It has been 65 years since Ernie Nevers of the Chicago Cardinals (above, with ball) set the NFL record for points in a game by scoring 40. But his mark, the longest-standing in league history, still seems as unbreakable as Nevers himself was.
His toughness and determination were legendary long before he made history on Nov. 28, 1929, running for six touchdowns and kicking four extra points in a 40-6 victory over the Chicago Bears. A three-sport star at Stanford, Nevers played on two broken ankles in the 1925 Rose Bowl against Notre Dame and the fabled Four Horsemen. The 6-foot, 200-pound fullback still gained 114 yards, more than the Horsemen combined, though Stanford lost 21-10.
After college Nevers played both professional basketball and baseball. He was lured back to football in 1926 by Ole Haugsrud, the owner of the Duluth Eskimos, who offered him a princely $15,000 salary plus a percentage of the gate. In order for the Eskimos to turn a profit after paying Nevers's salary, the team had to play numerous nonleague exhibitions. Duluth played 29 games that year, 28 of them on the road, and at one point had five games in eight days. "We'd take two showers after every game," Nevers once said about that season. "The first one with our uniforms on. We'd beat them like rugs to get some of the water out, throw them into our bags, get dressed and catch a train."
The rigorous schedule didn't seem to bother Nevers, who missed only 27 of the 1,740 minutes the team played that season. The reason for his time on the sideline? Just before a game against Milwaukee, Nevers was found to have appendicitis. Doctors ordered him to sit out, but with the Eskimos trailing 6-0, he entered the game, threw a 62-yard TD pass and kicked the extra point. The Eskimos went on to win 7-6.
After a new owner took over Duluth in '28, Nevers was acquired by the Cardinals, who made him player-coach. Then, a year later, he scored his 40 points against the Bears. With five minutes remaining in that game, Iron Man Ernie staged a surprise: He signaled for a substitute. As Nevers left the field, the crowd at Comiskey Park rose to its feet in tribute to the man and to a record that still stands.