I decided to start an on-going series flashing back to past Rams history (similar to what we are doing with the Throwback Thursday episode of The Downtown Rams Podcast every Thursday). In this series, I will try and bring these former Rams to light, show off what they did for the horns and their overall career.
“Deacon” Dan Towler graduated from Washington & Jefferson college and after that, he was on to the NFL. Towler was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams 324th overall in the 25th round of the 1950 NFL Draft. His rookie year he was not the feature back but did start one game and added six rushing touchdowns to the stat sheet. His rookie year was very much an introduction as Towler did struggle running the ball effectively while averaging less than three yards per carry. Dick Hoerner tallied 10 rushing touchdowns himself and the Rams had tons of offensive help in the form of the platoon at QB: Norm Van Brocklin, Bob Waterfield and the Hall of Fame WR’s Tom Fears and Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch. Towler’s rookie year showed him how good of a situation he had fallen into. The Rams fell short in the NFL Championship game to the Cleveland Browns 30-28.
In year two the Joe Stydahar coached Rams got over the hump and defeated the Cleveland Browns in an NFL Championship rematch 24-17. In that game Towler scored a go-ahead touchdown in the second quarter helping the Rams win their second all-time NFL title. Towler that season broke out in every meaning of the word and was selected as a Pro Bowler. The Rams now knew that this player they took in the 25th round of the draft was going to be a legitimate part of their success moving forward. This season also marked the start of one of the greatest tandems you have never heard of “The Bull Elephant Backfield” starring Towler, Hoerner and Tank Younger. Today, this is called a committee backfield but back then you had three monster RB/FB’s that would run with pure power and that was a rare thing.
Next season, Towler had established himself as the best running back in the league in year three he led the league in rushing touchdowns and rushing yards. He helped the Rams along with the rest of the Bull Elephant Backfield rip through the league but unfortunately the team fell short in the divisional game of the playoffs. The Detroit Lions beat the Rams 31-21 ending what looked like another championship season for the Rams. Towler that season was named as a First-Team All-Pro on top of being named to his second Pro Bowl in three years.
In year four Towler and the Rams had another great season. Towler found himself in his third Pro Bowl appearance and he combined with Tank Younger and second-year Skeets Quinlan for a total of 1,934 rushing yards and 644 receiving yards. The only issue was that the rams did that season. They played well but not well enough, and in the end they missed the playoffs. The next season the three backs Towler, Younger and Quinlan were back at it again but it wasn’t enough. The regime under Head coach Hampton Pool had hit a setback. This was the worst season the Rams had in a long time after going 6-5-1. Towler finished with 11 touchdowns but Younger led the team in rushing yards.
The next season the Rams were back as a winning team under the new coaching of Sid Gillman. Unfortunately for the 27-year-old Towler, the new coach and new regime chose Ron Waller in the second round of the draft and because of that pick, Towler’s carries and overall production were phased out from the offense. Waller had a great season rushing for over 700 yards and seven touchdowns his rookie year. Younger still had the opportunities as he finished with over 600 yards rushing but Towler managed to log in just three starts on the season and three touchdowns.
After six seasons, Towler hung up his cleats and went on to become a pastor in Pasadena, California and eventually down the road became president of the Los Angeles County Board of Education. The former NFL Champion, Four-time Pro Bowler and Four-time All-Pro spent his entire career with the Rams. He’s the running back many of you have never heard of, he’s the running back that might have been the most unstoppable during that three-year stretch of his era and he’s the running back that deserves more credit. With 3,493 yards rushing, 43 rushing touchdowns and a career 5.2 yards per carry, Towler is one of the most underrated running backs in the history of the game. Why is he not in the Hall of Fame? He had three amazing years and unfortunately, the long-term production isn’t there. Still, it’s important to always remember Towler in an era that displayed magnificent offensive football played by the Rams.
Towler passed away in 2001 and his legacy as a career-long Ram will live on forever.