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Frank Gifford

Drafted By Giants

After learning that his girlfriend, Maxine Avis Ewart, had become pregnant, Gifford eloped with her to Las Vegas, Nevada on January 13, 1952. In deference to the morals of the day, the Giffords stated publicly that they had secretly married a year earlier. Gifford then signed a contract to play for the NFL's New York Giants and dropped out of college. He later completed his degree at USC in 1956 during his off-seasons from the Giants.

Although he was unhappy playing for the Giants at first, the arrival of Vince Lombardi as the team's defensive coach in 1954 transformed Gifford's NFL career. Under Lombardi's guidance, Gifford became one of the best running backs of the era. Named the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 1956 by United Press International, Gifford set Giants team records for average yards per carry (4.3) and total touchdowns (ninety-two) that still stood in 2002. In 1956 the Giants won the NFL Championship over the Philadelphia Eagles; it was the only championship title the team took during Gifford's football career, which lasted until 1964.


1930 Born August 16 in Santa Monica, California to Weldon and Lola Mae Gifford
1948 Enters Bakersfield Junior College
1949 Enters University of Southern California
1951 Receives All-American honors for college football from Collier's magazine
1952 Marries Maxine Ewart on January 13 in Las Vegas
1952 Is drafted by New York Giants
1956 Is named Most Valuable Player in NFL by United Press International
1960 Suffers severe injury on November 20 game against Philadelphia Eagles
1964 Retires from professional football
1971 Joins ABC network's Monday Night Football lineup
1976 Induction into College Football Hall of Fame
1977 Induction into Pro Football Hall of Fame
1986 Marries Kathie Lee Epstein Johnson on October 18
1997 Adulterous affair publicized in the Globe tabloid
1998 Retires as broadcaster

A photogenic presence on and off the field, Gifford was instrumental in popularizing football as a televised sport in the 1950s. One of the first nationally televised NFL championship games, a December 28, 1958 match between the Giants and the Baltimore Colts, came to be known as the "Greatest Game Ever Played." Gifford had fumbled twice in the early stages of the game but recovered to rush for a touchdown and bring the team close to another scoring opportunity. After a referee marked one play just short of a first down, however, the Giants were forced to punt. The Colts went on to win the game by a 23-17 margin, but many viewers were furious over the referee's call.

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Famous Sports StarsFootballFrank Gifford Biography - Unsettled Childhood, Outstanding Player At Usc, Drafted By Giants, Chronology, Success As Broadcaster - SELECTED WRITINGS BY GIFFORD: