Deacon Dan Towler for the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Deacon Dan Towler belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The former L.A. Rams running back holds the 2nd highest yards per attempt (6.78) in a season in NFL history, a mark that has stood for over 65 years.

Video source: NFL Network

Towler was something close to unstoppable in 1951, averaging an incredible 6.78 yards per rush attempt that season. Only Beattie Feathers of the 1934 Bears produced a higher average...
—Kerry J. Byrne, Author and Sportswriter

Los Angeles Rams 1950 - 1955

  • 4× Pro Bowl Player (1951–1954)
  • Pro Bowl MVP (1951)
  • First-team All-Pro (1952)
  • 3× Second-team All-Pro (1951, 1953, 1954)
  • NFL rushing yards leader (1952)
  • 2× NFL rushing touchdowns leader (1952, 1954)
  • NFL Champion (1951)
  • 6.78 yards per carry in 1951
  • One of only 15 running backs in history to average 6.0+ YPA over the course of an entire season
  • Averaged 6.0 YPA over the course of three straight seasons
  • 5.2 career yards per carry
  • Towler’s ground touchdown total is the same as Hall of Famer Floyd Little, who played in 117 games
  • Ground touchdown total is more than other Hall of Famers Ollie Matson, Gale Sayers, and Hugh McElhenny

"One of the greatest runners there was..."

—Red Hickey, Long Time NFL Player, Coach, Scout (1941 – 1986)

Dan Towler Testimonials
Dan Towler Testimonials

What Others Have to Say

"Dan Towler is a legendary player from my hometown area who belongs in the Pro Football, Hall of Fame. He is deserving and his time has come to be recognized as one of the greats in our game of professional football. Please cast your vote for Deacon Dan Towler as an inductee and member of The Pro Football Hall of Fame!"

-Joe Montana, QB San Francisco Forty Niners, Kansas City Chiefs 1979 - 1994, Four-Time Super Bowl Champion, Two-Time NFL MVP, Pro Football HOF
Dan Towler Testimonials

"Not many individuals are aware of ‘Deacon Dan Towler’ but he was a great, great running back. He was a man with size, speed, strength, and elusiveness. This gentleman belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and should be recognized as one of the greatest running backs to ever play in the NFL."

-Dick LeBeau, DB, NFL HOF Player, Detroit Lions 1959- 1972, Three-Time Pro Bowl Player, NFL Coordinator and Coach, HOF Class of 2010 HOF
Dan Towler Testimonials

"[Dan Towler was] a man who our Colt’s defensive players thought the world of... They said he was one of the toughest guys
to tackle they ever had to face."

-Raymond Barry, WR Baltimore Colts, 1955 - 1967, Two-Time NFL Champion, Six Time Pro Bowl Player, Pro Football HOF
Dan Towler Testimonials

"As a former NFL player who saw “Deacon Dan” Towler play in the NFL, I can tell you without reservation that he belongs in the NFL Hall of Fame. Dan was a great back with power, speed, and quickness. He was way ahead of his time in many ways. Growing up in Western PA, I knew of his football legend and it continued to grow through college and the pros. Look at Towler’s stats amongst his peers in his era – he belongs in the NFL HOF. Dan Towler was great football player and a great person too."

-Henry T. Ford, RB Pittsburgh Steelers 1956, Cleveland Browns 1957
Dan Towler Testimonials

"This guy, Deacon Dan Towler had great numbers no matter how you view it. He was a dominant running back in his era and certainly belongs in the Hall of Fame amongst his peers."

-Oliver Luck, CEO and Commissioner XFL, QB Houston Oilers, 1982 – 1986, Former President NFL Europe
Dan Towler Testimonials

"I was a former high school teammate of “Deacon” Dan Towler in the mid 1940s. I also played offensive guard for the Pittsburgh Steelers at the same time “Deaco” was playing for the Los Angels Rams. I have first hand knowledge of his great skills as an athlete and running back, and his exceptional character as a person. Deacon Dan Towler was a fantastic running back with Hall of Fame numbers, who belongs in the NFL Hall of Fame. He has been overlooked for many years now and his time has come."

-Rudy Andabaker, OL Pittsburgh Steelers, 1952 / 1954
Dan Towler Testimonials

"Wow! I was aware of Deacon Dan Towler but never really knew about his production especially when compared to his peers! This guy has been overlooked and belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame."

-Jerry Holmes, CB New Jets, Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions 1980 -1991
Dan Towler Testimonials

"Dan Towler without a doubt deserves to be in the Pro Hall of Fame. His credentials more than warrant it. He was a powerful running back with exceptional speed and he was very difficult to bring down. Deacon Dan Towler was a quality man and a great football player."

-Bill Priatko, LB, Green Bay Packers 1957, Pittsburgh Steelers 1957 – 60
Dan Towler Testimonials

"Deacon Dan’ Towler and Stan ‘The Man’ Musial are part of the lore and legend of Donora, Pennsylvania. Two great athletes who belong in their respective Halls of Fame. I played on the same high school field as the great Deacon Dan Towler and his legend continued with the Los Angels Rams. Without question, Dan Towler belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame."

-Ken Griffey, Sr. OF, Cincinnati Reds, NY Yankees, Atlanta Braves, Seattle Mariners, 1973 – 1991, Two-Time All Star and Two-Time World Champion
Dan Towler Testimonials

"Deacon Dan Towler – I’ve heard about him for many years and he certainly belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Give him your vote!"

-Ken Griffey, Jr. Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox 1989 – 2010, 13 Time All-Star, AL MVP, 10× Gold Glove Award, MLB Hall of Fame

More on Why Deacon Dan Towler Belongs in the Pro Football H.O.F.

Dan Towler for NFL Hall Of Fame

Terrible Towler: the greatest RB you don't know

— Kerry J. Byrne

What do you know about former L.A. Rams star Dan Towler? Not much, right? Hell, neither did we. We certainly heard of him. Former CHFF contributor Mike Carlson wrote a great piece about those old Rams teams a few years back. But we didn't realize that Towler was such a fascinating statistical case study – a bright, shining star who lit up the NFL for an oh-so-brief but spectacular three-year period unlike any before or since.

While you were getting ready over a red-hot weekend for the big holiday ahead, the sad, sorry souls of Cold, Hard Football Facts were doing what we do best: churning data in a dark lonely room, with our sole source of physical comfort warm bottles of 33 Lager and a World War II era ceiling fan rattling overhead.

Think the opening scene of "Apocalypse Now."

Hey, it’s not a great life. But it is our life. And just for off-season kicks and giggles, we wanted to take a look at one of our pet issues from another point of view: the unbearable lightness of the running game.

We ran a list this weekend of the most effective individual rushing seasons in history, those ball carriers who posted the highest average per rush attempt over the course of an entire campaign (min. 100 attempts).

We imagined the numbers would show us that precious few of the most effective rushing seasons in history translated to team-wide success. After all, the NFL is a passing league. And, more importantly, it’s always been a passing league.

Here are the high-level findings:

  • Just 15 players topped 6.0 YPA over the course of an entire season.
  • 31 players topped 5.67 YPA over the course of a season (the number 31 significant for purposes of comparison to the passing game; more on that later).
  • 18 of those 31 teams, powered by the most effective individual rushing seasons in history, failed to even reach the postseason.

So those findings support what we expected. A great running back rarely equates to great team success.

But it was the name Towler that really leaped off the list at us.

Only two players appeared in the list of top 30 most effective rushing seasons three different times: the amazing Jim Brown, who you already know as probably the greatest football player of all time; and Dan Towler, a name that few football fans today recognize. "Deacon Dan" became a preacher in later life and studied for the ministry at USC during his playing days with the Rams. He played just six seasons in the NFL (1950-55).

And, for a three-year period in the early 1950s, Towler was the closest thing the NFL has ever produced to an unstoppable ball carrier. Here is his production over the three seasons from 1951 to 1953:

  • 434 attempts for 2,627 yards, 6.05 YPA, and 23 touchdowns.

That is incredible production, especially back in the 12-game-season era. Keep in mind, as stated above, that only 15 running backs in history averaged 6.0+ YPA over the course of an entire season.

Towler averaged more than 6.0 YPA over the course of three straight seasons, though actually topped that mark in the first of the three seasons.

But here’s the compelling part: in a sport where teams are carried to success by their quarterbacks, you could argue Towler is the closest thing the NFL has ever seen to a running back who carried his team to a championship.

Of the 31 players on our list, only two were so prolific for NFL champions: Marion Motley of the 1950 Browns and Towler of the 1951 Rams. In fact, they faced each other in consecutive NFL title games, splitting the two encounters.

Dan Towler for NFL Hall Of Fame

Towler was something close to unstoppable in 1951, averaging an incredible 6.78 yards per rush attempt that season. Only Beattie Feathers of the 1934 Bears produced a higher average. (By the way, Feathers' 8.44 YPA for the 13-0 Bears was so anomalous it's really too bad they don't have the game film. It's almost unfathomable that a guy could produce so high an average.)

Granted, Towler played with two Hall of Fame quarterbacks that year: Norm Van Brocklin and Bob Waterfield. Those two QBs combined to lead the NFL in passer rating three straight years from 1950 to 1952. And all CHFF readers know that passing efficiency is the singular key to championship success in the NFL.

But no running back in NFL history ran so dominantly – and ran so dominantly for an NFL champion. Even Jim Brown, in his lone championship season of 1964, averaged a relatively meager 5.16 YPA

There’s a lot more to glean from this list in the days ahead. Most notably, it's virtually impossible to produce a killer average as the featured guy over the long haul of an NFL season. Only Brown and Barry Sanders topped 250 carries and 5.67 YPA in a season, each of them doing it twice. But more on that finding and other facts and figures in the days ahead.

From the LA Times

"He asked to lead the Rams in pregame prayer as a rookie, quickly earning the “Deacon” nickname. He was proud of his role on the team, saying in a 1991 interview: ‘I asked Coach [Joe] Stydahar if I could have the players pray, and he said: ‘It sure wouldn’t hurt anything, and who knows? It might help…’ ‘We were the first NFL team to pray before each game. Now it’s a common thing. I think it helped with the team’s camaraderie and fellowship, bringing us together." —By Earl Gustkey, Aug. 2, 2001 LA Times, Staff Writer

The Career of Deacon Dan Towler

Dan Towler Los Angeles Rams for the Hall of Fame

Professional Career Los Angeles Rams

Towler was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 1950. Towler moved to Los Angeles, and while starting his football career, he continued his education at the University of Southern California (USC) and pursued a master's degree in theology. Nicknamed "Deacon Dan" because he would lead the Rams in their pregame prayer, Towler, along with Paul "Tank" Younger and Dick Hoerner, would form the famed "Bull Elephant" backfield that featured three runners that weighed 225-pounds-plus. Combined with quarterbacks Bob Waterfield and Norm Van Brocklin and receivers Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch and Tom Fears, they were an electrifying running and passing team. That year, the Rams lost to the Cleveland Browns in the World Championship - the precursor to today's Super Bowls.

The next year, the Rams won the 1951 World Championship after Towler scored the game winning touchdown. In 1952, Towler led the NFL in touchdowns (10), yards (894) and was the Pro Bowl MVP. In 1953, Towler actually appeared in the movie "Crazylegs" about the life and career of teammate Elroy Hirsch. In 1954, Towler again led the NFL in touchdowns (11). Towler was All-Pro from 1951 to 1953. Regardless of how successful Towler was in football, he always considered himself to be a full-time student and part-time football player. After six seasons, 3,493 yards for a 5.2 average and scoring 43 touchdowns.

Deacon Dan Towler

After Football – Pastor, Educator, Mentor

Towler abruptly ended his football career in 1955 to become a Methodist minister. Towler would continue his education (earning a PhD in education) and involvement in the Los Angeles community. Deacon Dan would go on to serve 26 years and was a six-term president of the Los Angeles County Board of Education. He also headed the Dan Towler Foundation, which helped needy students. At the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Deacon Dan is recognized on the Scroll of Achievement with two other players who made contributions beyond the playing field. Deacon Dan Towler died in 2001.

Dan Towler standout at Washington and Jefferson College

College Career – Washington and Jefferson College

After numerous college offers, Towler enrolled at Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, Pennsylvania due to his early interest in the ministry and would continue to excel in football and track. In his junior year, he led the nation in scoring and became Little All-American. He also played linebacker on defense. In track, Towler ran a 9.9 second 100-yard dash and threw the shot put. Aside from sports, Towler also excelled in the classroom and graduated cum laude.

Dan Towler standout at Washington and Jefferson College

High School Career - Donora High School

Dan L. Towler - class of 1946 - born in Donora in 1928, Daniel Lee Towler was a four sport athlete that helped propel the Donora powerhouse teams of the 1940's to legendary status, along with other notables such as: coach Jimmy Russell, and players: Arnold "Pope" Galiffa, Roscoe "The Rambler" Ross, and Lou "Bimbo" Cecconi. Towler was an all-state fullback who led Donora to Western Pennsylvania titles in 1944 and 1945. The 1944 team outscored their opponents 324 to 42 with 4 shutouts. The 1945 team outscored their opponents 297 to 13 with 8 shutouts. Those undefeated teams were also considered among the top teams in the country and are still considered to be the best to ever play in Pennsylvania. Towler scored 24 touchdowns his senior year.

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