Hall of Fame running back Steve Van Buren, died at age 91 on Thursday from pneumonia, left his mark on football during his years as a Philadelphia Eagle.
But Alderman Roger Patton, 76, remembers Van Buren for much more. Van Buren coached Patton when Patton played at long snapper for the Franklin Miners, a semi-pro football team in the late 50s and early 60s.
“He was very important to me at that period in my life,” Patton said. “He was my coach – one of the finest coaches I had ever had.”
Van Buren would ask Patton to lead the team in prayer before each game. He also sat on the bus with Patton and they would discuss religion and football. Patton described Van Buren as a “fine Christian man.”
The two would also talk race relations, as black players were forging their way into the NFL.
“He recognized that the NFL was for everybody,” said Patton, who remembers when sports were segregated.
"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 in a news release announcing Van Buren’s passing. "He was a friend and an inspiration to generations of fans, and the model of what an Eagle should be."
- Check out more information about Van Buren here.