Doak Walker once said of the great Bobby Layne, "Bobby Layne never lost a game. Time just ran out. Nobody hated to lose more than Bobby."
That might sum up the "Blonde Bomber" best. His 28-6 Texas career record stood for 53 years before Vince Young broke it in 2005. It now ranks third in school history. And while it's unfair to compare passing stats with today's game, Layne's 3,145 career yards during the mid-1940s are ninth-most in school history. Pretty stinkin' impressive. He was one of college football's early great passing quarterbacks.
While many Texas fans today (including this writer) never got to see him play, we love reading and hearing stories about him. Layne took his talents to the Detroit Lions and won three NFL championships in the 1950s. He also is one of the most collected vintage stars of his era in the football card hobby. Even if you're not a collector, you've got to appreciate how Layne's early Bowman and Topps cards capture what he meant to the game of football. Like little cardboard time capsules, they tell their own stories of a time when pro football-and football cards, for that matter-were thrust into the fabric of America. Plus, they're just darn cool to look at.
Here are 10 great Layne cards that chronicle his success in the NFL.
1949 Leaf #67
This is the crème de la crème or coup de grace - or whatever French phrase you want to use mean "awesome" - of all Bobby Layne cards. His rookie card. It's valued at around $200 in decent condition. Copies in great condition bring several hundred dollars. Notice his name is spelled wrong (Bobbie), and it includes his nickname. This was before Bowman or Topps ever entered the card game. There also are two versions on this card - one with red pants and one with yellow (look just below his left hand).
1950 Bowman #37
This is part of the first Bowman NFL card set. Its small size, classic and simple look, plus Layne's Capitan America-like pose just ooze nostalgia. It's valued at $100-$200 depending on condition.
1951 Bowman #102
Layne looks more like a manikin trying to block a kick than he does a Hall of Fame quarterback. But check out the old-school Lions logo. Greatness!
1952 Bowman #78
In 1952, Topps created two sets-a Large and a Small. The Large set actually measures closer to today's cards. This version was enormously popular and remains one of the most coveted sets in football card history. The Layne sells for around $300 in decent condition. The Small version sells for about half that.
1953 Bowman #21
This is a simple design with an untouched photo of Layne. Still a cool golden boy look. Price tag is about $125.
1954 Bowman #53
Not sure what Layne is doing here-bowling, maybe? Toss sweep? Regardless, Layne had won two NFL championships by the time this released. It's a great deal at about $50.
1955 Bowman #71
Collectors actually appreciate the pink background. It's a sign of the times. Value is around $75.
1956 Topps #116
Topps took over the NFL card business and later acquired Bowman. This is a great shot of Layne over a bright red background. It's valued at $50 but copies can be found for $25-$30.
1957 Topps #32
With rookie cards of Johnny Unitas, Bart Starr and Paul Hornung, the 1957 Topps set is one of the most collected sets of all time. The Layne is one of the top veteran cards. The double-photo design was ahead of its time.
1958 Topps #2
More pink, but that's fine. The wrinkled pants and baggy jersey are classic NFL. It's an easy pick-up for about $25.