"The Only Yardstick for Success is Being a Champion" - Bill Walsh

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Frankie Albert - the Little General

Over the years the Niners have had some sensational quarterbacks. Names like Montana, Young, Tittle, Brodie, Garcia, etc. The least known but one of the absolute best was a little left-hander who started it all -- Frankie Albert. He was the first QB in Niner history and played from 1946-1949 in the old AAFC, then from 1950 -1952 in the NFL.

Frankie was 5-10, 166. He was a great ballhandler who often mystified the defense who on occasion didn't know who had the ball. He was also very quick and mobile, and a very accurate passer with a rifle arm for a little man.

In 1939, Albert was Stanford's starting single-wing tailback. When Clark Shaughnessy became the school's coach in 1940, he installed the T-formation and moved Albert to quarterback. The new formation called for skilled ball-handling and faking, as well as accurate passing.

Albert not only was skilled at all three, he was also a great kicker. He had a 79-yard punt against Oregon State in 1940. Stanford was undefeated that season, and Albert kicked all three extra points in a 21-13 win over Nebraska in the Rose Bowl. He was named All-American quarterback and finished third in Heisman Trophy voting.

Frank made All-American again in 1941, and was drafted #1 in 1942 by the Chicago Bears. After serving in the Navy in World War II, he signed with the 49ers of the newly formed All-America Football Conference (AAFC).
In 1948 he led the AAFC with 29 touchdown passes and shared the Most Valuable Player award with Otto Graham. He was also named Pro Football Player of the Year by Sport magazine.

The following season, he threw 5 touchdown passes in a 56-28 win over Cleveland, had an
82-yard punt against Buffalo and led the AAFC with a 48.2 yard punting average. He had to be named to the All-AAFC team but Otto Graham was the Bill Russell of football. so rather than leave the deserving Albert off the All-Pro team, they named him to the team as a halfback, a position he hadn't played since his sophomore year at Stanford.

In his career with the Niners, he passed for 10,795 yards and 115 TDs. He rushed for 1,272 yards and 27 TDs, and even caught a TD pass. He punted 70 times for a 43.0 average with a long of 82 yards, and even kicked an extra point. He also returned 5 kickoffs for a 19.0 average.

Albert returned to the 49ers as head coach in 1956 and had a 19-16-1 record in three seasons.

Frankie set the tone for all Niner quarterbacks to follow. He was small, but feisty and tough. I salute the Father of our Quarterbacks, Frankie Albert -- a great player.

Gary Mialocq
The SF 49er Observer

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