Cotton Bowl QB Set Unbreakable Record
By Joe Guzzardi
Sports’ fans love to compile lists of accomplishments that are unlikely to be equaled. Here’s a sampling. On March 2, 1962, Wilt Chamberlain, then playing for the Philadelphia Warriors, scored 100 points against the New York Knicks. In 1946, the Cincinnati Reds’ Johnny Vander Meer tossed back-to-back no-hitters against the Boston Bees and the Brooklyn Dodgers. In 2022, pitchers completed only .01 percentage of the games they started, let alone tossing 18 consecutive hitless innings within four days. Speaking of no-hitters, Nolan Ryan’s total of seven over his 27-year career is safe for the same reason Vander Meer’s is—pitchers don’t finish their starts.
But an extensive Internet review of impressive sports accomplishments all overlooked one outstanding performance. And since football fans are reveling in the non-stop televised bowl season that began on Dec. 16, and ends on Jan. 9 when the National Championship Game will be played, 42 games total, today’s a good time to turn back the clock to the 1946 Cotton Bowl. In the match up between the University of Texas Longhorns and the University of Missouri Tigers, Longhorns’ quarterback Bobby Layne accounted for every single point scored in his team’s 40-27 win. A You Tube video of Layne’s Cotton Bowl action is here. Don’t expect anything remotely comparable to happen again.
Layne was also an outstanding Longhorns’ hurler who posted a 39-7 record that included two no-hitters, and he drew offers from the New York Giants, the Boston Red Sox, and the St. Louis Cardinals. Choosing not to endure the long grind up from Class D to the big leagues, Layne opted for the NFL.
That Jan. 1 in Dallas 1946 marked the beginning of Layne’s legendary college and professional career which spanned 18 years from 1944 to 1962, and produced a four-time All-Southwest Conference pick, six-time Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections, a spot on the NFL’s 1950s All Decade team, and 1967 induction into the NFL Hall of Fame. In 1995, Sports Illustrated named Layne the “toughest quarterback who ever lived” and in 1999, the Sporting News placed him #52 on its list of 100 greatest players. Layne’s gridiron success came despite his notorious partying which meant that he was often hung over at kick off, and his teammates recalled, imbibing a few quick ones at half-time.
In Detroit, Layne is remembered ingloriously for the successful curse he put on his former team, the Lions, after they traded him to the Pittsburgh Steelers. During the early 1950s, Layne and the Lions dominated the NFL. With Layne under center, the Lions won three championships. Layne partied on, but his antics exhausted the Lions’ front office. In 1958, the defending champion Lions traded Layne to the Pittsburgh Steelers. On his way out the door, a disappointed and angry Layne predicted that the Lions wouldn’t win again for 50 years; Layne’s famous hex worked. On the 50th anniversary of Layne’s curse, the Lions went 0-16. Along with the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Houston Texans, the Lions are one of three teams that have never appeared in a Super Bowl.
When Layne retired in 1963, he owned the NFL records for passing attempts 3,700, completions, 1,814, touchdowns, 196, and yards passing, 26,768. He left as one of the last to play without a face mask, and was credited with creating the two-minute drill. Doak Walker, Layne’s Hall of Fame running back said, “Layne never lost a game…time just ran out on him.”
Heavy drinking and wild living took years off Layne’s life. Layne partied hard and died young. In 1986, liver failure took Layne at age 59. “My only request,” he once said, “is that I draw my last dollar and my last breath at precisely the same instant.”
Joe Guzzardi is a Society for American Baseball Research member. Contact him at email@example.com