Don Paul dies at 89; helped L.A. Rams to NFL championship

Don Paul, who played for the UCLA Bruins and the Los Angeles Rams in the 1940s and '50s, has died at 89.
(Los Angeles Times)

Don Paul, a fierce football player for UCLA in the 1940s who went on to help the Los Angeles Rams win an NFL championship, has died. He was 89.

Paul died of respiratory failure Nov. 8 in Woodland Hills after an extended illness, his family announced.

The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Paul earned a UCLA football letter in each of four seasons — 1943, ’44, ’46 and ’47 — with his Bruin career split by Navy service during World War II. He played center and linebacker, was chosen team captain three times and, according to UCLA, was the first freshman player to be named team captain.

He was named to the All-Pacific Coast Conference team in 1946 and ’47 and second-team All-America in 1946. The 1946 Bruins had a 10-1 record and played Illinois in the Rose Bowl, losing 45-14.


The Rams drafted Paul, and during an eight-year career he became one of the NFL’s toughest middle linebackers in the 1950s. Before there was a Super Bowl, the Rams played in three consecutive NFL championship games with Paul as a defensive mainstay, beating the Cleveland Browns, 24-17, in 1951.

In 1955, Paul was voted dirtiest player in the league in an informal poll.

“I always tried to discern the difference between a dirty and an aggressive player,” Paul told The Times in 1978, many years after he had retired. “I never thought of myself as a dirty player. To me, a dirty player is a cheap-shot artist — a biter, a kicker, that sort of thing.

“But a rough guy usually plays it to the hilt and gives no quarter whatsoever. … He can be called dirty, but people really mean that he’s super aggressive.”


In 1986, the year he was inducted into the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame, Paul told Times columnist Jim Murray, “Look at it this way, I never bit nobody.”

Voted to the All-Pro team in 1953, Paul retired after the ’55 season and became a coach for the Rams from 1959 to 1961.

After his football career he worked as a broadcaster on Rams telecasts and ran several successful restaurants in the San Fernando Valley, including the Ram’s Horn.

Born March 18, 1925, in Fresno, Paul attended Los Angeles High School.


He is survived by four children, Randi, Rex, Carol and Matt; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.