Lynn Chandnois, Steelers special teams star in '50s, dies
Thursday, April 21, 2011
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Among the most prized player in football is the rare triple threat, a player who could beat you running, passing and catching.
The Steelers' Lynn Chandnois had them all beat -- a quintuple threat. He ran, he passed, he caught passes, only Gale Sayers returned kickoffs better and he forced turnovers on defense.
Chandnois, who died Tuesday at age 86 in his native Michigan, will never be forgotten by those few who saw him play in the pre-television, pre-Super Bowl era of the early 1950s, when the Steelers had some good players but bad teams.
Among those who remember Chandnois' exploits is Dan Rooney, who was a teenager when his father made Chandnois the NFL's eighth overall draft pick in 1950 from Michigan State.
"Lynn was one of our great players from the past,'' Rooney said. "He was a really good person and a better player than anyone ever gave him credit for being. He is one of those special players that we will always remember."
Chandnois made two Pro Bowls while playing seven seasons in the NFL, all with the Steelers. He played halfback, wingback and defensive back during the two-way era of pro football. He rushed for 1,934 yards and caught 162 passes for 2,012 yards. He threw 43 passes in one season, 1951.
"He was a pretty gifted running back," said former teammate Jack Butler. "He caught the ball well, ran the ball well and he was a decent blocker."
But he was best known for his dynamic kickoff returns. He led the league twice, in 1951 with a 32.5-yard average and in 1952 with a 35.2-yard average. His career average of 29.6 yards is topped only by Sayers, a Hall of Famer.
Butler recalls how one of Chandnois' kickoff returns set the tone for a big win over the New York Giants at Forbes Field late in the 1952 season.
"It was the opening kickoff of the ballgame and he ran for a touchdown,'' Butler said.
That touchdown was the opening salvo in a stunning 63-7 Steelers victory that helped knock the Giants out of a playoff spot, finishing one game behind Cleveland in the conference.
Butler recalls Giants coach Steve Owen saying after the game, "It's a good thing we were a good defensive ballclub or they'd have scored 100!"
The Steelers, though, weren't a good ballclub for the most part. They did not have a winning record during Chandnois' seven years with them. He joined them after playing four years at Michigan State, where he attended after putting in two years with the U.S. Naval Air Corps during World War II.
Survivors include his wife and two daughters. Funeral arrangements were not announced.
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