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Earl Morrall (born May 17, 1934 in Muskegon, Michigan) is a former American football quarterback in the National Football League. Morrall, who also occasionally punted, lasted 21 seasons in the National Football League as both a starter and reserve. In the former capacity, he earned something of a back-handed compliment: the greatest backup quarterback in NFL history. Morrall made Pro Bowl appearances following the 1957 and 1968 seasons.
Morrall led Muskegon High School in Muskegon, MI to a state football championship in 1951, setting off a determined recruiting effort by the University of Michigan, the University of Notre Dame and Michigan State University. The efforts of the colleges were enough for the principal of Muskegon High, George A. Manning, to complain that Morrall's education was suffering
Eventually choosing Michigan State, Morrall played three seasons for the Spartans, leading them to a 9-1 regular season record in 1955. He capped his senior year with a victory over the UCLA Bruins in the 1956 Rose Bowl game.
National Football League Career
In his more than two decades on the professional gridiron, Morrall played for six different teams, starting with his rookie year in 1956 as a first round selection by the San Francisco 49ers. On September 16, 1957, he was traded along with guard Mike Sandusky to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for linebacker Marv Matuszak and two first round draft picks. Despite the high cost of the transaction, the Steelers traded Morrall just over a year later to the Detroit Lions in order to obtain future Hall of Famer Bobby Layne. Morrall would be with the Lions for the next six years, having his best season in 1963 by throwing for 24 touchdowns and over 2,600 yards. The following year, he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in an October 18 contest against the Chicago Bears.
After spending the offseason rehabilitating from his injury, Morrall was dealt to the New York Giants as part of a three-team transaction on August 30, 1965. Enduring his role during the Giants' rebuilding phase, Morrall threw for 2,446 yards and 22 touchdowns that season, but found himself seeing spot duty over the course of the next two years. On August 25, 1968, he was traded to the Baltimore Colts for an undisclosed draft choice.
When regular Colts' signal caller Johnny Unitas was injured in the final exhibition game, Morrall became the team's starter. Morrall proceeded to lead the Colts to a 13-1 record, then added two playoff victories enroute to winning the NFL's Most Valuable Player award, leading the Colts into Super Bowl III. However, in one of sport's greatest upsets, the Colts lost 16-7 to the New York Jets, with a second quarter interception by Morrall symbolizing the team's luck on the day. Wide receiver Jimmy Orr was wide open near the end zone, but Morrall's throw elsewhere was picked off to blunt the Colts' momentum. Two years later, Morrall again replaced an injured Unitas in Super Bowl V, but the occasion proved to much happier as the Colts won 16-13 on a last-second field goal.
On April 25, 1972, Morrall was claimed on waivers for $100 by the Miami Dolphins, reuniting him with his former Colt head coach, Don Shula, who said, "I happen to have a good memory. I remember what Earl did for me in 1968."
Shula's words proved prophetic when history repeated itself: Morrall replaced the injured Bob Griese for the Dolphins during the team's October 15th win over the San Diego Chargers. The victory gave Miami a 5-0 record, with Morrall building on that win to lead the team to the first undefeated regular season in the NFL since 1942. After notching a win in the team's first playoff game against the Cleveland Browns, Morrall struggled against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship game, leading to the return of Griese. However, Morrall's efforts did not go unnoticed when was named American Football Conference Player of the Year also in 1972.
Morrall would remain as a Dolphin reserve quarterback for the next four seasons before finally announcing his retirement on May 2, 1977. In those 21 seasons, Morrall was part of 255 games, completing 1,379 passes for 20,809 yards and 161 touchdowns.
|21 year NFL career||255||2689||1379||51.3||20809||7.74||161||148||135||1682||74.1|
|21 year NFL career||255||235||878||3.7||8||0|
|21 year NFL career||255||106||3995||66||1||0||0||0||37.7|
Fumble Recovery Stats
|21 year NFL career||255||63||16||0||-13||0|
- Won the AP NFL MVP in 1968
- Won the UPI MVP in 1968
- Won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 1972