Former Philadelphia Eagles star and Hall of Fame running back Steve Van Buren has died at the age of 91, the Eagles announced Thursday.
He died of pneumonia in Lancaster, Pa.
Van Buren finished his pro career in 1951 as the NFL’s all-time rushing leader, and he still ranks third on the Eagles all-time list with 5,860 yards. He is the only Eagles player to win an NFL rushing title, a feat he accomplished four times (1945, 1947, 1948, 1949).
“On the field and off, as a player, a leader and a man, Steve Van Buren embodied the finest characteristics of our city and our sport,” said Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie. “He was a friend and an inspiration to generations of fans, and the model of what an Eagle should be.”
When Van Buren arrived in Philadelphia in 1944 as a first-round draft pick from LSU, the Eagles had never finished above fourth place. He was the key to the Eagles’ three straight division titles and back-to-back NFL championships in 1948 and 1949.
“Watch those old films and you know that Steve Van Buren was something special,” said head coach Andy Reid. “He was special in person, too, humble about his own accomplishments and encouraging to others. His memory will be with Eagles fans for as long as this team takes the field.”
Van Buren is survived by three daughters, 16 grandchildren, and 16 great grandchildren.