RAY DIDINGER COLUMN
When the Eagles meet the Atlanta
Falcons on September 6, it will be in the
role of defending World Champions. They
haven’t been in that position very often -
just three previous times to be exact.
The last time was September 1961,
and no one who was there will forget
what happened when the curtain went
up. Timmy Brown returned the opening
kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown,
and the Eagles went on to defeat the
Cleveland Browns, 27-20, before a
packed house at Franklin Field. It was a
breathtaking start to the season.
The 105-yard return was the longest in
franchise history, and the record stood
for more than half a century. It was finally
broken in 2014 by Josh Huff who scored on
a 107-yard return against the Tennessee
Titans. What it was, really, was a preview
32 PHILADELPHIA EAGLES GAMEDAY MAGAZINE
of what was to come as Brown emerged as
an NFL star in the 1960s.
“Timmy is just coming into his own,”
Eagles coach Nick Skorich said after the
game. “He has a lot of talent, and we’re
going to give him more opportunities.
He’s an exciting player. He demonstrated
Green Bay originally drafted Brown
but Vince Lombardi, who rarely made
a mistake in player evaluation, cut him
after he fumbled in a preseason game.
The Eagles claimed the 5-11, 185-pound
halfback and he returned punts and
kickoffs for the team during the 1960
championship season. Of course, the
Eagles won the title game over Lombardi’s
Packers, 17-13, so Brown got the last laugh.
I still remember the 105-yard return. I
was sitting in Section EE with my parents
and grandparents when Brown fielded Lou
Groza’s kickoff. From where we were sitting
it looked like Brown was more than 5 yards
deep in the end zone. It was so deep that
we couldn’t believe it when he ran it out.
“What the heck is he doing?” I thought.
But he flew through the first wave of
defenders and found an open lane in the
middle of the field. He breezed past the
lumbering Groza and pulled away from the
Cleveland pursuit to score the touchdown.
I still remember the sight of Browns coach
Paul Brown in his suit and tie, hands on his
hips, glaring at his players as they came off
After the game, Brown was asked why he
decided to run the ball out.
“I was just excited,” he said. “It was the
start of the season. All summer, all during
(training) camp, I couldn’t wait for this day.
‘WE’RE STILL THE CHAMPS’
THE EAGLES HAVEN’T BEEN IN POSITION TO DEFEND A TITLE SINCE 1961.
TIMMY BROWN PROVIDED THE BEST START POSSIBLE TO THAT SEASON.
BY RAY DIDINGER