Everything You Need To Know About Tom Fears

Tom Fears, an outstanding player, coach, and administrator, and the 1951 NFL champion. He is a member of both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Tom Fears

Thomas Jesse Fears was born on December 3, 1922, in Guadalajara, Mexico. His father, Charles, was a mining engineer who worked on a contract in Mexico. There, he married Carmen Valdes, a Mexican woman who gave birth to their son. In 1928, their family moved to Los Angeles. It was in school that Fears first became acquainted with football. After graduating, he enrolled at Santa Clara University but his studies were interrupted by the war. His father was drafted into the army and later became a prisoner of war in Japanese custody, which led Tom to aspire to become a fighter pilot and join the Pacific theater. However, he did not get the opportunity to go to the frontlines and instead served at an Air Force base in Colorado. Following his discharge in 1945, Fears was drafted by the Cleveland Rams, but he declined the opportunity to play and returned to his studies, transferring to UCLA. In 1976, he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.

In 1948, after receiving his degree, Fears finally joined the Rams, who had by then relocated to Los Angeles. Although initially drafted as a defensive back, he quickly found himself being utilized as a receiver. In the first three seasons of his career, Tom consistently led the league in receptions and also became the yardage leader in 1950. During that same year, the Rams made it to the finals and won the coveted championship title the following year. In the final game against the Cleveland Browns, Fears made the game-winning 73-yard touchdown reception. His career was gaining momentum, but in October 1953, he suffered a spinal injury. Tom managed to return to the field and played for the Rams until almost the end of the 1956 season, but he was never able to regain his previous form.

Realizing that he couldn't continue playing, Fears transitioned to coaching. He worked as an assistant coach for several years, including a period on Vince Lombardi's staff with the Green Bay Packers. In 1967, he got the opportunity to work as a head coach, becoming the first head coach in the history of the New Orleans Saints. At the same time, Tom became the first head coach in the league with Latin American roots. However, he was unable to build a successful team from scratch, and the Saints never rose above third place in their division. He was fired in the middle of the 1970 season. Afterward, he spent two years as an offensive coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles and two more successful seasons as the head coach of the California Sun in the World Football League.

Following the financial collapse of the organization, Fears transitioned to administrative work and only coached a community college team in San Bernardino. During this period, he acted as an advisor and scout and also participated in the filming of the movie "North Dallas Forty." After the movie was released, NFL teams reportedly refused any further collaboration with Fears, who claimed that he had been blacklisted by the NFL. Whether such a blacklist existed or not remains unknown, but Tom never worked with NFL teams again.

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From 1983 to 1985, he held a position in the front office of the Los Angeles Express team in the United States Football League. His final football-related job was as the head coach of a team in Milan that was supposed to compete in the International Football League in 1990. Several years later, Tom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. He passed away on January 4, 2000, at the age of 77.

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Despite his conflict with the NFL, Tom Fears remains a prominent figure in the history of the 1950s. He was named to the All-Decade Team and has been a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame since 1970, becoming the first Mexican-born inductee.

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