By T.J. TROUP
This article originally appeared in and is republished unabridged in two parts with special permission from Pro Football Journal, a publication dedicated to reporting mainstream and esoteric aspects of professional football. Find them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter: @NFL_Journal, and email them at email@example.com.
The last piece to this title contender is the birthday boy; Ed Husmann would have turned 89 today, and would have relished an opportunity to talk football with him. He is a walk-on at the University of Nebraska out of Ogallala (Lonesome Dove anyone?), and earns the Tom Novak award as a Cornhusker, “(T)he player that best exemplifies courage and determination”. His background in track and basketball in high school demonstrates he has athleticism, and speed.
Ed is the heavyweight college wrestling champion. He is a rookie with the 1953 Chicago Cardinals and learns all about what a losing organization is (1-10-1). After serving our country honorably he returns to the Cardinals in ’56 and is part of the one winning team Chicago has in the decade. There are many so-called sources that list what position a man played, and are incorrect.
Though not a starter on the ’56 Cardinals he plays both defensive tackle and defensive end and starts the final game of the year against the Browns as the left defensive tackle. The Cardinals quickly fall from contention in ’57, and late in the year he starts at right defensive tackle. 1958 he plays every game (not the four listed in the flawed Total Football), and is the starter at right defensive end. Twice during the season he will face Roosevelt Brown; thus an education on going against the best. 1959 he plays, but is not a starter for defensive co-ordinator Wally Lemm, though he is part of the November 1st victory over the Steelers(late in the game Len Dawson finally gets playing time for Pittsburgh at quarterback).
The Cardinals are headed to St. Louis but Ed is headed to Dallas and the expansion Cowboys. Again, hard lessons of losing. He is listed as the starting right defensive tackle for Tom Landry, yet saw him play right defensive end also. The Dallas Cowboys waive Husmann on September 5th, 1961, and he joins the Houston Oilers of the American Football League. When the Oilers are 1-3-1 no doubt Ed thought been down this sad road before, but not for long as Houston runs the table to become champions.
Late in the ’61 season during the winning streak, Husmann plays outstanding football at right defensive tackle, and is very effective rushing the passer and had at least 6½ sacks the last five games of the year. Billy Cannon is voted the MVP of the ’61 title game, and second in the voting—Mr. Ed Husmann. Voted Second-team All-Pro in ’61 you can imagine how he looked forward to ’62 even with a new head coach and new defensive coordinator.
This story will not detail every game for ’62, yet two games for Ed stand out as he recorded 4 sacks in both. Against the New York Titans on October 14th, and against the Dallas Texans on November the 4th in a must-win game.
How many defensive tackles have two 4 sack games in the same season? The list must be very short. Since Ed registered at least 12 sacks during the first 11 games of the year that means over the course of 16 games he garnered 18½ sacks! Evaluating him on film is a study in technique.
Listed at either 235 or 240 lbs, he did not have the size to bullrush offensive guards. Husmann comes out of his stance and fires right into the guard when head up, then uses his hands expertly(wrestling background) to shed his opponent. Ed also would slide over to the gap and knife through into the backfield. At times he would align on the center and draw the double team. He would at times be overpowered by drive blocks, and double teams, but he would fight off the blocks and pursue with a vengeance which is one of his best traits.
When the All-AFL voting was done for ’62 Bud McFadin (very deserving)was unanimous All-Pro, but the other tackle was Jerry Mays? Though a fine player, he did not have the season Ed Husmann did in ’62, and he is relegated to Second-team All-Pro. To end this saga will set the stage and take you to Houston and the title game clash against the Dallas Texans.
For three years the Oilers combined record for the first half of the year is 12-8-1, but down the stretch when it counted the most, a robust 19-2. When you play the Houston Oilers late in the year, best bring your “A” game. Houston had a winning record against all the teams in the AFL for the first three years, except one, yes you guessed it; the Dallas Texans.
October of ’61 Dallas destroyed the Oilers on the ground in a Texan victory, and with a refurbished Len Dawson at the helm this Dallas team is a far cry better than the two previous Texan teams. The injury to all-AFL Chris Burford has convinced coach Hank Stram to adjust his game plan and formations. The Texans will go double tight end, with a flanker—early in the game all-world running back Abner Haynes, and two fullbacks split in the backfield.
The Texans are effective running the ball and building a 17-0 half-time lead. Haynes scores on an out pattern as flanker right beating Banfield and zipping down the sideline to score. Dallas offensive line blocking scheme is effective, and going over the film shows Tyrer down blocking on Husmann, and the guard pulling.
At times Husmann is double teamed by the guard and center, and Gene Babb is nowhere to be found in helping stop the run. Just as they had during the regular season the Oiler defense made excellent half-time adjustments(only 47 points allowed all year in the 3rd quarter). Gowdy and Christman comment that the Oilers look like “tigers” in the second half. The Houston pass rush records 6 sacks for 50 yards(Husmann is the only man to get two), and the re-aligned defensive scheme limits the run. When Dallas loses a fumble; Gowdy calls out who is at the bottom of the pile, and claims it is Husmann. The Game Book states it is Bucky Wegener. Gowdy exclaims during the Oiler rally that Husmann and the “determined defenders” of Houston have impacted the game.
Blanda is cornered by Willard Dewveall at half-time concerning the coverages used by Dallas, and he has all six of his catches in the second half as the Oilers rally to tie the game, and late in 4th quarter Blanda attempts the winning field goal—BLOCKED.
Overtime we go, and now in the 6th quarter the Texans move the ball into field goal range and Tommy Brooker delivers. Dallas dethrones Houston 20-17. Husmann returns in ’63 to the Oilers and with a 6-4 record after ten games still have a chance to win the east, but the four-game losing streak ends the days of Oiler dominance.
Husmann also plays in 1964 and ’65 as his AFL career is coming to a close. He is durable (does not miss a game), but is aging, and heads north to Canada and Edmonton for ’66. Will end this saga with a couple of quotes; first by the best left guard in AFL history in Billy Shaw—”Ed Husmann was the most competitive player he ever met”. Husmann remarked as he is leaving for Canada; “I fought off the rookies for ten years now”.