Today's Tidbit... Fort Ord Takes On The NFL - Twice
Most football fans know that service football teams played colleges large and small during WWI and WWII. The service football tradition continued in the 1950s, though most service teams played one another exclusively.
Nevertheless, the services produced some excellent football teams, partly because Uncle Sam drafted NFL and former college players like everyone else. As a result, some service teams had significant, though uneven, talent. Prominent among them were the Fort Ord Warriors, winners of the New Year’s Day 1954 Salad Bowl to claim the national service championship.
The win led to opportunities to play exhibition games against the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers. Fort Ord's quarterback was Jimmy Powers, who had spent four years on the 49ers roster, but the star of their show was Ollie Matson, a bronze and silver medalist at the Helsinki Olympics and future member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The soldiers' late July game with Los Angeles saw Matson tally on 91- and 74-yard scoring plays, but the Rams wore down the soldiers to win 34-13.
Fort Ord took on the 49ers one week later. Expected to contend for the NFL title, the 49ers were a talented crew with Y.A. Tittle under center and Hugh McElhenny taking the handoffs, three of which resulted in first-quarter touchdowns. Matson was held in check all day as the 49ers called off the dogs, walking away with a 42-14 win.
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