This is the first card in one of the most important football sets ever produced. Norm Van Brocklin had the uncanny ability to perform under pressure. In the 1951 NFL Championship game, he threw a famous 73-yard bomb to receiver Tom Fears to win the game and defeat the Cleveland Browns. That year, Van Brocklin didn't even lead his team in passing, despite some great single-game performances. This was a result of the coach's decision to platoon Van Brocklin with Bob Waterfield. After his retirement, Van Brocklin decided to try his hand at coaching. In 1961, he signed to become the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings and, in 1968, Van Brocklin became the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons. In both cases, the results were mediocre at best but he did help Atlanta to its first winning season during his tenure. The Large version measures approximately 2 ½" by 3 ¾" while the Small version measures approximately 2 1/16" by 3 1/18". This tough, short-printed card is one of the toughest football cards on the list to find in high-grade. Being the #1 card in the set, it was subject to substantial abuse over the years.
Norman Mack “Norm” Van Brocklin (March 15, 1926 - May 2, 1983) (QB) split time as a Los Angeles Ram with fellow Hall of Famer Bob Waterfield, but still led the NFL in passing in 1950, 1952 and 1954. Van Brocklin led the University of Oregon Ducks to a shared Pacific Coast Conference title in 1948. After an All-American season with Oregon, Norm left college to join the NFL and was taken in the fourth round of the 1949 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams. He went on played twelve seasons at quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams (1949-1957) and the Philadelphia Eagles (1958-1960). In 1951, Van Brocklin threw for a still-standing record of 554 yards against the New York Giants, shattering Johnny Lujack’s single-game record of 468. With Waterfield and Van Brocklin calling the plays, the Rams marched to the NFL Championship title over the Cleveland Browns, 24-17, avenging the previous years heartbreaking loss. Norm’s 73-yard touchdown pass to fellow Hall of Famer Tom Fears iced the victory for Los Angeles, the Rams last title until 1999. The passing and receiving corps of that Los Angeles team was one of the greatest ever assembles and featured all future Hall of Famers in Van Brocklin, Waterfield, Fears and Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch.
In 1958, Norm joined the Philadelphia Eagles and promptly led the NFL in pass completions and attempts in his first season. He was a nine-time NFL Pro Bowl selection and was named to the 1960 NFL All-Pro First Team. In 1960, Van Brocklin also led the Eagles to his second NFL League Championship and was named the league’s Most Valuable Player. Norm Van Brocklin finished his playing days with 23,611 passing yards, 1,553 completions in 2,865 attempts and 173 touchdown passes. Also appearing as a punter throughout his career, he punted 523 times for 22,413 total yards. Norm scored 66 points on 11 rushing TDs. Following his playing days, Van Brocklin returned to the sidelines one year later as the head coach of the Minnesota Vikings (1961-1966) where he remained for six seasons, then joined the Atlanta Falcons for seven seasons (1968-1974). He retired from coaching after compiling a 66-100-7 record in 173 games at head coach. Norm Van Brocklin was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1966.