Running back Corey Dillon was shoeless at a press conference in October, 2000, when the Bengals honored their star for his 278-yard rushing effort against the Broncos.
Thats because Pro Football Hall of Fame historian Joe Horrigan was on hand to claim Dillons cleats for display after Dillon broke Walter Paytons 23-year-old record for rushing yards in a game.
I sincerely hope theyll give you another pair, Horrigan quipped.
They did, as well as another jersey to replace the one that Horrigan was there to collect for Canton, too. Its a pleasant task that Horrigan, the Halls vice president of communications and exhibits, has performed before. The Hall collected Dillons jersey after he broke Jim Browns single-game rookie rushing mark in 1997.
The Hall also was there after Payton became the NFLs all-time leading rusher in 1984. And after Jerry Rice broke the career record for touchdowns seven years ago. And after Gary Anderson eclipsed the record for career points last season.
But neither Horrigan nor any other Hall of Fame executive has collected memorabilia from a player immediately after he broke the record for points in a game.
After all, Horrigan has worked there only 24 years. The Hall has been open only 38 years. But Ernie Neverss record of 40 points in a game, set in 1929, has stood more than seven decades.
Whoever said that records were made to be broken was right. Every record established in the first few decades of the NFLs existence since has been eclipsed. Except one. Neverss record is the oldest individual mark in the NFL Record & Fact Book.
You wouldnt think it would be the hardest record to break, says Horrigan, who gives that distinction to Johnny Unitass streak of 47 consecutive games with a touchdown pass (1956-1960).
On November 28, 1929, Nevers scored all of the Chicago Cardinals points in a 40-6 victory over the Chicago Bears at Comiskey Park. The Pro Football Hall of Fame fullback scored touchdowns on runs of 20, 4, 6, 1, 1, and 10 yards, and kicked 4 extra points.
Nevers was undeterred by the rock-hard, frozen field. Then again, an icy surface hardly would rank high among Neverss personal list of obstacles.
As a collegiate player at Stanford, he missed much of the 1924 season with a broken ankle. Though not fully recovered, he returned to the lineup late in the season -- only to break the other ankle. Effectively playing on two broken ankles stabilized by coach Pop Warners home-rigged aluminum braces, Nevers rushed for 114 yards against Notre Dame and its Four Horsemen in the 1925 Rose Bowl. Neverss effort was so monumental that he earned co-player-of-the-game honors despite Notre Dames lopsided 27-10 victory.
In 1926, Nevers joined the Duluth Eskimos and immediately became the NFLs biggest drawing card. The Eskimos embarked on a 29-game barnstorming tour in September, 1926, and didnt return until February, 1927. Neverss contract called for him to play at least 25 minutes a game; he was insulted at the low figure and played all but 29 minutes of the entire grueling schedule.
It was the best time of our football lives, he said years later.
Nevers enjoyed it so much that no injury was going to keep him from the lineup.
Besides, he said, we didnt have a doctor or a trainer.
After two years with the Eskimos, Nevers did not play football in 1928. He returned in 1929 for three seasons with the Cardinals and was an all-league selection each year. He was a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963.
Nevers was a tremendous all-around athlete. In 1926, he joined Major League Baseballs St. Louis Browns and doubled off future Hall of Fame pitcher Walter Johnson in his first at bat. The most notable feat of Neverss pitching career, however, was serving up 2 of the 60 home runs that Babe Ruth hit in 1927. Nevers was an accomplished basketball player, too, and some historians credit him with inventing the hook shot as a high school player.
Still, Neverss lasting claim to fame is the record 40 points he scored for the Cardinals on Thanksgiving Day, 1929.
But there are built-in deterrents to breaking Neverss record. The most obvious is that a team first has to score more than 40 points. There would have to be a minimum of 6 offensive touchdowns by one team. And with only 6 touchdowns, a player would have to score at least 2 two-point conversions.
And in todays style of play, even if a team gets so many offensive touchdowns, its going to be doing it from all over the field, with everyone getting into it, not just one running back, Horrigan says.
Only a handful of players have come close to Neverss mark.
One of the biggest threats to Neverss record was Paul Hornung, a prolific touchdown scorer for the Packers in the fifties and sixties who also kicked field goals and extra points. Hornungs biggest day came when he scored 33 points in a 45-7 rout of Baltimore in 1961. Four years later, on the same day that Chicagos Gale Sayers scored 6 touchdowns against the 49ers, Hornung had 5 touchdowns in a 42-27 victory over the Colts. But by then, Green Bay had turned to veteran Don Chandler to handle the kicking chores.
Clevelands Dub Jones is the only person other than Sayers to score 6 touchdowns in a game.
Joness day came on a contentious afternoon in Cleveland on November 25, 1951, in a game in which the defending NFL-champion Browns and the Bears were whistled for 37 penalties totaling 374 yards -- league records that still stand.
There was such intensity, Jones says. It was a hard-hitting game.
Jones scored touchdowns on runs of 4, 11, 27, and 42 yards and caught a 34-yard touchdown pass as Cleveland built a 35-7 lead in the fourth quarter. Though the game was well in hand, Browns coach Paul Brown and quarterback Otto Graham were aware that Jones needed 1 more score to equal Neverss record for touchdowns in a game.
Ordinarily, we wouldnt have thrown a pass with the score like it was, Jones says. But someone had called down from the press box and alerted them that I was close to a record.
From Chicagos 44-yard line, Jones caught Grahams bomb at the 7 and scored to make it 42-7. Jones scored each of the last five times he touched the ball.
Im really proud that it came in such a big game, Jones says. This was not against a pushover team.
Nor was Sayerss performance at Wrigley Field in the next-to-last game of 1965. San Francisco had won four in a row and still had a long-shot chance at the Western Conference title.
It had rained in the days leading up to the game, and the field was muddy.
I didnt think we were going to score a lot of points that day, Sayers says.
But Sayers took a screen pass and sprinted 80 yards for a touchdown less than three minutes into the first quarter. That opened the floodgate. Before it was over, Sayers scored on runs of 21, 7, 50, and 1 yard, and returned a punt an electrifying 85 yards for a sixth touchdown.
Halas actually took Sayers out of the game after his last touchdown run. Though fans chanted for Sayers, Halas refused to put his rookie star back in the game, even when the Bears drove to the 49ers 1-yard line. Halas, however, did allow Sayers to return a punt, which didnt figure to end in a record-tying touchdown.
Sayers had other ideas. After fielding the punt at his 15-yard line, he broke a tackle, then cut back at midfield and raced down the left sideline for his sixth touchdown of the day.
It capped a spectacular performance by Sayers, who gained 336 all-purpose yards -- 113 yards on 9 carries, 89 on 2 receptions, and 134 on 4 punt returns.
And, he easily could have had a seventh score, which would have broken Neverss record for most points. As the Bears drove for their final touchdown in a 61-20 rout, backup halfback Jon Arnett tried to take himself out of the game.
Heck, I didnt need a touchdown, Arnett says.
But Arnett scored on a 2-yard run. Halas said afterward that he didnt want to risk injury to his star rookie. And yet, Sayers was in the game returning a punt on the final play.
Ironically, Halas was the coach on the losing side when Nevers scored his 40 points in 1929.
It was different when Ernie Nevers set the record, Halas said in the locker room afterward. The field was frozen on that day. You could spit and it would turn into an icicle before it hit the ground.
The field today was soft on top but it was firm underneath. We had covers on it all week so it wasnt too bad.
Nevers was watching the game on television in the Bay Area.
Ive seen a lot of football, and Sayers put on the best performance Ive ever witnessed, Nevers said.
Others might not be so sure.
There never was a better player than Ernie Nevers, Pro Football Hall of Fame halfback Red Grange said. Warner, who also coached legendary Jim Thorpe, among others, called Nevers the football player without a fault.
Certainly, Neverss performance against the Bears was without fault.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times