There is no clear-and-definitive choice so why not Ollie Matson?
With 33 days remaining until the Eagles’ scheduled regular-season opener against the Washington Football Team, one of the NFL’s top players from the 1950s represents the franchise at No. 33 in our daily jersey countdown to kickoff.
A Hall of Fame running back, Matson did most of his damage for the old Chicago Cardinals, making six Pro Bowls and getting Stitched Arizona Cardinals Jerseys seven All-Pro nods on his way to Canton. He ended his brilliant 14-year career with three seasons in Philadelphia, however, amassing 608 yards over 40 games.
A 1950s All-Decade team member, Matson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972. His cachet was such that the Eagles put Matson in their own HOF as well, one of only 37 players so honored and part of the inaugural class in 1987.
The No. 3 overall pick out of San Francisco in the 1952 NFL Draft, Matson arrived in the NFL as a ready-made star having participated in the 1952 Helsinki Summer Olympic Games as a sprinter, winning a bronze medal in the 400-meters Cheap Ollie Matson Jersey and a silver as part of the United States 4×400-meter relay team.
When Matson retired in 1966, his 12,799 career all-purpose yards were second in league history behind only the legendary Jim Brown.
Current number 33:
Elijah Holyfield/Grayland Arnold. The Eagles have split the number offense/defense for training camp.
Holyfield, the son for former heavyweight boxing champion of the world Evander Holyfield, was brought in for the playoff game against Seattle back in January as depth in the backfield after his practice-squad contract in Carolina expired so he’s got a bit of a head start on undrafted rookie Michael Warren when it comes to earning the final RB spot presumably behind Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, and Corey Clement.
At 5-foot-10 and 215 pounds, Holyfield is no burner, which is why he went undrafted out of the University of Georgia after running a 4.78 40-yard dash, at the combine. During his final season at Georgia Holyfield served as a team captain and rushed for 1,018 yards (6.4 avg.) and seven touchdowns, joining teammate De’Andre Swift (1,049) as two of eight SEC players to crack the 1,000-yard barrier that season.
Arnold, meanwhile, is a high-level undrafted free agent defensive back out of Baylor who the Eagles believe has position versatility on the back end, something which fits the offseason narrative of the so-called positionless player who can move between safety and slot cornerback in the big nickel.
A Sports Illustrated second-team All-American as a senior Arnold finished off his Baylor career with seven interceptions.
Top 3 to wear number 33:
3. Louie Giammona. The undersized Giammona’s presence on the Eagles roster smacked of nepotism considering he is Dick Vermeil’s nephew but the default to that sentiment fails to take into account that Giammona was an eighth-round pick of the New York Jets out of Utah State in 2018 and made that team as a rookie, playing in 14 games and rushing for 150 yards while also serving as a returner at times.
By the time Giammona reached Philadelphia two years later, he quickly settled into a backup RB and special-teams role for five seasons. The 1980 Super Bowl XV campaign was Giammona’s most productive as a professional with 361 yards rushing and another 178 receiving.
2. Billy Ray Barnes. To the more modern football fan if you hear the name Billy Bob you probably want to think about a beefy offensive lineman helping “Mox” and “Tweeder” lift the West Canaan Coyotes to another big win en route to the next district title. There is no Billy Bob in Eagles’ lore but we got close with Billy Ray Barnes, the former halfback who broke onto the scene in the late-1950s and was a part of the 1960 championship team.
Barnes played the first five of nine NFL seasons in Philadelphia as a second-round pick out of Wake Forest in 1957. He was a starter in the backfield for most of his time with the Eagles and an ironman, playing all 60 regular-season games he was with the franchise.
In the 1960 championship season, Barnes started all 12 games as a halfback though he managed only 315 yards on 117 carries. In the championship game itself, Barnes was the second-leading rusher behind Ted Dean with 42 yards on 13 carries.
1. Ollie Matson. See Above.
Erie Bieniemy. The next rising star in the revered Andy Reid coaching tree, Bieniemy finished his nine-year playing career in 1999 with the Eagles as a backup running back. He played in all 16 games and rushed for 75 yards. That of course was Reid’s first year as a head coach and Bieniemy’s smarts made an impression.
By 2001, Bieniemy was in the coaching ranks at his alma mater, the University of Colorado, and by 2006 he was back in the NFL as Adrian Peterson’s position coach with the Minnesota Vikings. After a two-year stint back at Colorado as the offensive coordinator, Reid brought in Bieniemy to be his RB coach in 2013. By 2018 after Matt Nagy got the top job in Chicago, Bieniemy was promoted to be the OC and is regarded as an almost surefire future head coach.
Others: Guy Turnbow, Ray Spillers, Bob Masters, Taldon Manton, Jack Banta, Steve Sader, Russ Craft, Roy Barni, Willie Berzinski, Merrill Douglas, Don Jonas, Ron Blye, Steve Preece, Randy Jackson, Ronald “Po” James, Mike Waters, William Frizzell, Kevin Bouie, Tim Watson, Aaron Hayden, Thomas Hamner, Terrence Carroll, Clinton Hart, Donald Strickland, Jack Ikegwuonu, Jerome Harrison, Jordan Poyer, Chris Prosinski, Ron Brooks, Dexter McDougle, and Josh Adams.