Len Eshmont --The Fordham Flash
February 15, 2010

Len Eshmont was a legend on the East Coast before the San Francisco 49ers were even formed. He was raised in the coal regions of Central Pennsylvania and played high school football at Mt. Carmel Township in eastern Pennsylvania, just a few miles from his home in Atlas. At Mt. Carmel, Eshmont set several prep rushing records and was chosen All-State in 1936, his senior year of high school. His outstanding high school play caught the eye of Jim Crowley, one of Notre Dame's Four Horsemen. Crowley, then a recruiter for Fordham University, persuaded Eshmont to play college ball in New York with the Fordham Rams. At that time Fordham was one of the most powerful teams on the East Coast.

Eshmont entered Fordham in 1936 and quickly gained recognition as the "Fordham Flash." In his senior year, 1940, he was named to the All-America Team. Eshmont signed with the New York Giants where he played for one year before joining the armed forces.

In 1942 he was commissioned in the U.S. Navy and served as a physical education instructor at the Naval pre-flight schools around the country, including St. Mary's Pre-Flight. For three years Eshmont starred with the Navy's football teams and combined with Frankie Albert in 1943 to turn St. Mary's Pre-Flight into a local powerhouse. Eshmont was named to the All-Service football teams in 1942, 1943 and 1944, the only person to be named to the all-star team for three consecutive years.

After leaving the Navy, Eshmont decided to stay in the Bay Area and joined the original San Francisco 49er team of 1946 along with his teammate from St. Marys Pre-Flight, Frankie Albert. That year he combined with Albert, Norm Standlee and John Stryzkalski to give the 49ers one of the best running attacks in the AAFC.

By far the second most successful team was the San Francisco 49ers. They were a spectacular unit on the field and did well at the box office. Their first season was 9-5-0 under coach Buck Shaw who built his offense around the brilliant lefthanded QB Frank Albert. Albert, a scrambler before the word was coined, had his old Stanford teammate Norm Standlee at fullback and two fantastic halfbacks in John Strzkalski and Len Eshmont. His receivers were Alyn Beals who specialized in TD receptions and Nick Suseoff. Joe Vetrano was a gifted kicker, and the line boasted John Mellus, John Kuzman, John Woudenberg, Bruno Banducci, Dick Bassi and Visco Grgich. In '47 the team went 8-4-2.

Probably their strongest team was in 1948 (when the Browns went undefeated). Joe "The Jet" Perry joined the club, and took his first handoff 58 yards to the end zone. Also added were center Bill Johnson and guard Riley Matheson. The club had two backfields of almost equal quality. Albert, Standlee, Eshmont and Strzykalski rushed for 2,122 yards and Bev Wallace, Perry, Verl Lillywhite and Forrest Hall logged 1,016.

The final edition of the 49ers in the AAFC went 9-3-0 but lost again to the Browns inn the final championship game. Their finest moment came on October 9 when they ended the Browns' 27-game winning streak, 56-28. The 49ers were a stable team, using the same nucleus throughout four years. Once they joined the NFL they continued their high grade of play.

Eshmont retired in 1949 as San Francisco prepared to enter the NFL. In his four years with the 49ers, he gained 1,181 yards on 232 carries, an average of five yards per carry.

In 1950 he began a successful coaching career by joining former 49er assistant coach Eddie Erdelatz at the U.S. Naval Academy as a backfield coach. In 1956 he left to coach at the University of Virginia. A year later, in May of 1957, he died of infectious hepatitis in Virginia. He was 39.

The Eshmont Award, the 49ers most prestigious annual honor, has been given each year to the Niner who best exemplifies the "inspirational and courageous play" of Len Eshmont.

Listed below are the 49ers' annual Len Eshmont Award winners since its inception in 1957:

1957 QB Y.A. Tittle
1958 FB Joe Perry
1959 HB J.D. Smith
1960 S Dave Baker
1961 DT Leo Nomellini
1962 DE Dan Colchico
1963 T Bob St. Clair
1964 DT Charlie Krueger
1965 QB John Brodie
1966 HB John David Crow
1967 HB John David Crow
1968 LB Matt Hazeltine
1969 CB Jimmy Johnson
1970 S Roosevelt Taylor
1971 LB Ed Beard
1972 DE Tommy Hart
1973 S Mel Phillips
1974 T Len Rohde
1975 CB Jimmy Johnson
1976 DE Tommy Hart
1977 S Mel Phillips
1978 RB Paul Hofer
1979 RB Paul Hofer
1980 DT Archie Reese
1981 TE Charle Young
1982 WR Dwight Clark
1983 RB/ST Bill Ring
1984 LB Keena Turner
1985 FB Roger Craig
1986 QB Joe Montana
1987 WR Jerry Rice
1988 NT Michael Carter, RB Roger Craig
1989 QB Joe Montana
1990 DE Kevin Fagan, LB Charles Haley
1991 WR John Taylor
1992 QB Steve Young
1993 WR Jerry Rice
1994 QB Steve Young
1995 FB William Floyd
1996 DT Bryant Young
1997 DT Dana Stubblefield
1998 DT Bryant Young
1999 DT Bryant Young
2000 DT Bryant Young
2001 RB Garrison Hearst
2002 SS Tony Parrish
2003 LB Julian Peterson
2004 DT Bryant Young
2005 DT Bryant Young
2006 DT Bryant Young
2007 DT Bryant Young
2008 WR Isaac Bruce
2009 TE Vernon Davis
2010 LB Takeo Spikes
2011 DT Justin Smith
2012 DT Justin Smith
2013 LB NaVorro Bowman
2014 RB Frank Gore
2015 WR Anquan Boldin
2016 QB Colin Kaepernick

Len Eshmont