Eddie Lee Ivery, who turns 60 today, could have been a great running back, if only… At 6’ and 210 pounds, Ivery had all the pure talent a running back can have. He ran for over 3,500 yards at Georgia Tech, including a high of 356 one game against Air Force and was the 15th overall pick of the 1979 draft. At the time, Coach Bart Starr described his top pick with excited anticipation, “He’s a slasher. He can break tackles. He can catch the ball. He can run back punts and kickoffs.” Offensive line coach Bill Curry added, “Eddie Lee has the same kind of speed as [Chuck] Foreman, and he might be a better blocker. He has the ability to come out of the backfield and catch the ball. He can run by and over tacklers.”
To sum up, Ivery had size, speed, power, elusiveness, quickness, vision and hands. He was the complete package, but on his third carry in his first NFL game, he tore his ACL against the Bears at Soldier Field and missed the rest of his rookie season. He rehabbed his left knee and returned in 1980 to have a very effective season, leading the team with 831 yards rushing and also catching 50 passes. Unfortunately, he was unable to build on that comeback because he tore up the same knee at the same place in the opener of the 1981 season.
Ivery came back again, but never would be the back he could have been. Not only were there his physical limitations, but he took up cocaine in 1983 so that he had problems both on and off the field from then on. Ivery did manage to have good years rushing in 1984 and 1985, averaging 5.6 and 4.8 yards per carry, and remained a good pass receiver, but he was damaged goods and retired after the 1986 season. He wouldn’t overcome his alcohol and cocaine addiction problems for another 15 years, but eventually turned his life around in the new millennium.
(Adapted from Green Bay Gold)
Some custom cards of Eddie Lee Ivery.