Legendary football coach Pop Warner once called Ernie Nevers , "the greatest player I ever coached."
High praise from a man who also tutored the great Jim Thorpe. Nevers is not as well known as Thorpe or Red Grange, his primary rival from the late '20's and early '30's.
Still, Nevers is considered one of the best players in NFL history. He was an all-league pick in each of his five years and was a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963. He also owns an NFL record that may never be broken.
November 28th marked the 70th anniversary of one of the greatest regular season games in the history of the NFL. On that day in 1929, Nevers accomplished a feat that's never been matched: 40 points in one game.
Nevers was a multi-sport star at Stanford, but it was football where he made his mark. He could do it all-run, pass and kick.
The 6-foot, 205-pound fullback turned pro in 1926, signing with the Duluth Eskimos for a reported $15,000 and a percentage of the gate. Duluth owner Ole Haugsrud wasted no time in capitalizing on the popularity of his new star, renaming the team the Ernie Nevers Eskimos.
The Eskimos went on a barnstorming tour in 1926, in which Nevers played nearly every minute of every game. Out of 1, 740 possible minutes, he was on the field for all but 26 minutes, though some reports say it was 29. Either way, it was an astonishing accomplishment.
Nevers' activities weren't limited to the football field. He also spent parts of three seasons as a pitcher with the St. Louis Browns from 1926-28. However, his performance on the diamond couldn't compare to his feats on the gridiron as he went 6-12 with a 4.64 ERA in 44 appearances during his brief baseball career. Although Nevers sat out the '28 football season to recover from injuries and assist Warner at Stanford, he returned with a vengeance in 1929. Duluth had folded after the '27 season so Nevers came back to the NFL as a member of the Chicago Cardinals. The uniform had changed, but the time away didn't hurt Nevers on the field.
He never performed better than that Thanksgiving Day in '29. The game was billed as a duel between Nevers and Grange of the Chicago Bears.
Instead it turned into a one-man show.
Nevers scored every point in the Cardinals' 40-6 rout of the Bears. He rushed for six touchdowns and kicked four extra points, setting a record for most points in a game. It's the NFL's longest-standing individual record.
When asked about the game, Bears coach George Halas said simply, "The final score: Bears 6, Nevers 40."
Four days earlier, Nevers had scored all 19 points in a win over Dayton. The effort against the Bears gave him 59 consecutive points. It might have been more were it not for some missed extra points.
It isn't easy to find memorabilia featuring Nevers, but there are items available. While most Nevers football cards come from recent releases, there are some vintage cards, though most of those were produced after his playing career had ended.
At the top of the list are a 1926 Sport Company of America card and a 1939 Gridiron Great Blotters. Other vintage cards include a 1935 Wheaties Fancy Frames, a 1937 Kellogg's Pep Stamps and a 1955 Topps All-American (#56), which is currently valued at $300, according to the Sportscard Mrket Report (SMR). There are also a couple of Zeenuts baseball cards featuring Nevers from 1929 and '30. Both are considered the most valuable in their respective sets.