On August 21st, 1931 in the town of Ellendale North Dakota (pop. 1,394), Palmer Edward Retzlaff was born.
Better known as Pete, Retzlaff would go on to play football for South Dakota State. In 1953, he was drafted by the Detroit Lions, current world champs, in the 22nd round of the NFL Draft — but didn’t make the team. Instead, he spent the next two years in the U.S. Army. Upon discharge, he tried to return, but Detroit waived him. The Philadelphia Eagles claimed him — for the grand total of $100.
Nicknamed “The Baron,” Retzlaff became a serious force, and played all of his 11 pro seasons in Philly. Despite having never caught a pass in college, he led the league in receptions in 1958, with 56. He was an integral member of the 1960 championship Eagles, and in 1965, he won the Bert Bell award as the NFL’s best player, posting 66 receptions and 10 touchdowns. Throughout his career, he caught 452 passes for 7,412 yards, including 47 touchdowns, and was named to five Pro Bowls.
After Retzlaff retired from the field, he served as both the team’s vice president and general manager. His number — 44 — is one of only seven the Eagles have retired, and he’s generally considered the greatest tight end to ever don the green and white.
Over 63 years after Retzlaff’s arrival into the world and just 56 miles away, in the town of Britton South Dakota (pop. 1,241), Dallas Goedert was born.
He would also go on to play football at South Dakota State. Last weekend, he was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles, current world champs, as a second round pick. When asked, Goedart did not know who Retzlaff was, but their similar backgrounds are as undeniable as their individual paths are different.
Unlike Retzlaff, Goedert looks poised to perform strong from the start. He was a prolific collegian receiver, reeling in 198 passes for 2,988 yards and 21 touchdowns.
He was a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, the Football Championship Subdivision equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. His measurables are remarkable. Goedert stands 6’5″ tall, he weighs 256 pounds and he’s been clocked running a 4.9-second 40-yard dash, though he claims to be able to do it in 4.7 seconds. Goedert is not expected, at least initially, to be the star that Retzlaff was. Then again, neither was Retzlaff himself.
Plus, the Eagles have had other recent success with the Missouri Valley Football Conference. You might have heard of a guy named Carson, wears No. 11?
As it turns out, Retzlaff also played for a quarterback with the No. 11, 1960 League MVP and world champion Norm Van Brocklin. Goedart may not be up to Retzlaff’s level — not many are — or he may just eclipse him. Either way, these two men from similar backgrounds will now be forever intertwined in football lore.
And one of has them has given us something we never thought we we’d see — a reason for Eagles fans to cheer the name Dallas.