Tommy McDonald

Posted: August 12, 2007

4 Tommy McDonald. He was of boundless energy and without a fear, that little spark plug with no face mask. Tommy McDonald wasn't defined by his size or his stature. It was his immeasurable heart that made him, a halfback turned wide receiver, one of the greatest Eagles of all time.

No matter who delivered the blow - Ray Nitschke, Dick Butkus, Night Train Lane, or another locomotive from the day - McDonald always bounced back, regardless of how his body wanted to react. His toughness became his hallmark, and he laughed every time.

The 5-foot-9, 176-pound McDonald caught 287 passes for 5,499 yards and 66 touchdowns in seven seasons in Philadelphia. In 1961, he led the NFL with 64 catches for 1,144 yards and 13 touchdowns. The next season, he nearly equaled those numbers (58, 1,146, 10).

For five consecutive seasons, from 1959 through 1963, McDonald went to the Pro Bowl. He caught a 35-yard touchdown pass in the 1960 NFL championship game that helped the Eagles beat the Green Bay Packers, 17-13.

And for his career - which included stints in Dallas, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Cleveland - the elusive McDonald, who wracked up yards after the catch, averaged 17 yards per reception.

But this number might best define McDonald: Three. He missed only three games out of 155 in his career because of injury, two because of a torn hamstring and one because of a swollen knee.

It wasn't that McDonald didn't get hurt. He just didn't let an injury slow him.

In 1959, McDonald had his jaw wired shut, and, incredibly the next week he scored four touchdowns. He broke four helmets, but never his nose. And in 1998, 25 years after he first became eligible, McDonald became the smallest player enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

His performance on the stage that day in Canton, Ohio, was vintage McDonald: Tough, emotional, giddy and real.

No one, not even the Hall voters, could keep McDonald down.

"All my life, all I ever heard was, 'You're too small. You'll only get hurt,' " McDonald told The Inquirer's Bill Lyon on the eve of his enshrinement. "Well, sir, I made that my fuel. That was what fed my engine. I'd show 'em."

And his reaction to the hits that just kept coming?

"I made that my signature, that bouncing up after a hit," McDonald said. "And, oh, that'd make them mad. I was dying, but I didn't want to let them know that. I didn't want to let them know I was hurt. I did want them to know they weren't going to intimidate me."

No one ever did.

- Ashley Fox


 

Tommy McDonald

Eagles Honor Roll: 1988

Position: Receiver-halfback

College: Oklahoma

With Eagles: 1957-63

NFL championship: McDonald had 13 TDs during the 1960 championship season, plus one in the title game.

Records: At the time of his retirement, he ranked second all-time in touchdowns (84), fourth in yards (8,410), and sixth in receptions (495).

Hall of Fame: 1998

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|