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Hall of Fame running back Van Buren dead at 91
(Reuters) - Hall of Fame running back Steve Van Buren, who won two National Football League (NFL) titles in an eight-year career with the Philadelphia Eagles, has died of pneumonia, the team said on Thursday. He was 91.
Van Buren helped transform the Eagles into a major power after joining the team as a first-round draft pick in 1944.
"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," Eagles Chief Executive Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement.
"He was a friend and an inspiration to generations of fans, and the model of what an Eagle should be."
Van Buren was a key factor in leading the Eagles to three successive division titles and back-to-back NFL championships in 1948 and 1949.
After leading the Eagles to a 9-2-1 record during the 1948 regular season, Van Buren would go on to score the championship game's only touchdown with a five-yard run for a 7-0 victory on a field covered in a foot of snow.
Known as "Wham Bam" for his quick and punishing running style, Van Buren captured the NFL rushing title four times and finished his career in 1951 as the league's all-time rushing leader with 5,860 rushing yards and 77 touchdowns.
"Watch those old films and you know that Steve Van Buren was something special," said Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid.
"He was special in person, too, humble about his own accomplishments and encouraging to others. His memory will be with Eagles fans for as long as this team takes the field."
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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