[With 14 days until the start of training camp, we take a look back at the career of quarterback Eddie LeBaron. LeBaron spent seven seasons with the Washington Redskins.]
Last season, quarterback Robert Griffin III set an NFL record for the most rushing yards by a rookie quarterback.
For now, it appears that his 815 rushing yards and 3,200 passing yards will be the foundation of what will be a career filled with jaw-dropping moments through the air and battles on the ground for that much needed extra yard.
Football “purists” don’t necessarily agree with what they might call an unorthodox playing style behind center. They need look no further than 80 Greatest Redskin Eddie LeBaron, though, as proof that you don’t have to come from a “traditional” mold to have a fruitful career in the NFL.
Eddie LeBaron was born and raised in California where he attended the University of the Pacific despite originally committing to Stanford University.
In his freshman season at Pacific, LeBaron was coached by the legendary Alonzo Stagg. He would lead the Tigers to an undefeated 11-0 record. In nine of those 11 victories LeBaron and Co. scored at least 45 points. After stringing together a series of prolific performances, LeBaron garnished national attention and Heisman Trophy talk.
Before we continue any further, for those of you who don’t know, LeBaron stood at an astonishing 5-7, nearly half-a-foot below the average height of quarterbacks past and present.
Because of his diminutive stature in comparison to his colleagues, professional franchises steer cleared of the quarterback in fear that his lack of size was going to negate his peerless skillset. The Washington Redskins, however, weren’t one of those teams. In the 10th round of the 1950 NFL Draft, LeBaron was selected by the Burgundy and Gold.
Despite his raving reviews as a football player, the California native had a different post-college career in mind though—serving in the Korean War.
After a two-year stint overseas serving our country, LeBaron return to the Redskins in 1952 ready to get back to the game that he loved.
In his rookie season, LeBaron was second on the quarterback depth chart behind the one and only Sammy Baugh. The 1963 Hall of Fame inductee was entering the last of his 16 memorable years with the Redskins.
LeBaron, however, still saw regular game action both as a quarterback and the team’s primary punter. He would throw 14 touchdown passes on the season and punt for over 2,000 yards. Numbers that earned him a nod on the NFL’s All-Rookie Team.
Part of LeBaron’s magic behind throwing a team-high 14 touchdown passes was his unmatchable ability to “hide” the football from defenses.
Offensive lineman Jim Ricca said it best of his fake out skills per The Redskins Encyclopedia.
“Eddie was a magician with the ball. You never knew who had the ball, he was so slick.
“I remember one time three different players on the defensive line got confused and all of a sudden Eddie’s standing in the end zone with the ball. He rolled out and had the ball on his hip, and he was gone. He was elusive and tricky, and he was so short that people couldn’t really see him.”
Despite the fact that No. 14 had established himself as a capable quarterback at the professional level, head coach Curly Lambeau was still unsure of whether he was the best option for the team at quarterback going forward. As a result, LeBaron bolted to the CFL for one season before returning in 1955 under new leader Joe Kuharich.
LeBaron would start eight games upon his return to the States and was honored with the first of four Pro Bowl appearances.
In 1959, after a seven-year career with the Washington Redskins, LeBaron decided to hang up his helmet in pursuit of a career in law. During his time away from the field, LeBaron had taken classes at George Washington University Law School to prep himself for a third career.
He’s career path steered towards a law firm in the heart of Texas, but after a quick reroute he found himself in Dallas—on the expansion Cowboys.
LeBaron struggled at times to replicate the success he had during his team with the Redskins, winning only four games in four years before retiring for good following the 1963 season.
Regardless of the naysayers who thought his height would render him incapable of making an impact on the professional level, the “Little General” is one of the 80 Greatest Redskins.
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