When it comes to short career Hall-of-Fame candidates, few can make a stronger case for themselves than a long forgotten defensive lineman named Bud McFadin.
Who, you say?
Well, Bud McFadin is believed to be one of only two players to have been named to All-Pro teams in both the National Football League and the American Football League, a feat made more difficult by the fact that the start of his NFL career was delayed by nearly two years and he originally played out of position for several seasons before then-Los Angeles Rams’ head coach Hamp Pool finally realized he had a potential Pro Bowl defensive tackle on his roster whom he’d been trying to turn into an offensive guard.
McFadin was the Rams’ first-round draft pick in 1951 after an All-America college career at the University of Texas that ended after he was named Cotton Bowl MVP and MVP of the 1951 College All-Star game. Yet none of that would have happened had it not been for his love affair with his horse.
Born in the small Texas ranching town of Rankin, McFadin’s love for his horse was so ardent that he threatened to leave the university as a freshman because he missed him. A wise UT staffer had McFadin’s horse moved to a stable near Austin and, mollified by his ability to saddle up and ride when he felt the urge, McFadin stayed on campus and became a UT star.
After the College All-Star game, however, McFadin’s career was put on hold when he was drafted into the military and served with the Air Force in Korea in 1950 and for much of the 1951 NFL season, before finally arriving in Los Angeles late in the season. McFadin didn’t start a game the remainder of that year or in 1952, but Pool finally shifted him to defense in 1953 and McFadin blossomed.
He was named to various All-Pro teams in 1952, 1955 and 1956 and also made the Pro Bowl in the last two seasons. Now 28, McFadin had started every game at defensive left tackle for the previous two seasons for the Rams and seemed to be a rising star just as pro football was taking root with American sport fans.
And then he was gone.
McFadin’s All-Pro career came to a halt in dramatically violent fashion following the 1956 season when he was shot in the stomach by what was described in news reports as “a disgruntled ex-employee of a business he owned.” Those same reports also called it “accidental,’’ which seems somewhat hard to believe.
Be that as it may, McFadin recovered but decided to retire to a life as a rancher and businessman around his hometown of Rankin, Tex., where he remained for four years. But when the fledgling American Football League opened for business in 1960 Denver Broncos’ head coach Frank Filchock remembered the kid from Texas who once dominated the line of scrimmage for the Rams and convinced him to launch a comeback at age 32.
McFadin was an immediate starter and became a three-time All-AFL selection at defensive tackle during a four-year stint in Denver (1960-63). Despite playing on one of the worst teams in AFL history, McFadin went to the AFL All-Star game in 1961, 1962 and 1963 and was named first-team All-AFL three times and second team once before Denver, desperate for a quarterback, sent him to the Houston Oilers in one of the oddest trades in pro football history.
The Broncos shipped McFadin and a first-round draft choice to Houston for quarterback Jackie Lee -- but only under the condition that Lee would only play in Denver for two seasons and then return to the Oilers. When Lee returned, however, Bud McFadin was gone.
McFadin started every game in his first season in Houston and nine of the 12 he was healthy in 1965. But the soon-to-be 38-year-old McFadin decided at that point that it was time to take off his pads for good and became the Oilers’ defensive line coach.
Later McFadin would leave pro football behind for a life of ranching and, later, selling oil field equipment. But before he left, Bud McFadin was named to three Pro Bowls and selected second-team All-Pro three times in the NFL and named first-team All-AFL three times and sent to three AFL All-Star games, as well. That means that for more than half of his 11-year career in pro football the guy who nearly quit football for the love of his horse was seen as one of the best defensive linemen of his time.
That may not make Bud McFadin Hall-of-Fame worthy, but it sure makes his case worth debating.