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Former Cardinals, Rams star Ollie Matson dies in Los Angeles

  • By Associated Press
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LOS ANGELES -- Ollie Matson, a Hall of Fame running back who once was traded for nine players during a 14-year NFL career and won two medals at the 1952 Olympics, has died. He was 80.

Matson died Saturday of respiratory failure surrounded by family at his home in Los Angeles, his nephew Art Thompson III told The Associated Press.

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Hall of Famer Ollie Matson began his career in 1952 with the Chicago Cardinals.

Thompson said Matson had been mostly bedridden for several years because of a form of dementia. He said Matson hadn't spoken in four years.

As a senior at the University of San Francisco, Matson led the nation in rushing yardage and touchdowns while leading the Dons to an undefeated season. He was the No. 1 pick of the Chicago Cardinals, and third overall, in the 1952 NFL draft, and he went on to share Rookie of the Year honors with the 49ers' Hugh McElhenny.

Matson played with the Cardinals from 1952 to 1958, when he was traded to the Los Angeles Rams for nine players. He made the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1957.

He spent 1959-62 with the Rams, then played a single season for the Detroit Lions before finishing his career with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1964-66.

Matson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972 and into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1976. He was a seven-time All-Pro pick and six-time Pro Bowl selection, and he was MVP of the 1956 game.

Matson won a silver medal in the 1,600-meter relay and a bronze in the 400 meters at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.

Born May 1, 1930, in Trinity, Texas, Ollie Genoa Matson II moved to San Francisco when he was in high school. After graduation from George Washington High, where he developed into one of the city's greatest prep athletes, he enrolled at City College of San Francisco. He spent one year there before transferring to USF.

Thompson said before his uncle's health declined in the past week, he could walk with assistance, and his children often took him on outings.

"For those in his family, he was 'The Man,'" said Thompson, a former sportswriter for The Orange County Register. "Whether it was barbecuing, listening to his collection of Dinah Washington and Sam Cooke albums, winning games of skill, giving sage advice to the younger generation or just maintaining a calm steady hand ... we all felt his positive influence."

Matson is survived by his children Lisa, Ollie III, Bruce and Barbara; his twin sister Ocie Thompson; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. His wife, Mary, whom he married in 1954, is deceased.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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