Chicago Cardinals

Don Joyce 1953
(game worn)

Don Joyce has been described by his long-time Baltimore Colts teammate Art Donovan as  "a madman" and "this animal." There is no doubt that hailing from the rough environs of Steubenville, Ohio honed the mean-streak in Don Joyce who played for the vaunted Big Red team of Steubenville High School, known for both their state-playoff caliber ability year after year in the 1950's and '60's, and their toughness as a mill town just thirty-five miles west of Pittsburgh hard by the Ohio River. Known for decades of political corruption, numerous lawsuits against the City's police department for excessive force and brutality cases, the late singer and entertainer Dean Martin, and former porn star Traci Lords, Steubenville's best product has remained its great football players and Don Joyce was one of their greatest. Leaving Tulane as the Chicago Cardinals number-two draft choice for the 1951 season, he brought his rugged style of defensive line play to them for three seasons before being traded to the Colts. He was traded to the Colts after the 1953 season, and some thought it may have been because the coaches could not control him. He helped make the Colts defense into the formidable unit that won two World Championships at the end of the Fifties decade. Playing right defensive end next to Eugene "Big Daddy" Lipscomb, with Hall Of Famers Art Donovan and Gino Marchetti on the other side of the line, Joyce was the overlooked but roughest and strongest member of the fabled line. In the great 1958 season that found the Colts winning "The Greatest Game Of All Time" in the NFL Championship against the Giants and Joyce being named to the Pro Bowl squad, Joyce continued his battle with Giants' Hall Of Fame tackle Roosevelt Brown. Many talk about Deacon Jones' vaunted headslap technique, but Joyce was both an early proponent and perhaps one who used it more than any other defensive linemen until Jones built his reputation with it. Joyce had fractured Brown's cheekbone in a game earlier in the season, sending Brown from the field directly to St. Elizabeth's Hospital and they had a war during that championship game. The 6'3", 253-pound Joyce was known for his huge appetite and Donovan has often told the story of Joyce besting Gino Marchetti in a chicken-eating contest, downing thirty-eight pieces of chicken to Marchetti's twenty-six, but because he "was still hungry", also polishing off the mashed potatoes with gravy, vegetables, and everything else that was served with the full dinner. He washed the entire mass of food down with iced tea sweetened with saccharin, careful to avoid a teaspoon of sugar as he "was watching his weight!" This was Don Joyce, rollicking, rough, dependable, at the edge, finishing his Colts career in 1960, then playing for the fledging Minnesota Vikings in 1961, and playing out an underrated career in 1962 with six games for the AFL Denver Broncos. This beautiful Riddell helmet, worn by Joyce in 1953 when with the Chicago Cardinals, features the rare internal concussion padding, brown Schutt "Cowcatcher" mask and "floppy" jaw pads, a period piece reminiscent of the Golden Age Of Pro Football and the rugged men who played the game.