You hear the phrase thrown around quite a bit these days. You hears it with Terrell Owens. With Brian Westbrook. LeSean McCoy. DeSean Jackson. You even heard it with Donovan McNabb.
Is he the greatest offensive weapon in Philadelphia Eagles history?
With all due respect to these players, none of them are even close to Steve Van Buren, Hall of Fame running back from more than six decades ago.
Van Buren, who just turned 91 years old, has been forgotten when people talk about Eagles history. Fans instead have chosen to remember the outspoken Chuck Bednarik, a man who was perhaps the most versatile player in franchise history, but wasn’t as valuable to his team as Van Buren.
In eight seasons, Van Buren led the National Football League in carries, rushing yards, and rushing touchdowns four times each. He topped the league in yards per carry for five straight seasons.
He was a magnificent return man as well. He averaged 13.9 yards per punt return, scoring two touchdowns, and he averaged 26.7 yards per kick return, scoring three touchdowns.
Pro-Football-Reference doesn’t even list his defensive position, but he did accumulate nine interceptions throughout his career, including five in his rookie season.
His most impressive performance came in the 1948 NFL championship game against the Chicago Cardinals. Van Buren rushed for 196 yards and the only touchdown of the game on 31 carries. The incredible irony of the situation is that Van Buren almost missed the game. He thought that the game wasn’t going to be played because of a heavy blizzard. So he didn’t even bother getting out of bed until head coach Greasy Neale called him and told him that the game was still on. Van Buren had to catch three trolleys and walk a total of 12 blocks to get to the stadium in time for the game.
He also led the Eagles to a victory in the 1949 championship game, as well as an appearance in the ’47 title game. Two titles and three appearances in three seasons. Depending on your definition, the Eagles had a dynasty during Van Buren’s peak.
Throughout his career, Van Buren was arguably the best player in the entire National Football League. Yet he is always forgotten when people talk about the greatest offensive weapons in franchise history.
And it’s unfortunate. Because as dominant as guys like McCoy, Westbrook, and DeSean have been, they’re nowhere near the player that Steve Van Buren was.