Roman Gabriel was born on August 5, 1940 in Wilmington, North Carolina. Gabriel starred at North Carolina State and was selected with the second pick in the first round of the 1962 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams.
Roman Gabriel Los Angeles Rams
During the first five years of Gabriel’s career, the Rams never had a winning season. Gabriel served as a backup quarterback, wide receiver, and tight end despite being chosen so high in the first round. During his rookie season, Gabriel started the last four games of the season and went 3-1. Gabriel said, “The 1962 season was my first in Los Angeles; we had a young guy named Ron Miller and a veteran named Zeke Bratkowski playing quarterback. The next year the Rams brought in Terry Baker, a Heisman Trophy winner from Oregon State. Then they imported Bill Munson, a big-time quarterback from Utah State. After that, they drafted Billy Anderson, another hotshot QB. They were experimenting with a new quarterback every year, and here I was just sitting and waiting for the chance to play.” (1)
After another frustrating season in 1965, Gabriel decided to sign with the Raiders, hoping for a chance to show off his talents. "The Raiders gave me a signing bonus and George Allen showed up at my door telling me to mail it back to them, that he was going to give me a chance," Gabriel said. "So I sent it back and they mailed it to me again. It was a lot of money, more than I was making with the Rams, but I wanted to play for George and he was true to his word." (2)
Gabriel’s Greatest Game
Quarterbacks are often measured by how they play in big games. On December 17, 1967, Gabriel played in the biggest game of his career against Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts. The Colts were 11-0-2 and the Rams were 10-1-2 with the winner advancing to the playoffs.
After the first quarter was over, the Colts led 7-3. Then the Rams got the ball at the 20-yard line after Baltimore missed a field goal. On the first play, Gabriel went play action pass and the Colts bit. Snow got behind the defense and Gabriel heaved the ball 60 yards in the air. Snow snatched it and ran the rest of the way for a touchdown to go up 10-7. It was a lead they would never relinquish. They would go on to beat the Colts 34-10 and Gabriel passed 18 of 22 for 257 yards and three touchdowns. The Rams defense, led by “The Fearsome Foursome,” also came to play and sacked Unitas seven times and pressured and pounded him on many other occasions.
"You would have thought Gabriel was Unitas,” said Rams' coach George Allen. "He sure held his poise out there. Roman has greatly matured over the past two years." (3)
Roman Gabriel MVP
The 1969 season was a magical one for Roman Gabriel and the Los Angeles Rams. For the second time in his career he would lead his team to the playoffs, only to lose in the bitter cold of Minnesota. Despite the setback, Gabriel was perhaps the best player in the NFL in 1969 and was voted NFL MVP. For the season, he was 217-399 for 2549 yards with 24 touchdown passes and only 7 interceptions.
Roman Gabriel to the Eagles
After Gabriel was ravished with injuries, he was shipped out to Philadelphia since the Rams considered him injury prone. Gabriel was not done. In 1973, Gabriel reminded the football world how good a quarterback he was. He was named NFL Comeback Player of the Year, and for good reason. He connected on 270 of his 460 passes for a career best 3219 yards, completing 58.7 percent of his passes. He also threw 23 touchdown passes against only 12 interceptions. He was voted to the Pro Bowl for the fourth time following the season.
Roman Gabriel Hall of Fame ?
Roman Gabriel was one of the best quarterbacks of his era. At the time of his retirement in 1977, Gabriel ranked in the all-time top 10 in passing attempts (4,498), completions (2,366), passing yards (29,444), and touchdowns (201). Despite these impressive numbers, he still hasn’t been elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"I know a lot of fans are constantly watching guys going into the Hall of Fame, and they wondered why I haven't gone in," he says. "There's a movement here in Carolina over the last couple of years to see if I can get in. I always say, look, if it happens, it happens. There are a lot in there who deserve to be and a lot who aren't in there who deserve to be. I think maybe the shameful thing is that so much of it is politics. I played 16 years, and my stats stand up to many of them who are in there. Some will say, `Well, he didn't play in a Super Bowl.' Then anyone who didn't win a Super Bowl shouldn't be in there."
Gabriel may one day be inducted into Canton. However, even if he doesn’t, we will not forget him.By A. Goodin, 20Yardline.com
November 16, 2007
Roman Gabriel Biography Sources:
(1) The Game I’ll Never Forget Roman Gabriel (2000, August 1) Football Digest
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