“BULLET” BILL DUDLEY: PITTSBURGH’S FIRST HERO
Bill Dudley was football's anomaly. He was slow and not particularly big at 5'10" and 182 pounds. But somehow he could play on both sides of the ball. "He doesn't seem to be able to do anything real well, but he's a helluva football player," said fellow Hall of Famer Sammy Baugh. "I'd say Bill was a real specialist - specialising in everything."
The Steelers took Dudley in the first round of the 1942 NFL draft out of Virginia. To Baugh's point, Dudley played halfback, quarterback, defensive back, kicker, and punter.
Dudley, the team's first star, finally gave Pittsburgh fans a reason to cheer. In the 1942 season opener against Philadelphia, Dudley scooted 44 yards for a touchdown. The Steelers wasted the touchdown in a 24-14 loss.
In the second game of the season, Dudley hurt his ankle so badly during the first half that he had to be carried off the field. But he returned in the second half and ran the opening kickoff back for a Pittsburgh touchdown. Again, the Steelers wasted Dudley's electrifying effort with a 28-14 loss at Washington.
As a rookie, Dudley led the league in rushing with 696 yards on 162 carries. But Dudley had a strong desire to serve the United States in World War II. He actually wanted to become a navy pilot after college, but his parents wouldn't sign the consent form. So he played for the Steelers.
During the season, with America's efforts in the war intensifying, Dudley enlisted in the Army Air Corps. Because of the large number of recruits, Dudley had to wait three months before reporting for duty. He was able to finish his rookie season, which garnered him the Rookie of the Year award.
Dudley attended the army's flight school in Florida, but he didn't do much flying. He was asked to play for the army's football team as a "morale booster."
Finally, with four games remaining in the 1945 season, Dudley returned to the Steelers. Whether it's a testament to his ability or the team's futility, in those four games Dudley became the team's leading scorer with 20 points.
Art Rooney called Dudley the "best all-around football player I've ever seen. Dudley was a Jimmy Brown on offense and a 'Night Train' Lane on defense," Rooney added. "Steve Owens of the Giants and Greasy Neale of the Eagles imposed an automatic fine on their quarterbacks if they called a pass play into Dudley's territory."
Earlier that season, Jock Sutherland and his single-wing offense took over as Pittsburgh's head coach. Sutherland, for some reason, didn't see eye to eye with Dudley.
The ongoing feud left Dudley requesting a trade. He got it the next season, being sent to Detroit in exchange for a first-round pick in 1948.
"I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Pittsburgh," said Dudley. "I'm sorry I couldn't have continued my whole career there. We played a good football game, got some good crowds in Pittsburgh, and I think the football we played kept the fans happy, both in '42 and '46."
The year Dudley was traded, 1947, happened to be the same year that the Steelers made it to the playoffs for the first time.
Dudley spent six seasons with Detroit and Washington before retiring after the 1953 season to work as an assistant coach at Virginia. He came back to Pittsburgh in 1956 to serve as assistant under Walt Kiesling.
"I'm very, very fond of Pittsburgh," Dudley said. "It's where I like to be remembered as playing ball. Nothing against Washington or Detroit, it was just my first stop, and I became friends with Mr. Rooney. He was an employer who later turned into a very good friend."
Article taken from "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly" by Matt Fulks
published 2008 and still available from Amazon UK>>>
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