by Scott Kindberg
February 6, 2005
A Loyal Eagle
McCusker Recalls '60 Title Game, Looks Forward To Tonight
Jim McCusker retired from football after the 1964 season, but the game he loved so much is never very far away.
At The Pub, the Main Street establishment he opened in Jamestown nearly four decades ago, reminders of his career hang on the wall facing the bar. Three of his replica jerseys - one each from high school, college and the NFL - are mounted and framed, as are photographs of McCusker during his 7-year NFL career, which included stints with the Chicago Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns and New York Jets.
"It's something you never thought would happen to you," McCusker said late Saturday morning, his arms resting on the bar, as he waited for the noon lunch crowd to arrive. "You come out of Jamestown High School, have a great high school career there, then you go to the University of Pittsburgh and work yourself up the ladder. It was great."
But there was nothing greater for McCusker, a former offensive left tackle, than what happened December 26, 1960 at Franklin Field in Philadelphia. That was the day that his Eagles defeated the heavily favored Green Bay Packers, 17-13, to win the city's last NFL championship.
This year's Eagles, who play New England in Super Bowl XXXIX tonight at All-Tel Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida, will try to end the 44-year title drought.
McCusker will be watching from his home in Jamestown.
"I'm excited," he said. "I have so much loyalty to them."
Conversely, Eagles fans should have plenty of respect for McCusker, who played a huge role in helping Philadelphia score the game-winning touchdown against Green Bay late in the fourth quarter.
The Eagles trailed, 13-10, until Hall-of-Fame quarterback Norm Van Brocklin rallied them in the final period, highlighted by Ted Dean's 5-yard touchdown run with 5:20 left.
"Ted Dean was a rookie, who grew up in Philadelphia," McCusker said. "We ran a play around my end. I hit the defensive end, threw him off-balance, and Billy Ray Barnes (the Eagles tailback) finished him off. I proceeded and picked up the middle linebacker coming over, Ray Nitschke."
Keep in mind, Nitschke, who was later inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, was a friend of McCusker's, the pair having been roommates when they played in two college all-star games.
But all that was forgotten, of course, with the NFL championship on the line.
"I knocked Ray down and I'm on the bottom and we're lying there," said McCusker, who stood 6-2 and weighed 245. "He looks at me, looks at my jersey and says, 'Number 75, Jim, you son of gun. It had to be you.'"
McCusker laughed at the memory.
"They all said we couldn't run on them, but we could run on them," he said. "There was no problem with that."
On Green Bay's final drive, quarterback Bart Starr threw a pass over the middle to Jim Taylor, who was wrapped up by middle linebacker Chuck Bednarik, another future Hall of Famer, at the Eagles' 9-yard line.
The championship belonged to the Eagles.
McCusker and his teammates earned $5800 for the victory, compared to the $68,000 winner's share for tonight's Super Bowl.
But the Jamestown native, whose top salary of his career was $22,500, isn't upset by how the economics of the game have changed. Unlike Bednarik, who acknowledged this week that he has a grudge against his former team, its current owner and the NFL, McCusker revels in talking about his football past.
"It's really sad that he did that," McCusker said of Bednarik. "Everybody from our team in 1960 is going to say 'What a jerk.' What he's tarnishing is himself. He had a tremendous career. When I went to Philadelphia in 1959, he was 'Mr. Philadelphia.'"
But the former 'Mr. Philadelphia' was quoted as saying that he will be rooting for the Patriots tonight because he doesn't want to see the Eagles franchise win another title.
"I'll tell you what happened to Bednarik," McCusker said. "Just because they wouldn't buy his book, he got mad at the owners."
McCusker has never written a book, but with all the stories he has to tell, it might not be a bad idea.
As for tonight's game, he didn't offer a prediction on its outcome but he did make it clear who he likes at quarterback.
"As great as Tom Brady is, and I think he's a tremendous quarterback and I don't take anything away from him, Donovan McNabb is much more of a threat overall."
Once an Eagle, always an Eagle.