The Essential Football Library
We will be adding to this list periodically. If you have suggestions for your favorite titles, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated: February 23, 1997
The Pros: A Documentary of Professional Football in America by Robert Riger and Tex Maule (1960). A collection of Riger's impressive photographs from the 1950s.
Instant Replay by Jerry Kramer (1968). The diary of Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame guard during the Pack's Super Bowl glory years of the 1960's.
A Thinking Man's Guide to Pro Football by Paul Lionel Zimmerman (1970). Provides insights not generally realized by the average fan.
The Game That Was by Myron Cope (1970). Interviews with some of the greats of the '20s and '30s. The football version of The Glory of Their Times.
Coach: A Season with Lombardi by Tom Dowling (1970). An authorized account of the last season in the life of one of the greatest coaches ever in the NFL. Lomardi created the Green bay Packer dynasty of the '60s and finished up with the Washington Redskins before he died.
Confessions of a Dirty Ballplayer by Johnny Sample with Fred J. Hamilton and Sonny Schwartz (1970). Football's version of Ball Four that makes that book read like Dr. Seuss. Sample played defensive back for the Baltimore Colts and the New York Jets in a pro bowl career. He fought with players, coaches and owners while garnering the reputation as the league's dirtiest player along the way.
They Call It a Game by Bernie Parrish (1971). The first major indictment of pro football's crooked management dealings from the commissioner and greedy owners to the players and media. Parrish was a defensive back for the Cleveland Browns.
Out of Their League by Dave Meggyesy (1971). Exposes the dehumanizing quality of the game including fraud, racism and drug abuse. Meggyesy was a star linebacker with the St. Louis Cardinals but quit in his prime to write this book.
Rockne: The Coach, the Man, the Legend by Jerry Brondfield (1976). Biography of the legendary Notre Dame coach and pioneer. He was an innovative strategist and such a great motivator that businesses hired him to give talks. He died in a plane crash at the age of 43.
The Scrapbook History of Pro Football edited by Richard M. Cohen (1976). A collection of pictures, memorabilia, articles and news stories.
PB: The Paul Brown Story by Paul Brown with Jack Clary (1979). Autobiography of probably the most successful and innovative coaches in NFL history. The ex-Cleveland Brown and Cincinnati Bengal mastermind reveals all the secrets and formulas to his success and pulls no punches in the process.
Halas by Halas by George Halas with Gwen Morgan and Arthur Veysey (1979). Autobiography of pro football pioneer and Chicago Bears coach George Halas. He helped organize the NFL in 1922 and coached the Bears for 40 seasons winning seven championships including the lopsided 73-0 victory over the Redskins in 1940. In that game, the Bears surprised Washington with their innovative use of the T-formation. "Papa Bear" was also known for his disciplinarian coaching technique.
Pro Football's Greatest Moments by Jack Cleary (1983). Featuring 59 of the most memorable games from 1945-1986 with lots of great photographs.
Their Deeds and Dogged Faith by Mike Rathet and Don R. Smith (1984). An exciting collection of stories, photographs and memorabilia from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
What a Game They Played by Richard Whittingham (1984). Interviews with players from the '20s, '30s and '40s.
Jim Thorpe: World's Greatest Athlete by Robert W. Wheeler (1985). Biography of the great Olympic hero and all-around athlete Jim Thorpe. He led the Canton Bulldogs to unofficial championships in 1916, 1917 and 1919 and was the first star player and commissioner of the NFL. He went on to play for various teams through 1926. He also played baseball for the New York Giants from 1913 to 1919.
Vince: A Personal Biography of Vince Lombardi by Michael O'Brien (1987). One of the famous "Seven Blocks of Granite" at Fordham, Lombardi was hired as coach and GM by the lowly Packers in 1959 and turned them into a dynasty practically overnight. The shard-driving disciplinarian was the winning coach in the first two Super Bowls.
Pictorial History of Football by Roland Lazenby (1987). Produced for the remaindered tables in book stores with average text but good photographs.
Iron Men by Stuart Leuthner (1988). Interviews with players from the 1950's.
The Fireside Book of Pro Football by Richard Whittingham (1989). Stories, anecdotes, oral histories, good reading.
Out of Bounds by Jim Brown with Steve Delsohn (1989). The autobiography of the greatest running back in pro football history. We applaud it's honest, penetrating look at the game on and off the field but you have to wade through the sociological and racial opinions to get there. Still a must-read.
The Hidden Game of Pro Football by Bob Carroll (1990). The stories and strategies behind the numbers.
The Golden Age of Pro Football by Mickey Herskowitz (1990). Excellent look at the NFL in the 1950s and one of the better books on football in general.
The Pro Football Chronicle by Dan Daly and Bob O'Connell (1990). Excellent history from 1920-1990 but not definitive.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame: Players, Coaches, Team Owners and League Officials by Denis J. Harrington (1991). Complete profiles of everybody with photographs, illustrations and index.
Heart of a Lion: The Wild and Wooly Life of Bobby Layne by Bob St. John (1991). The biography of the hard living, hard drinking Hall of Fame quarterback. Layne, an emotional leader on the field, was originally drafted by the Bears but spent the majority of his career with Detroit winning NFL Championships in 1952 and 1953.
Pro Football: When the Grass Was Real by Bob Carroll (1992). Stories and reflections from the 1960s featuring big names like Vince Lombardi, Johnny Unitas, Gale Sayers, Dick Butkus and Joe Namath..
The Truly Great: The 200 Best Pro Football Players of all Time by Rick Korch (1993). Players and coaches rank the players and provide insight into their personalities, strengths and weaknesses.
The Golden Years of Pro Football by Jim Campbell (1993). A coffee table book with great pictures and better than average text. Most of the book deals with the years following WWII.
75 Seasons: The Complete Story of the National Football League, 1920-1995 produced by National Football League Properties, Creative Services Division (1994).
Big Leagues: Professional Baseball, Football and Basketball in National Memory by Stephen Fox (1994). Fox traces each sport's evolution from humble beginnings to multi-million dollar businesses. The nine chapter's topics range from the three major sports to techniques, the fans, black players, dynasties and big business.
Pigskin: The Early Years of Pro Football by Robert W. Peterson (1997). An informative view of football from the 1880ís to the 1950ís when television began playing a major role. Included are profiles of early dynasties and star players.
The Sports Encyclopedia of Pro Football edited by David S. Neft & Richard M. Cohen. One of the better reference books featuring year-by-year and team-by-team statistics and summaries including playoff and all-star games. The paperback editions are in two volumes: 1895-1959 and also 1960 to the present.
Biographical Dictionary of American Sports: Football edited by David Porter. Featuring some 500 capsules of college and professional players, coaches, owners and officials.
Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League edited by Bob Carroll, Michael Gersham, David Neft and John Thorn. The ultimate pro football reference book. Brand new for 1997.
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Also, most any publication from the National Football Researcher's Association. Contact Bob Carroll for complete list.