Written by John Antonik
An outstanding two-sport athlete at West Virginia University in the mid-1930s, tackle Joe Stydahar went on to have a Hall of Fame NFL career with the famed Chicago Bears of the 1940s.
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Playing for Coach Charles Tallman at WVU, Stydahar was one of the lone bright spots on teams that posted records of 3-5-3, 6-4 and 3-4-2. In fact during 1934, Stydahar set a still-standing record of seven blocked punts in one season. Amazingly, three of those blocked punts went for touchdowns.
Also a three-year letterwinner in basketball, Stydahar once held the WVU single-game scoring record of 24 points against West Virginia Wesleyan in 1933. Basketball coach Francis Stadsvold thought so much of Stydahar as a basketball player that he named him center on his WVU all-time team.
Stydahar, although only managing third-team All-America status in football by the NEA Service, was selected to play in both the East-West Shrine Game and the College Football All-Star Game in Chicago.
By playing in both games, Stydahar became the first Mountaineer football player to participate in more than one sanctioned college football all-star game.
His performances in those two all-star games caught the eye of the Chicago Bears and that organization made Stydahar its first choice in the 1936 NFL draft -- the organization's first-ever draft pick and the first such selection in WVU history.
Stydahar went on to start for the Bears as a rookie. He became an all-pro selection the very next season and went on to win that distinction three more times.
He was a fixture at tackle until he joined the Navy as an officer during World War II. Retiring from the NFL in 1946 after nine seasons, Stydahar joined the Los Angeles Rams as an assistant coach.
He became the Rams' head coach in 1950 and immediately led them to the NFL championship game against the powerful Cleveland Browns.
The Rams suffered a heart-breaking 30-28 loss at the hands of Otto Graham and company, but Stydahar had Los Angeles on the right track for 1951.
Led by outstanding quarterback Norm Van Brocklin, Stydahar took his Rams back to the NFL title game against the same Cleveland Browns.
Los Angeles won that game to claim the NFL title, a feat unmatched since. Stydahar resigned the Ram post after 1952 to join the Bears' coaching staff.
Inducted into the National Football Hall of Fame in 1956, he also was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967, the first Mountaineer to be selected to that prestigious institution.
A Shinnston native, Stydahar died March 23, 1976.