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Steve Van Buren, Hall of Fame former Eagles RB, dies at 91

  • By Associated Press
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PHILADELPHIA -- Steve Van Buren, the square-jawed Hall of Fame running back who led the Philadelphia Eagles to NFL titles in 1948 and 1949, has died. He was 91.

The Eagles said Van Buren died Thursday in Lancaster, Pa., of pneumonia.

The former LSU star, nicknamed "Wham-Bam" for his quick and punishing running style, joined the Eagles in 1944 as a first-round pick. He led the NFL in rushing four times and finished his eight-year career with 5,860 yards rushing and 77 TDs.

The five-time All-Pro player was selected to the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team in 1994, and was the first Eagles player elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"I've seen them all -- Jim Thorpe, Red Grange, Bronko Nagurski," Greasy Neale, Van Buren's coach with the Eagles, told the Philadelphia Daily News in 1957, "but he's the greatest."

The 6-foot-1, 200-pound back sustained a leg injury in training camp before the 1952 season and retired as the NFL's career rushing leader. The Eagles later retired his No. 15.

"On the field and off, as a player, a leader and a man, Steve Van Buren embodied the finest characteristics of our city and our sport," said Jeffrey Lurie, the Eagles' chairman and CEO. "He was a friend and an inspiration to generations of fans, and the model of what an Eagle should be."

Van Buren set the Eagles' single-game rushing record with 205 yards against Pittsburgh in 1949, and is second in team history with his 77 touchdowns. He also holds the club record for most consecutive games with a rushing touchdown with eight in 1947.

"Watch those old films and you know that Steve Van Buren was something special," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "He was special in person, too, humble about his own accomplishments and encouraging to others. His memory will be with Eagles fans for as long as this team takes the field."

Van Buren is survived by three daughters.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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