Former professional football player does his best to hold onto memories, love of the game
June 8, 2017
It's been more than 40 years since Harland Svare played a role in the National Football League, but the 86-year-old resident of Casey's Pond in Steamboat Springs still loves the game.
"It makes your character," Svare said of football. "It gives you very strong, don't-give-up kind of character."
On Friday, Svare will be in the crowd of people who show up for the Denver Broncos Salute to Fans Tour, which has rescheduled its stop in Steamboat for 4 to 5:30 p.m. at Howelsen Rodeo Grounds, 401 Howelsen Pkwy.
Svare will be there, not because he's a huge Broncos fan, but because his family believes the connection to the game he played so long ago will bring back great memories for the former Los Angeles Ram and New York Giant.
"It's been a long time since dad has been around football," said Mia Anderson, Svare’s daughter. "I think it will be good for him to get out and reconnect with other football players."
Football left Svare with plenty of memories that he can still recall more than 50 years after the games were played. Time has taken its toll on a few of the details but much of his playing time with the Los Angeles Rams (1953-54) and the New York Giants (1955-60) lives on through stories, which he’s passed onto his family over the years.
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Among those memories is winning the championship game with the Giants in 1956 and losing a heartbreaking 23-17 game to Baltimore in a contest that became known in football lore as “The Greatest Game Ever Played."
Svare can still recall picking off Philadelphia's Norm Van Brocklin in the 1959 game and returning the interception more than 70 yards to score a touchdown that tied the contest at 7-7. The Giants went on to win the game 24-7.
"Norm followed me down the field and said, 'You should have scored I led you just right,’" Svare said.
Svare's football career began in 1953 when the Los Angles Rams drafted the tight-end in the 17th round. When he arrived in camp, the team asked him to play linebacker, but he also continued to play tight-end. Svare played two seasons with the Rams before being traded to the New York Giants.
Back then, the game was different, Savre said. There were fewer teams in the league, and many of the exploits off the field were legendary and not fit to be printed in the newspaper.
Svare played and worked with Vince Lombardi and played for Tom Landry during his time in New York.
When his playing days came to an end, Svare was hired to coach the Los Angeles Rams at the age of 31 years, 11 months, making him the youngest coach in NFL history at the time. He held that distinction until 2007 when Lane Kiffin was hired to coach the Oakland Raiders at the age of 31 years, 8 months.
Svare's was with the Rams from 1962 to 1965 and finished with a 14-31-3 record. He worked as an assistant in Washington before taking a job with San Diego from 1971 to 1973. Once again his team struggled to get in the win column, and in 1972, the Chargers found themselves in the middle of a scandal as the NFL worked to crack down on the use of amphetamines.
Despite having a long-term contract, Svare stepped down after the 1973 season — his final as an NFL coach.
After his wife passed away in 2007, his daughter Mia moved him to Casey's Pond to be closer to her home and family. She said she is looking forward to the Broncos visit, hoping it fuels her father’s passion for the game and rekindles a few memories from his glory days.