Remembering Skins QB Sonny Jurgensen & The Early Days of Lombardi

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I became a Washington Redskins fan in 1969 because my favorite coach Vince Lombardi became the new head coach of the Redskins. He chose Sonny Jurgensen to be his quarterback. Lombardi and Jurgensen were a great match and they took the Redskins to their 1st winning season in a dozen years. Sonny Jurgensen showed me why he was considered the “best pure passer in the NFL.”

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I enjoy telling the younger Washington Redskins fans about Christian Adolph Jurgensen III known as “Sonny” Jurgensen. Sonny seemed destined for greatness as early as grammar school, where he led his team to city grammar school titles in baseball and basketball. In his “spare time” he won the boys tennis championship of Wilmington, & pitched his way to the city baseball title for his local Civitan club.

In high school Sonny was a backup quarterback on the state championship team, and was chosen to start at quarterback for the North Carolina team in the annual North Carolina vs. South Carolina Shrine Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina. Sonny also excelled at basketball and baseball during high school.

He played college ball for Duke but made the biggest impact his first season as a defensive back – he tied a team record with interceptions in four consecutive games. and ended the season with five interceptions. He no doubt helped Duke finish with a 7–2–1 regular season record and an Atlantic Coast Conference title. The gravy was on New Year’s Day, when he helped Duke beat the Nebraska Cornhuskers 34–7 in the 1955 Orange Bowl.

Jurgensen was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1957. He played for the Eagles through 1963 where he started setting NFL passing records & tying the NFL record with 32 touchdown passes, but it was in 1964 that he was traded to the Washington Redskins and helped guide the Skins through a new era. Sonny played for the Redskins through 1974. making an impact that was unmistakable.

After an amazing career “Golden Arm” Sonny Jurgensen was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983, and that put the finishing touch on his other numerous NFL accomplishments of which the following are but a few:

  • NFL Champion in 1960
  • Eagles Hall of Fame
  • Redskins Ring of Fame
  • 5 time NFL Passing Leader
  • Pro Bowler 5 times
  • 1960’s All Decade Team
  • 70 Greatest Redskins
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    In my opinion, Sonny Jurgensen was the best quarterback I have seen in my lifetime. Back in his playing days, the quarterbacks were not “protected” like they are today. Sonny bravely hung in the pocket. He said, “”All I ask of my blockers is four seconds. I try to stay on my feet and not be forced out of the pocket. I beat people by throwing, not running. I won’t let them intimidate me into doing something which is not the best thing I can do.”

    Younger Washington Redskins would do well to research Sonny Jurgensen by using Wikipedia and Youtube videos & learn the history of our great Washington Redskins from 1932 until the present. I have no doubt that if Vince Lombardi had lived years longer the Redskins led by Sonny Jurgensen would have at least one Super Bowl win, probably several. Sonny would have set records that would never be broken.
    Sonny Jurgensen played for head coach George Allen from 1971 until he tore his achilles tendon.

    Coach Allen brought in former 49ers and Saints quarterback Billy Kilmer in 1971 so there was competition between the two quarterbacks. Most fans liked Sonny over Billy, I personally had a “I LIKE SONNY” bumper sticker on my car. Kilmer’s passes looked more like a wounded duck compared to Sonny’s awesome accurate passes. Sonny #9 and wide receiver Charlie Taylor #42 worked the sidelines all the way down the field, then a cannon shot to tight end Jerry Smith #87 leaving a vapor trail or a touch pass to running back Larry Brown #43. He made every throw, even behind his back a few times.

    Someone asked Sonny if it were true that he could hit a target 70 yards down the field. Sonny said, “You want the laces up or down?” He said of the 9 coaches he played for, Vince Lombardi was his favorite. Lombardi told him to “just be yourself” and “we are going to win.”

    You can hear Hall of Famer Sonny Jurgensen and Super Bowl winner Rick “Doc” Walker on ESPN 980 Redskins radio along with Larry Michael and Chris Cooley. Also check out “Inside the Redskins on NBC Washington” hosted by Rick Doc Walker.

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