Legendary Philadelphia Eagles running back Steve van Buren has passed away at the age of 91. Van Buren was a star on the 1948 and 1949 world championship teams and was instrumental in their success. During his 8 seasons in an Eagles uniform he led the league in rushing 4 times; he is still the only member of the organization to accomplish that feat. His dominance earned him an induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965.
Van Buren possessed size and speed that was rare for his era. Coming in at 6’1” and 210 pounds, he was the size of most linemen. At the same time, he was among the fastest men in the league. That combination of size and speed translates well to any era, as his success indicates.
Many fans who were not previously familiar with him heard van Buren’s name quite a bit last year when current Eagles running back LeSean McCoy started breaking some of the Eagles records that van Buren set decades ago. McCoy broke the Eagles single season touchdown record (van Buren previously set it with 18) and the rushing touchdown record (van Buren had 15). Despite McCoy’s success, van Buren still holds several club records: rushing yards in a single game (205), rushing touchdowns (69) and highest career kickoff return average (26.7).
Many of his teammates credit van Buren with the team’s resurgence that began with his arrival in 1944. In the 1949 championship game, which the Eagles won 14-0, van Buren ran for 196 yards, but he still thought he could have done better. He was quoted in a 1988 interview as saying: “That was probably my best game. I had bigger [yardage] days but that one was for the title. I could have gained 400 yards but I got tired out. A couple times I was in the clear and fell from exhaustion.” If that is not the statement of a man confident in his abilities, I don’t know what is.