John David Crow, a bruising running back who won the 1957 Heisman Trophy with Texas A&M before an 11-year Pro Bowl career in the NFL, died June 17. He was 79.
The university announced his death. The cause was not disclosed.
Mr. Crow was the first Heisman winner for the Aggies, who were coached at the time by Paul “Bear” Bryant. During the 1957 season, Bryant’s last in College Station, Tex., before becoming head coach at Alabama, he said: “If John David Crow doesn’t win the Heisman Trophy, they ought to stop giving it.”
Mr. Crow was Bryant’s only Heisman Trophy winner during his 36-year coaching career.
A powerful 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, Mr. Crow led Texas A&M to a 24-5-2 record during his three years of collegiate eligibility, including a 9-0-1 record in 1956.
Playing with a broken foot against arch rival Texas in 1956, Mr. Crow scored on 27-yard touchdown, then caught a go-ahead touchdown pass to help give the Aggies a 34-21 victory.
During his Heisman season in 1957, Mr. Crow had 129 carries for 562 yards and six touchdowns, despite being limited to seven games because of injury. He also played defense, grabbing five interceptions. He ran for 1,465 yards and 14 touchdowns and caught four touchdowns in his three-year career at Texas A&M.
He easily won the 1957 Heisman Trophy over second-place finisher Alex Karras, a tackle from Iowa.
Mr. Crow was the second pick in the 1958 NFL draft and was a four-time Pro Bowl selection with the Chicago and later St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers. He had his finest pro season in 1960, when he gained 1,071 yards for the St. Louis Cardinals in a 12-game season. He led the league with 5.9 yards per carry. He set a team record in 1962 with 17 touchdowns.
During his 11 years in the NFL, he piled up 4,963 yards rushing and 3,699 yards receiving and scored 73 touchdowns. He was also a dangerous passer in the halfback option and threw for 759 yards and five touchdowns.
John David Crow was born July 8, 1935, in Marion, La. At Springhill High School, he led the football and basketball teams to state championships.
Crow became a favorite of Aggie fans when he helped Texas A&M to its first win over Texas in Austin in 1956. Crow, who was born in Marion, Louisiana, didn’t fully understand the importance of the rivalry at the time.
“It was an electrifying crowd for a young guy that came out of a little ol’ town in Louisiana,” Crow said in 2012. “I came from Louisiana and at that time I knew about LSU and Tulane— that was a big rivalry. It just wasn’t as big a thing to me then. It obviously has grown in my mind to become a very, very big game.”
He later served as an assistant coach to Bryant at Alabama and as an assistant coach in the NFL. He was the head coach at Northeast Louisiana University, now known as Louisiana-Monroe, from 1975-80. His coaching record was 20-34-1.
Mr. Crow later returned to Texas A&M where he worked in various positions in the athletic department until his retirement in 2001. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1976.
He lived in College Station in his later years and delighted in spending time with Johnny Manziel the year the quarterback joined him as a Heisman winner in 2012.
Mr. Crow said the Heisman meant more to him in later years because he was Bryant’s only player to win the trophy as the nation’s top college player. He considered Bryant a mentor and friend until the coach’s death in 1983.
“If I had a problem, I’d call my dad,” Mr. Crow once said. “But if I really had a problem dealing with the outside world, I would call Bryant.”