And the Ram representative is an iconic player who was “the embodiment of swivel hipness” by football historian Dan Daly.
Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch came in at No. 94 by the online outlet on Sunday. Bob Kravitz, who has joined the team of Athletic writers in launching their countdown to No. 1, helped nominate the Rams standout who starred for the franchise from 1949 to 1957.
Ahead of His Time
Long before Cooper Kupp was that 6-foot-2 wide receiver who helped open up the Rams’ offense, or before Robert Woods busted his versatile side or even long before the days of Isaac “The Reverend” Bruce and Henry Ellard, there was “Crazy Legs.”
Kravitz, an award-winning columnist who has covered countless of Hall of Famers during his time with Sports Illustrated and the Indianapolis Star, compared Hirsch’s game to a current, explosive wide receiver who won the 2020 Super Bowl with the Kansas City Chiefs.
“He was Tyreek Hill before Tyreek Hill,” Kravitz wrote.
Kravitz then described Hirsch’s receiving prowess as one that helped usher in a new era of fast, up-tempo football. Granted, Hirsch still played receiver (or flanker) during the era of the single wing and T-Formation offenses, but Kravitz recognized his astronomical receiving numbers, including amassing 124.6 receiving yards per game which was a mark that stood for several years until the NFL-AFL merger.
The 1951 season still resonates as one of the greatest individual seasons a wideout had. Hirsch racked up 1,495 yards, 17 touchdowns and averaged 22.7 yards a catch in 12 games.
“He was a man before his time who put up monstrous receiving numbers at a time when the NFL was just beginning to transition from 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust to a more wide-open game that featured the forward pass,” Kravitz said in his article.
‘Head and Shoulders Above the Rest’
Daly, who has written football stories for 43 years according to his bio, illustrated Hirsch as a talent who mixed great speed with unpredictability with which direction he was going to run toward.
“The embodiment of swivel hipness,” Daly called him. “When he was coming at you, you didn’t know which way he was going to go, and he did it with great speed. He was a great runner after he caught the ball. Just watch the highlights from that era and see how well he tracked the deep ball.”
NFL Films placed the Ram on its own top 100 list back in 2010, tabbing him at No. 87 in its rankings of greatest NFL players of all-time. Hirsch was described in the video as the next best NFL receiver following the legendary career of Green Bay Packer Don Hutson.
With another Rams legend Norm “The Dutchman” Van Brocklin throwing him the ball, Hirsch went on to catch 343 of his 387 career passes in the L.A. uniform.
He also ended his career tallying 7,029 yards and scoring 60 touchdowns. He got named to three Pro Bowls as a Ram.
“Crazy Legs was head and shoulders above the rest,” Daly said. “At a time when the game was evolving into more of a passing game, he was far and away the best receiver in the game.”
Kravitz added “Those who saw him play describe him as Willie Mays-like with his ability to adjust to the ball in the air. You look at the stats, he was head and shoulders above the rest. The 1950s Rams would be the forerunners to the great offenses that would come later, the Air Coryell Chargers and St. Louis’ Greatest Show on Turf.”