Bobby Layne

Briefly a Steeler - He May Haunt Club Which Drafted Him
Then Traded Him To Chicago Bears for Ray Evans.
by Jack Sell
Post-Gazette Sports Writer

photo from 1949 programme October 23 1949Two years ago the Pittsburgh Steelers picked Bobby Layne of Texas as their number one draft choice.

Today the Gold and Black face the task of stopping the same young man if they hope to win their fourth game in the National Football League and stick in the eastern division race.

The 22-year-old Layne is now the star quarterback of the New York Bulldogs. He didn't stick on the local roster long. A T formation quarterback, Bobby didn't want to play here. He was traded immediately to the Chicago Bears after being picked in the annual NFL draft. Ray Evans came here in the deal.

The Chicago Bears got a lot of publicity last season about the three L's of their backfield, namely Sid Luckman, Johnny Lujack and Bobby Layne. Actually, the first two did most of the quarterbacking. They offered competition that was a bit too high class for the former Long Horn star to buck.

1939 programme coverA trio of high priced players at the same job proved too much for Owner-Coach George Halas, who watches the expense accounts as closely as he does enemy weak points. After all, Layne was reported to have turned down an offer of $77,000 for three years made by the Baltimore Colts of the rival All-America Conference.

So last July Halas showed Owner Ted Collins of the New York Bulldogs the clippings of Layne's great college career in which he led Texas to two Southwest Conference titles and post-season victories in the Sugar and Cotton Bowls. Ted took the bait, slipped the rubber band off his bankroll and gave George a big chunk of cash plus two unnamed players.

To date Layne hasn't helped the Bulldogs break into the victory column. But he may get hot here. After all, the Steelers had him on their roster once and didn't keep him. It's lads like that who often come back to haunt the club which bounced them. Steeler fans hope it doesn't happen today.

Editor's note: Fortunately, Jack Sell's fears were ill founded as the Steelers ran out 24-13 winners.

Ray Evans (who the Steelers gave away Bobby Layne for) lasted just one season with the Steelers.

He had been granted a leave of absence from the City National Bank and Trust Company to play the 1948 season. A rib injury suffered during the preseason restricted him to playing nine games when he completed 64 of 127 passes for 924 yards and five touchdowns. He also rushed for 342 yards on 99 carries.

After earning $20,000 in his only NFL season, he quit saying, "I have decided definitely to remain in the banking business in Kansas City."

Bobby Layne rejoined the Steelers in 1958 and had four good years with them finishing in 1962 with a 9-5 record that saw them make a rare postseason appearance. During the sixties, the NFL played a post-season game for third place - the Bert Bell Benefit Bowl. The Steelers lost 10-17 to the Detroit Lions in Miami.

Article and photo from the programme from October 23 1949.


Bobby Layne 1958Losing 45-12 to the Cleveland Browns is never acceptable for Steeler fans, so when that loss gave the team a 0-2 start to the 1958 season, coach Buddy Parker acted fast.

Bobby Layne was drafted by the Steelers in 1948, but Layne didn’t fancy playing for the team that was the last to use the single wing formation. Because of Layne’s resistance, the Steelers dealt his rights to Chicago, where he was encouraged to sign with the Bears by their charismatic and persuasive owner, George Halas.

Layne only stayed with the Bears for a year before being traded, for a profit, to the New York Bulldogs a team with a tradition in mediocrity almost as sad as the Steelers.  The Bulldogs later became the New York Yankees football team and in April 1950, traded Layne to Detroit after acquiring George Ratterman – “the greatest all-around athlete in the history of Notre Dame.” Allegedly.

Later that same year, Buddy Parker was promoted to the Lions’ head coach spot and both coach and player ensured the team achieved success on the field with their combined contribution to the franchise.

Buddy Parker replaced Walter Kiesling as the Steelers head coach in 1957. Parker had been the successful head coach of the Detroit Lions from 1950 and had steered the Lions to three championships in six years. He seemed the perfect coach to deal a winning hand to the same old Steelers.

October 7th 1958, Pittsburgh woke up to the news that they had a new quarterback and an exceptional one at that – Bobby Layne. Their major concern was his fitness as he suffered a dislocated and fractured right ankle the previous December in a game against Cleveland.

Detroit’s coach, George Wilson, placated those doubts by insisting that Layne was physically sound and the scene was set for the following weekend’s game against their State rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles.

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