The Rams were between cities during the 1940s. They originated in Cleveland and left after the 1945 season, the same year they won the NFL Championship. Naturally, the Rams hosted many talented players while in Cleveland and when they arrived in Los Angeles in 1946. Here are the top 10 Rams from the 1940s:
10. E/DE Steve Pritko
Much of what Pritko was praised for was his contributions on the offensive side of the football. It’s difficult to compare defensive ends from the 1940s, because much of the relevant stats in today’s era of football weren’t used until decades later. Still, Pritko was versatile enough to help the Rams earn a championship in 1945. In fact, he recorded the most touchdowns of his career (4) that season. Keep in mind, ends weren’t used as frequently in the passing game as they are in today’s NFL. Blocking was a vital part of his role as well.
9. QB/TB Parker Hall
Technically, the best year of Hall’s career came during his rookie season in 1939. Okay, so I may have cheated a bit, since he was the league MVP in 1939, but most of his career took place in the 40s. He focused more on his passing in the early part of his career. Hall set an early standard by becoming the first quarterback to complete over 100 passes. He also rushed for 458 yards. From 1940-1942, Hall compiled between 800-1,100 passing yards. His stats got progressively lower as the years went on, but the early 1940s Cleveland Rams didn’t help much either. Still, when he had momentum, he was a tough playmaker for defenses to contain.
8. C/LB Fred Naumetz
Naumetz made an impact on both sides of the ball. He was especially effective when he dropped back in coverage as a linebacker. In 1948, Naumetz earned four interceptions and two fumble recoveries. In 1949, he helped QB Bob Waterfield earn a first team All-Pro selection, with his over 2,000-yard season. Naturally, Naumetz was one of the reasons for his success, and that landed him on the first team All-Pro list too.
7. FB Dick Hoerner
Fullback, a forgotten position, but one position the Rams loved to utilize, especially during the 1940s. Hoerner arrived in the late 40s (1947-1951), which means he only played in Los Angeles and not Cleveland. Hoerner had an underrated role, serving as a blocker, but he was effective as a rusher and a situational receiver. He was especially praised for his goal line presence, and often muscled his way through to the end zone. Technically, the best season of his career occurred in 1950, where he earned 11 total touchdowns, and had 446 receiving yards. That said, he earned 582 rushing yards and six touchdowns in 1949. Hoerner truly made the FB position an exciting position to watch.
6. HB Fred Gehrke
Some players impact the game by statistics and accolades, but in Gehrke’s case, he changed the way spectators look at the Rams franchise. Viewing Gehrke’s stats alone, he should probably be lower on this list. That’s not to say he wasn’t a good player. In fact, he was a vital part of the Rams’ offense during the 1945 Championship year when he recorded 467 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. What truly solidifies Gehrke as an iconic Rams player is his contribution of painting the Rams’ horns on the helmets. Going back to the era that wore leather helmets, that simple design is still utilized and admired to this day.
5. FB Johnny Drake
Consistency was one of the reasons Drake is so highly regarded. Despite being a fullback, Drake was a bigger threat with a football in his hands. It wasn’t unusual for him to eclipse over 300 yards rushing, and sometimes Drake earned even more yards than the starting halfbacks. People may consider him a 1930s player though since he played from 1937-1941, but there is something to be said about the best season of his career in 1940. Drake set the standard for the Rams that season with 480 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.
4. OT Dick Huffman
Huffman is quite possibly one of the best left tackles in Rams history. He is famous for protecting Waterfield’s blindside. Huffman only played four seasons in the NFL (1947-1950), but he made each year count earning All-Pro honors and Pro Bowl selections in each year, including his rookie season. Unfortunately, he never earned a championship ring despite playing between two championship years in 1945 and 1951. Huffman later moved on to the WIFU, a Canadian football league where he also dominated competition.
3. E Jim Benton
Benton was one of the most dangerous offensive weapons of the 1940s. He was the first receiver to eclipse over 300 yards receiving in a single game. Because he was a such a big target, Benton often found the end zone. His most notable year came during the Rams’ 1945 championship run where he compiled 1,067 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Benton finished his career with 4,801 receiving yards and 45 touchdowns, which were among the best career stats at the time. Benton was always a threat, but he became more dangerous when the next player on the list arrived.
2. QB Bob Waterfield
Technically speaking, Waterfield is most known for being a quarterback, however, he played all over the field on both sides of the football. It wasn’t unusual for him to lineup in the backfield to run the ball or as a receiver. To make matters worse, Waterfield was equally as frustrating on defense. He even made his presence felt on special teams by punting and kicking the football. As a quarterback, he earned 11,849 passing yards and 97 touchdowns. He frequently made the Pro Bowl and was an All-Pro three times. Best of all, he was a part of two championship teams.
1. OG Riley Matheson
Some fans may not understand why Matheson is placed at number one, but he is by far one of the most underrated players in the history of the NFL. It’s completely understandable that quarterbacks get plenty of praise since they do have a tough job, but linemen like Matheson make it all possible. In fact, Matheson dominated the league consistently and was even named an All-Pro five times. While nothing can be taken away from Waterfield, one of the reasons he was so successful was because of his offensive line and offensive weapons. Matheson didn’t just help Waterfield, he also helped open holes for a slew of players on the ground.