Fifty-five years ago today, an NFL team whose General Manager would soon be league commissioner traded nine players for a future Hall of Fame tailback.
And you thought the Trent Richardson trade was a big deal.
Rozelle and the late Matson (second from left at right) had history together. Matson was a star fullback at the University of San Francisco, whose 1951 team went undefeated, while Rozelle was the school’s sports information director. Two other future Hall of Famers — tackle Bob St. Clair and defensive end Gino Marchetti — also played for the 1951 Dons. However, this exceptionally skilled club wouldn’t play in a bowl game; according to the school, the team rejected an invitation to the 1951 Orange Bowl that was conditional on the club’s African-American players — Matson and Burl Toler — not playing.
The Cardinals’ first-round pick in 1952 — the same year in which he won bronze and silver medals in track at the Olympics — Matson never played on a first-place team in his 14-season NFL career, and only twice did he play on teams with winning records. The Cardinals struggled in his six seasons on the field, and the Rams were 11-39-2 in his four seasons (1959-1962).
In the end, the trade didn’t lead to great success for either club. The Chicago Cardinals would move to St. Louis in 1960. Their next postseason appearance would be in 1974. The Rams, meanwhile, would next make the postseason in 1967, one season after Matson had wrapped up his NFL career with Philadelphia. Overall, Matson would rack up 12,844 combined yards and 73 TDs, and he would be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1972.
The trade for Matson, who passed away at age 80 in 2011, remains one of the biggest from a player count standpoint in NFL history.
Now, imagine something like this in the Twitter era.