Musing from your Post Master General
So here we are, week eight of the NFL season. Before we know it, there will be more regular season football behind us than ahead of us. Last night, week eight was ushered in with an NFC South battle as the Carolina Panthers beat up on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by a score of 31 to 13. Personally I wasn’t watching this game as I was tuned into Game Two of the World Series. I love watching something with a championship atmosphere and the respectability that surrounds it. The next featured player in our series recognizing the contributions of Hispanics and Latino Americans in the NFL entitled Football Americano, brought just that to the franchise he played for. With the arrival of Steve Van Buren in Philadelphia, the Eagles became winners. Van Buren would become a favorite son of the City of Brotherly Love as he quickly became one of their own. However, his life began in a much different, somewhat surprising setting.
“Wham Bam” Steve Van Buren was born on December 28th, 1920 in the Caribbean port city of La Ceiba, Honduras. The son of a fruit inspector, Van Buren was the descendant of real Caribbean Pirates on his fathers side. Van Buren grew up away from La Ceiba on the crocodile and coconut paradise of Utila Island, also in Honduras. At the age of ten, Van Buren became an orphan and was sent to live with family in New Orleans. It was there he would learn his future trade of football. He would end up earning a scholarship to play for Louisiana State University and by his senior season, he lead the nation in touchdowns as a half back.
Due to his success in college, the Philadelphia Eagles selected him in the first round of the 1944 draft. The Eagles had never finished above fourth place before his arrival but that would soon change. By his second season he led the league in rushing. He would lead the league in rushing four more times after that but that is not what he would be remembered for in Philly sports lore. In 1948, Van Buren lead the Eagles to their first ever NFL championship. This game was played in a blizzard and Van Buren scored the only touchdown of the game. The next year the feat was repeated as the Eagles won the championship again in 1949. This time Van Buren rushed for a than NFL record 196 yards in the final game.
This would not be the only record he would set during his career. After an injury forced Steve Van Buren to retire after the 1952 season, he held the NFL records for career rushing and career rushing touchdowns. He was named All-Pro seven times and his number 15 was retired by the Eagles as well. All of these accomplished merited enshrinement in the hallowed halls of Canton. At his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 1965 the soft spoken Van Buren stated simply “I won’t say much, but it’s a great honor to be here.” With that, Van Buren faded into quiet retirement.
On August 23rd 2012 at the age of 91, Steve Van Buren passed away. He will be remembered as a pioneer and a cornerstone of the early NFL. His hard nosed rushing style inspired a generation of NFL running backs that followed. Though because of his American sounding name, many people did not know of his Latino heritage. Still, it is safe to say that Van Buren was the first great Hispanic American team sports star and he will be remembered as such.
Thanks for reading and following our series, Football Americano. Please click the following link and read all our previous profiles. Don’t forget to check back next Friday to view the next edition. Thanks again.
photos courtesy of profootballhof.com, wikicommons