Maxie Baughan didn't know what to expect when he was drafted by the Eagles in 1960. A kid from Forkland, Alabama, he knew very little about professional football. At the time, there was no NFL franchise south of Washington, D.C. and there was no network TV package.
"I didn't even know the names of the (pro) teams," Baughan said, "so when the Eagles drafted me I figured, 'OK, I'll see what this is all about.'"
Baughan was the Eagles' second-round pick, a 6-1, 225-pound linebacker from Georgia Tech. Their first pick, running back Ron Burton from Northwestern, signed with the Boston Patriots of the American Football League, so Baughan arrived to the scrutiny normally associated with a first-round selection.
"I missed the first couple weeks of Training Camp because I was at the College All-Star Game," Baughan said. "We played on a Friday night in Chicago. Next day I flew to Los Angeles because the Eagles were playing an exhibition game against the Rams. I met the team at the hotel, shook a few hands and rode the bus the stadium. I played a little on special teams that night but that was it.
"The next week, we played San Francisco and (head coach) Buck Shaw put me in on defense. Early in the game, (49ers halfback) Hugh McElhenny kicked (Eagles tackle) Eddie Khayat in the head. It was right in front of me. I went after him and he took off running. I chased him about 30 yards but I finally caught him. I knocked him down and we went at it pretty good."
Both benches emptied and it turned into a full-scale brawl. The officials needed the police to get things under control. But when it was over, Baughan was part of the Eagles' family.
With just a week left until the 2015 #EaglesHOF inductions, we look back at Maxie Baughan's career as an Eagle. View the full gallery here...
"That Maxie is a real tough kid," Shaw said after the game. "I thought McElhenny was pretty rugged himself, but Maxie chased him down then yanked off his helmet and began letting him have it where it hurts."
Baughan was the only rookie to start every game for the Eagles in 1960 as they posted a 10-2 regular season record and defeated Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers in the NFL Championship Game. He was voted into the Pro Bowl, a rarity for a rookie in those days. He did it all for $13,000 plus a $2,000 signing bonus which was the going rate for first-year players in that era.
"People would laugh at that (salary) today, but I was in hog heaven," Baughan said. "I was only playing half the game compared to playing both ways in college. Plus I was getting paid for it. I was doing pretty good for a country boy from Alabama.
"My daddy worked in the steel mills all his life. That's where I would've wound up, too, if it wasn't for football. Only 15 kids from my high school class went to college and most of us went on athletic scholarships. That was the only way out of town."
Baughan will be inducted into the Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Fame tonight along with running back Brian Westbrook, two outstanding players from different eras. When Baughan arrived in Philadelphia, the Eagles were lucky to draw 35,000 people to home games at Franklin Field. But the 1960 team changed all that with its dramatic run to the championship. The passion felt at Eagles games today has its origins in that championship season.
"It was a magical year," Baughan said. "We weren't the most talented team, but every week we found a way to win. We could be 17 points down at halftime and come back to win. We were like a Cinderella team and who doesn't love Cinderella?"
The leaders of the team were quarterback Norm Van Brocklin and center-linebacker Chuck Bednarik. As a rookie, Baughan was in awe of the two Hall of Famers. He is still in awe of them today.
"Van Brocklin was like a coach," Baughan said. "He ran the practices, not Buck. Every day we'd go to practice at River Field and the rookies had to get the blocking dummies out of the equipment shed. I had to do it, too, even though I was starting. That's just how things were done. After practice we'd put them back.
"Practice would end when Dutch (Van Brocklin) said so. He'd yell out, 'OK, that's it.' Buck was fine with it and so were the players. It was an unusual setup. It was different than anything I saw in college playing for (coach) Bobby Dodd, but it worked because of the chemistry of that team. There was a closeness among those players that was unique."
Unique certainly describes Bednarik, the ironman who was on the field for virtually every play down the stretch at age 35. He was the Eagles' starting center, but when linebacker Bob Pellegrini was injured at midseason Bednarik stepped in and played that position as well.
"I remember looking up and seeing Chuck in the (defensive) huddle," Baughan said. "I was surprised but then I realized, 'That's Chuck Bednarik.' You never doubt what he can do. I played the right side and Chuck played the left. Chuck Weber was in the middle and he made the calls. Instinct is a wonderful thing and Bednarik had it. He could read a play and get to the football and when he did it was one heckuva collision. Frank Gifford (the late Giants' star KO'd by Bednarik) can tell you all about that."
In 1960, the Eagles' defense allowed an average of 334 yards per game but it led the league with 45 takeaways, a huge number when you consider it was a 12-game regular season. Baughan had three interceptions that season.
"That was a great year," Baughan said. "I remember thinking, 'There's nothing to this.' I was starting as a rookie, we won the championship and I went to the Pro Bowl. I thought it would be like that every year. As it turns out, I spent another 30 years in the NFL as a player and a coach and I never went to another championship game. It just shows you how hard it is to get there."
Baughan played five more seasons with the Eagles before he was traded to the Rams where he played five years under Hall of Fame coach George Allen. In his 12 pro seasons, Baughan was voted into nine Pro Bowls. In Allen's book, "Pro Football's 100 Greatest Players," he included Baughan among his all-time linebackers.
"One thing that all great linebackers have is toughness and Maxie sure had it," Allen wrote. "I remember games when he was hurt and no one thought he could play, but he not only played he performed as well as ever. Maxie enjoyed the physical game. He never gave up on a play. He hated to lose and he fired up his teammates game after game. No one loafed when Maxie was around."
Following his playing career, Baughan was an assistant coach with the Baltimore Colts, Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings as well as head coach at Cornell University. In 2010, he returned to Philadelphia with 17 other members of the 1960 team to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that championship season. They were honored at the home opener and greeted warmly by the sellout crowd at Lincoln Financial Field.
"I was amazed," Baughan said. "There were so many young people who knew us and called us by name. I said to one guy, 'You weren't even around in 1960.' He said, 'No, but my father told me all about you.' It says so much about these fans. They really are a special group.'"
An award-winning writer and producer, Ray Didinger was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995. He has also won six Emmy Awards for his work as a writer and producer at NFL Films. The five-time Pennsylvania Sportswriter of the Year is a writer and analyst for Comcast SportsNet. Didinger will provide Eagles fans a unique historical perspective on the team throughout the year for PhiladelphiaEagles.com. You can read all of his Eagles History columns here. He is also the author of The New Eagles Encyclopedia.