Sid Luckman

Sid Luckman

Infobox NFLretired

caption=Luckman in his playing days
birthdate=birth date|mf=yes|1916|11|21
Brooklyn, New York
deathdate=death date and age|mf=yes|1998|7|5|1916|11|21
Aventura, Florida
*Chicago Bears (19391950)
stat3label=QB Rating
* 1943 Joe F. Carr MVP
* Most touchdown passes in a game (7)
* Three-time league leader in touchdown passes
*NFL 1940s All-Decade Team
*Chicago Bears #42 retired
* Third in Heisman voting (1938)

Sidney Luckman, known as Sid Luckman, (November 21, 1916 – July 5, 1998) was an American football quarterback for the Chicago Bears from 1939 to 1950. During his 12 seasons with the Bears he led them to four NFL championships. Luckman was the first modern T-formation quarterback and is considered the greatest long range passer of his time.cite web
url =
title = Luckman, Sid
publisher =
accessdate = 2008-06-06
] He was named the National Football League's Most Valuable Player in 1943, and Pulitzer prize winning sports writer Ira Berkow later wrote that Luckman was "the first great T-formation quarterback".cite web
url =
title = Sid Luckman, Legendary Quarterback
publisher = The American Jewish Historical Society
accessdate = 2008-06-06
] Following his retirement from playing, Luckman continued his association with football by tutoring college coaches, focusing on the passing aspect of the game. He was later inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965,cite web
url =
title = Sid Luckman
publisher = NFL Internet Network
accessdate = 2008-06-06
] and in 1988 he was declared a joint winner of the Walter Camp Distinguished American Award.cite web
url =
title = Walter Camp Football Foundation Awards
publisher = Walter Camp Football Foundation Awards Inc.
accessdate = 2008-06-06

Early life

Luckman was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Jewish immigrants from Germany. His father sparked his interest in American football at age eight, by giving him a football to play with.cite web
url =
title = Sid Luckman - A great leader and football brain, p.189
publisher = Great Jews in Sports - Google Book
accessdate = 2008-06-06
] He and his parents lived in a residence near Prospect Park and it was here as a youngster that Sid first started throwing the football around.cite web
url =
title = Jews in American Sports, page 264
publisher =
accessdate = 2008-06-06

He played both baseball and football for Erasmus Hall High School, with his football skills impressing recruiters from about 40 colleges. Luckman chose Columbia University after meeting Lions coach Lou Little during a Columbia/Navy game at the university's Baker Field athletic facility.cite web
url =
title = C250 celebrates Columbians ahead of their time
publisher = Columbia University
accessdate = 2008-06-06
] Despite being sought after by numerous colleges, Columbia never offered Luckman a scholarship. The university did however provide him with opportunities to work so that he could pay his own way through college. Sid, keen to remain in Columbia to stay close to his family, took on jobs such as dish-washing, baby-sitting, and messenger delivery around the campus. At Columbia, as a part of the football team, he completed 180 of 376 passes for 2,413 yards and 20 touchdowns and finished third in the 1938 Heisman Trophy voting, behind Davey O'Brien and Marshall Goldberg.

Chicago Bears


Hearing of Sid Luckman's exploits as a single-wing tailback at Columbia University, Chicago Bears owner and coach George Halas believed Luckman had the ability to become an effective T-formation quarterback, and traveled to New York to watch him play. Halas then convinced the Pittsburgh Steelers to draft Luckman second overall and then trade him to the Bears because he was interested in using Luckman's skills to help him restructure the offensive side of the game.Slater, Robert, 2003, p. 189.] However, despite his successes at Columbia University, Luckman initially declined any further interest in pro football, instead preferring to work for his father-in-law’s trucking company. Halas went to work on convincing him otherwise. After gaining an invitation to Luckman's tiny apartment for a dinner which Luckman's wife Estelle prepared, Halas produced a contract for $5,500 which Luckman immediately signed. At that time both at the college and pro levels, offenses were a drab scrum of running the ball with only occasional passes. In what was then the predominant single-wing formation, the quarterback was primarily a blocking back and rarely touched the ball. Most passing was done by the tailback, and then usually only on third down with long yardage to go. Halas and his coaches, primarily Clark Shaughnessy, invented a rather complex scheme building on the traditional T-formation, but needed the right quarterback to run it properly. [Slater, Robert, 2003, p. 189–190.]

Upon starting with Halas, Luckman mastered an offense that revolutionized football, and became the basis of most modern professional offenses. [Slater, Robert, 2003, p. 190.] Eventually, Luckman tutored college coaches across the Big Ten, Notre Dame and West Point in the intricacies of the passing game.


In 1940, during his second season with the Bears, Luckman took over the offense and led the Bears to the title game against Sammy Baugh and the Redskins. The Redskins had beaten the Bears 7–3 during the regular season. Using the "man-in-motion" innovation to great advantage, the Bears destroyed the Redskins 73–0, stated to be "the most one-sided game in the history of the sport".cite web
url =
title = Luckman, Sid, p.274
publisher =
accessdate = 2008-08-19
] Luckman passed only six times, with four completions and 102 yards in the rout. From 1940 to 1946 the Bears displayed their dominance in the game, playing in five NFL championship games, winning four, and posted a 54–17–3 regular season record. In 1942, the Bears posted a perfect 11–0 record and outscored their opponents 376–84, however they lost the championship game to the Redskins. The Bears were denied perfect seasons on two accounts. The first one was in the 1934 when the 13-0 club lost to the New York Giants in the Championship game. The second occurrence happened in 1942 when the 11-0 club was denied perfection and a "three-peat" by the Washington Redskins. See Chicago Bears seasons for full list] Although the T-formation had been used many years before Luckman joined the Chicago Bears, he was central to Chicago's successful use of this style of play because of his game-sense and versatility. Perfecting Halas' complex offensive scheme of fakes, men in motion, and quick hitting runs, Luckman added the dimension of accurate downfield throwing. He was instrumental in his team's record-setting 73–0 over the Washington Redskins in the 1940 NFL championship game. Sportscaster Jimmy Cannon once said in reference to Luckman's years at Columbia, "You had to be there to realize how great Sid was." Luckman later became a sought-after tutor and instructor for universities wishing to install the T-formation as an offense.

ervice with the Merchant Marines

In 1943, as soon as the season had ended, Luckman volunteered as an ensign with the U. S. Merchant Marine. He was stationed stateside and whilst he could not practice with the team, he did receive permission to play for the Bears on game days during the following seasons. He returned again to the Bears, as a full-time occupation, in 1946 and led them to a fifth NFL championship.

Numbers and accomplishments

During his career, Luckman completed 51.8% of his passes for 14,686 yards and 137 touchdowns with 134 interceptions. He averaged 8.4 yards per attempt, second all-time only to Otto Graham (8.6). His career touchdown rate (percentage of pass attempts that result in touchdowns) of 7.9% is easily the best in history. In 1943, Luckman completed 110 of 202 passes for 2194 yards and 28 touchdowns. His 13.9% touchdown rate that year is the best ever in a single-season, while his 10.9 yards per attempt is second all-time. During one game that year, Luckman threw for 443 yards and seven touchdowns, still tied for the most passing touchdowns in one game; it was also the first 400-yard passing game in NFL history. Luckman led the NFL in yards per attempt an NFL record seven times, including a record five consecutive years from 1939 to 1943, and led the NFL in passing yards three times. Luckman was a five-time All-NFL selection, was named the National Football League's Most Valuable Player Award in 1943, and led the "Monsters of the Midway" to championships in 1940, 1941, 1943, and 1946. Despite the fact that his career ended in 1950, Luckman still owns most major Bears' passing records, including career yards and touchdowns.

Career statistics

Later years

Following his professional football career, Luckman headed a Chicago cellophane company named Cellu-Craft Products, which was a part of the Rapid American Corporation of which he also obtained shares. In relation to those shares and the dividends paid, Sid and his wife Estelle in 1969 appealed the finding of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue in relation to tax issues.cite web
url =
title = Seventh Circuit - Sid Luckman and Estelle Luckman, Petitioners-Appellants, v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, Respondent-Appellee., US.FEDERAL.ca7
publisher = v|lex
accessdate = 2008-06-09

Luckman underwent a triple heart bypass operation in 1982. He died at the age of 81 on July 5, 1998, in Aventura, Florida. His wife, Estelle Morgolin, died of cancer in 1981. He is survived by a son, Bob, and two daughters, Gale and Ellen.cite web
url =
title = Sid Luckman, Star for the Bears, Dies at 81
publisher = The New York Times
accessdate = 2008-06-06
] cite web
url =
title = Sid Luckman
publisher = Notable Names Database
accessdate = 2008-06-08

List of honors

# Joe F. Carr Trophy - National Football League Most Valuable Player in 1943.
#College Football Hall of Fame in 1960
# Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965.
# Walter Camp Distinguished American of the Year Award in 1988.
# Columbia University Football Hall of Fame in 2006.cite web
url =
title = Sid Luckman
publisher =
accessdate = 2008-06-06

ee also

*Chicago Bears seasons

References and notes


* Slater, Robert, 2003 "Great Jews in Sports". Jonathan David Publishers Inc ISBN 0-8246-0453-9

External links

*"Pro Football Hall of Fame:" [ Member profile]
*"Jews in Sports:" [ Profile]
*"The American Jewish Historical Society:" [ AJHS profile]

NAME= Luckman, Sidney
SHORT DESCRIPTION= American Football Quarterback
DATE OF BIRTH= November 21, 1916
PLACE OF BIRTH= Brooklyn, New York
DATE OF DEATH= July 5, 1998
PLACE OF DEATH= Aventura, Florida

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