe Perry.  Come on man!

He was nicked name “The Jet” for his 9.7 speed in the hundred yard dash, if he got a step on you the only thing that could stop him was the end zone.

The running backs in today’s NFL that you dare compare with the likes of Steve Van Buren (Philadelphia Eagles), Joe Perry and Jim Brown (Cleveland Browns) are none existent.  Van Buren blazed the path and Perry and Brown followed.

The legendary Van Buren held the career rushing record of 5,680 yards until Mr. Perry broke it in 1963.

“The Greatest” running back ever Jim Brown would later break Mr. Perry’s record!

During his 16 year career Mr. Perry was named to the All-Pro team 3 times (52, 53 and 54) and he was named the NFL’S MVP in 1954.

He was voted on to All-Decade 1950s Team by the voters of the NFL Hall of Fame sharing the fullback position with the Baltimore Colts, Alan “The Horse” Amechie.

The running backs on that 1950s All-Decade Team were Frank Gifford (NY Giants), Hugh McElhenny (San Francisco 49ers), Ollie Matson (Los Angles Rams) and Lenny Moore  (Baltimore Colts).

The QB was the toughest quarterback I have ever seen—the great Bobby Layne of the Pittsburg Steelers, talking about a dream team back field!

With Matson, Moore, Gifford and McElhenny sharing the same turf on any given Sunday Joe Perry led all rushers during the 50s.

He was a class act on and off the field.   Mr. Perry was a sharp dresser and a handsome athlete which help make him a fan favorite.  In 1954 he hosted a popular sports talk, rhythm and blues radio show.  The show was titled “Both Sides of the Record.”

The man who picked him to host the show was San Francisco 49er part-owner Franklin Mieuli.  He was the producer of the team’s radio and television broadcasts.  Mr. Mieuli treated Joe Perry like he was a member of the family.

Despite his small frame (6’0 and 200 pounds) Joe Perry was one of the most durable running backs to ever play in the NFL.  The lifeline of an NFL running back today is 3 to 4 years, some are one and done.

When pro football talks are centered on the great running backs to ever play in the NFL, the measuring stick should be how many average 100 yards a game and 5 yards per carry?

You won’t need but one hand to count them!

Mr. Perry’s durability allowed him to play in 3 separate decades, the 40s, the 50s and the 60s.  He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1969.  Thanks Joe.

Harold Bell is the Godfather of Sports Talk radio and television. Throughout the mid-sixties, seventies and eighties, Harold embarked upon a relatively new medium–sports talk radio with classic interviews with athletes and sports celebrities.  The show and format became wildly popular. Who better than Harold Bell to put together classic interviews with his legendary celebrity friends.

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