Samuel “Slingin’ Sammy” Baugh was one of the earliest star quarterbacks in college football and the NFL. Despite earning his stardom at Texas Christian University, Baugh almost chose to play elsewhere. One of the deciding factors in helping Baugh choose to play at TCU was that coach Dutch Meyer told him he could play baseball, basketball, and football. By the end of his career, Baugh was seen as a prolific quarterback, punter and defensive back for his era and helped to shape the game of football into the game we know today.
He was originally more interested in playing baseball professionally than football, even earning the nickname “Slingin’ Sammy” for his play on the diamond during college. After graduating, Baugh signed a contract to play baseball with the St. Louis Cardinals and spent time in the minor league and the international league before deciding to focus on professional football.
Baugh’s statistics for his football career at TCU were impressive for the era in which he competed, especially since the forward pass was just becoming an integral part of the game. He totaled 3,320 yards and 40 touchdowns in his three years as the team’s starter. He compiled the bulk of his stats during his junior and senior seasons, as he threw for over 1,100 each year 30 TD passes. He also led the Frogs to two bowl wins, a 3-2 victory over LSU in the 1936 Sugar Bowl, and a 16-6 victory over Marquette in the first ever Cotton Bowl in 1937, for which he was named the game’s MVP.
Baugh also played defensive back and punter during college, meaning that he rarely left the field during games. His stellar performances in all phases of the game earned him All-American Honors in both his junior and senior seasons.
Based on his impressive collegiate achievements, the Washington redskins made him the No. 6 overall selection in the 1937 NFL Draft. Baugh came out of the gate swinging his rookie year and led the league in completions (91) and passing yards (1,127) for the season. In the 1937 championship game against the Chicago Bears, Baugh finished 17 of 35 for 355 yards with three touchdown passes. His record-setting performance propelled the team to a 28-21 victory, earning Baugh his first of two NFL championship titles.
Baugh continued to dominate in the league for years afterward, including another championship victory in 1942. His 1943 season is considered by many to be the best season ever played by a professional football player. That year, he led the league in pass completions, punting average, and interceptions. This is a feat that has never been replicated and most likely, never will.
Other achievements in Baugh’s career include leading the league in completion percentage in 1945 with a 70.33% performance. This stands as the fourth best completion percentage for a season to this day, falling only behind a season from Ken Anderson and two from Drew Brees. In 1947, Baugh completed 6 touchdown passes in a game against the Cardinals, on a day that became known as “Sammy Baugh Day.”
Baugh retired in 1952, after 16 seasons with the Redskins. He finished with 21,887 yards and 187 touchdowns, the second highest all-time punting average, and 31 interceptions from the six years he played defensive back. He remains one of the great all-time legends of collegiate and NFL Football and is a member of the Hall of fames of both. After his playing days were over, he settled in a ranch in Double Mountain, Texas and enjoyed a successful business career as a rancher. Slingin’ Sammy passed away in 2008 in the town of Jayton, not far from his ranch.
The Ideal Frog Poll was designed to decide, once and for all, the greatest TCU Horned Frog football player of all time in the eyes of Horned Frog fans. The candidates include Sammy Baugh, Bob Lilly, Davey O’Brien, and LaDainian Tomlinson. The poll is sponsored by Ideal Partners, a Fort Worth-based company offering HVAC, pest control, security, and fire protection services. Fans can follow this link to cast their vote for the “Ideal Frog.”