- June 23
) was a professional football
player for the Green Bay Packers
. He attended Purdue
was best known for passing to Don Hutson
when Hutson was at his peak. He led the Packers to a NFL
championship in 1939.
Life before the NFL
born in Texas, the second
son of Adger and Sarah Isbell.
His older brother Cody was
also a football player for Purdue. Cecil also had two younger brothers who
played college football, "Dub"
Isbell at Rice University and Larry
Isbell at Baylor
attended Sam Houston High School in Houston.
Cecil played for Purdue from 1935 through 1937. He was voted the
Boilermakers' most valuable player for the 1937 season.
elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1967. In the summer of 1938, he led the College
All-Stars to victory over the NFL champion Washington Redskins at Soldier Field, Chicago.
Isbell was named the game's MVP as
the All-Stars prevailed 28-16. He was drafted in the first round of
the 1938 NFL Draft
by the Green Bay Packers
When Isbell arrived in Green Bay, the Packers already had an
All-Pro tailback, Arnie Herber
led the Packers to the NFL championship in 1936. Coach Curly Lambeau
alternated Isbell and Herber and
occasionally used them in the same backfield, with Isbell at
halfback. This "platooning" allowed Isbell to learn Lambeau's
offense, the Notre Dame Box
was a very accurate passer and a good runner and he led the Packers
in rushing and passing in his rookie year. The Packers came in
first in the West and faced the New York
in the championship game. Isbell rushed 11 times for 20
yards and was 3 of 5 passing for 91 yards, but the Giants prevailed
23-17. In 1939, the Packers used the same attack and again Isbell
led the team in rushing while catching 9 passes as well. The
Packers finished in first again and faced New York in a rematch
from the year before. This time the Packers crushed the Giants
27-0, with Isbell throwing a 27 yard touchdown.
From 1940 to 1942, the Packers finished second in the West to the
each year. Isbell became
a more accomplished passer during this time, connecting regularly
with Don Hutson in record-setting frequency. In 1941, Isbell set
the NFL record for yards passing with 1479 and threw 15 touchdown
passes, 10 of them to Hutson. He also completed 56.8% of his
passes, an unheard of rate in those days and testimony to Isbell's
accuracy as a passer. The Packers finished tied with Chicago but
lost in a divisional playoff 33-14. In 1942, Isbell bettered his
record with 2021 yards passing and a record 24 touchdowns. Hutson
also had record numbers, with 1211 yards receiving and 17
touchdowns (Hutson's TD mark stood until 1984). Still, the Packers
finished second to Chicago, who were 11-0 in the regular
After the 1942 season, Isbell quit the NFL to coach at Purdue.
Isbell made it clear he wanted to quit while he was still on top of
his game and not be pushed out after getting old and slow, as he
had seen happen to other players. He finished with 5945 yards
passing, 59 touchdowns, and 52 interceptions. Had he continued to
play, he would have probably been considered one of the top passers
of his day, right alongside Sammy Baugh
and Sid Luckman
Isbell started out at Purdue as an assistant coach and took over as
head coach in 1944. He coached there for three years with a 14-14-1
record. In 1947, he became a pro coach for the Baltimore Colts
in the All-America Football
. He coached for 2 1/2 years, never with much
success. He was finally fired in 1949 after winning only 10 games.
His one claim to fame from those years in the AAFC was he was the
first coach of Y. A. Tittle
, who went
on to great success in the NFL. After a few more years as an
assistant coach in the NFL, Isbell quit football for business in
the mid 1950s.
June 23, 1985, Isbell
died in Hammond,