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75 years and a bird’s eye view

He was the little man that, at 5-feet 9-inches and 172 pounds, helped bring pride to the city of Philadelphia in the form of an NFL Championship in 1960. Tommy McDonald played professional football for 12 years between the years 1957 and 1968, seven of which he played for the Philadelphia Eagles. In 1998, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. He was selected to the Pro Bowl six times, led the league in touchdown receptions twice and finished his career with an astounding one touchdown for every 5.9 receptions. Famed NFL Head Coach Vince Lombardi once said, “If I had 11 Tommy McDonalds, I’d win a championship every year.”

Born in 1934, McDonald is only a year younger than the Philadelphia Eagles franchise. Originally from New Mexico, McDonald currently resides in the King of Prussia area and considers himself a lifetime Eagle. With the Eagles celebrating their 75th anniversary this season, McDonald took time to talk about the team’s history, reminisce about his career and converse with the Waltonian.

On being the last non-kicker to play in the NFL without a facemask:

“I didn’t like it because it was in front of me. Now I started wearing it at first-and you’ll see some pictures of me wearing the facemask-but when I saw that it bothered my eyes and seeing the ball and everything like that, I didn’t want to have it.”

“A lot of times, when I got hit, they usually were aiming for my head. They did break my jaw and I even played with my jaw wired shut. We played against New York and I scored four touchdowns so the general manager told me, ‘Maybe we better start breaking your jaw more often.'”

On his astounding athletic ability that enabled him to switch from playing halfback to wide receiver in the NFL:

“I was a halfback all the time-at Oklahoma and in high school. My rookie year, about the seventh game of the season, Bill Stribling, the receiver, got hurt on the outside. With me playing the halfback position, they knew I had good speed so they put me out there to see how I could do and I caught a 61-yard touchdown and a 25-yard touchdown so they came to me after the game and said, ‘You’re going to be a receiver from now on, you’re not going to be a halfback anymore.'”

On the cross he wore in every football game he played in:

“I wore my cross in my pants and out of the 155 games that I played in I only missed three games. I think it did some good.”

On his pick for the greatest Eagle of all time:

“I would say Chuck Bednarik would be there, but, I have to put [Norm] Van Brocklin there. I would have to take Van Brocklin over Chuck because Van Brocklin helped to score touchdowns and I think that’s a lot harder to do than just hit a guy like Bednarik was doing.”

“Without Van Brocklin we would never have won [the 1960 Championship]. That was the only team that Vince Lombardi didn’t beat [in a championship game].”

On Donovan McNabb and the Eagles’ chances of success:

“McNabb is the quarterback. I would love to have played with him. God knew what He was doing when He made [McNabb].”

On his faith and the way it played into his career as an NFL player:

“I’ve always been a Christian, but it took me a while to realize that God had so much to do with a person’s life. As far as I’m concerned God is our quarterback. He’s your quarterback, He’s my quarterback. Everyday is gameday, and He’s gonna test you anytime, anywhere.

“You’re either gonna be on God’s team or you’re gonna be on the devil’s team. I wanna be on God’s team. I wanna win the Super Bowl because God’s gonna win the Super Bowl.”

On Philadelphia sports fans:

“You can’t say they’re awesome. You can’t say they’re super because there is no word to describe them. They’re enormous! The fans make Philadelphia number one.”

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