The number 15 has been off-limits in Philadelphia for nearly 70 years so, with just over two weeks left until the season-opener on Sept. 13 in Washington, our jersey countdown to kickoff turns automatic with the legendary Steve Van Buren.
The fifth pick in the 1944 NFL Draft out of LSU, Van Buren lived up to the hype and then some during an eight-year career in Philadelphia, which included seven All-Pro berths and two NFL championships.
In the short conversation with the best players in franchise history like Chuck Bednarik and Reggie White, Van Buren led the NFL in rushing and rushing touchdowns four times.
Born in Honduras, Van Buren was a transcendent figure in league history, becoming the first player to rush for over 10 touchdowns in a season, something he did three times, and the first to record multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
Injuries, notably a torn knee ligament before the 1952 season, ended Van Buren’s run and he officially announced his retirement in September of 1953 as a four-time rushing champion and a player who led the league in rushing yards-per-game in five of the eight seasons he played.
At the time of his retirement, Van Buren was also the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. He is a member of the NFL’s 1940s All-Decade Team as well as the league’s 75th and 100th Anniversary Teams and quite simply one of the best players in NFL history.
Van Buren was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965 and is a member of at least four other Halls of Fame - the Eagles HOF, LSU’s, the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.
Time has a way of making people forget and most would default to either Bednarik or White as the best player in Eagles history. While a subjective title and those are certainly good choices, no player was more dominant or successful on both a personal and team level for Philadelphia than Van Buren.
For that reason, we’ll skip any perceived runner-ups.
Others to wear No. 15: Laf Russell, Osborne Wilson, John Konopka, William Hughes, Clem Woltman, Lou Tomasetti, and Ted Laux
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Monday and Friday on SIRIUSXM’s Tony Bruno Show with Harry Mayes, and every Tuesday and Thursday with Eytan Shander on SportMap Radio. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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