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Ollie Matson

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No. 33
Position: Halfback
Personal information
Date of birth: (1930-05-01)May 1, 1930
Place of birth: Trinity, Texas
Date of death: February 19, 2011(2011-02-19) (aged 80)
Place of death: Los Angeles, California
Career information
High school: San Francisco (CA) Washington
College: San Francisco
NFL draft: 1952 / Round: 1 / Pick: 3
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career Template:If empty statistics
Rushing yards: 5,173
Average: 4.4
Touchdowns: 40
Stats at
Olympic medal record
Men’s athletics
Competitor for the 23x15px United States
Silver medal – second place 1952 Helsinki 4x400 metres relay
Bronze medal – third place 1952 Helsinki 400 metres

Ollie Genoa Matson II (May 1, 1930 – February 19, 2011) was an American Olympic medal winning sprinter and professional American football running back who played in the National Football League, in 1952 and from 1954 to 1966. He graduated from George Washington High School in San Francisco in 1948.

College career

Matson attended the City College of San Francisco prior to transferring to the University of San Francisco. While in school, Matson became a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. In 1951, Matson's senior year at USF, he led the nation in rushing yardage and touchdowns en route to leading the Dons to an undefeated season. He was selected as an All-American and finished ninth in Heisman Trophy balloting that year.[1]

Despite its 9-0 record, the 1951 San Francisco team was not invited to a bowl game. It was later reported that the Orange, Sugar and Gator Bowls - all in the American South - did not consider inviting any teams that had black players, and the USF refused to play without its two African-American teammates.[1][2]

Matson was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1976.

NFL career

Drafted #1 by the Chicago Cardinals, he went on to share 1952 Rookie of the Year honors with Hugh McElhenny of the San Francisco 49ers. During his 14-year career, Matson also played for the Los Angeles Rams (traded by the Cardinals for nine Rams players following the 1958 season),[3] the Detroit Lions and the Philadelphia Eagles, and he was named to the Pro Bowl six times (1952, 1954-1958). When Matson retired in 1966, his 12,799 career all-purpose yards were second only to Jim Brown.[4]

Matson was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972.

Olympic Games

Matson also won a bronze medal in the 400-meter run and a silver medal as part of the United States 4x400-meter relay team in the 1952 Summer Olympics held in Helsinki, Finland.

Personal life

He married his wife Mary, whom he met when both were San Francisco teenagers in the mid-1940s, in 1952. He and Mary lived in the same Los Angeles home from the time he played for the Los Angeles Rams until his death. The site is being nominated as the 'Ollie and Mary Matson Residence', a City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.[5]

In his later years Matson suffered from dementia, which was linked to Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE),a progressive degenerative disease, diagnosed post-mortem in individuals with a history of multiple concussions and other forms of head injury.[6]


On February 19, 2011 Matson died of dementia complications (respiratory failure) surrounded by family at his home in Los Angeles, California .[7]



  • Eisenberg, John (2009), That First Season:: How Vince Lombardi Took the Worst Team in the NFL and Set It on the Path to Glory. New York:Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0-618-90499-0

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