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Wendell Tyler’s Car Accident

Wendell Tyler was 23 and coming into the prime of his life. He’d just signed a new contract with the Rams after rushing for 1,109 yards and leading the team to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

He’d gone to West Virginia with his wife in the offseason to spend time around her family. On the night of July 4, 1980, he went to a dance at a local church. It was the offseason and Wendell thought he was entitled to a good time, and by the end of the night, he was tired so he slept while his brother-in-law drove home.

When Tyler’s brother-in-law fell asleep at the wheel with his foot on the accelerator, the car careened into the ditch and came to a stop against a mountain. The brother-in-law had a broken arm. The brother-in-law’s neighbor, who had been in the back seat, had a broken leg. Tyler was lucky–he dislocated his hip.

The car got the worst of it. ”It looked like an accordion,” Tyler said. ”Only you couldn’t play it.” He laughed weakly at his joke, then said seriously, ”It was truly a traumatic experience.”

Tyler spent the next two weeks in a hospital, with not much more to do than think about how he had got there. Even now, with his fortunes turned around and his life in order, he shudders to think what might have happened had the car lurched in the other direction towards a cliffside.

In 1981 the Rams finished 6-10, but Tyler ran for 1,074 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. In 1982 the strike cut his yardage production nearly in half, but he still scored nine touchdowns.

”I was lucky,” he said of the auto accident. ”I had a non-football-related injury. The Rams didn’t have to pay me, or do anything. But they stuck by me. They took care of me, even after the doctor had told me I only had a 10 percent chance to play again.”

Eventually, when the Rams figured they had a chance to get Eric Dickerson, they traded Tyler to the 49ers with Cody Jones, an aging defensive lineman, and a third-round draft choice for one of the 49ers’ two second-round draft choices and a selection in the fourth round.


I’d like to send a wholehearted thank you to Michael Cruz of the 702 Rams Club for sending me this AWESOME swag recently. Please check out their site for some really great t-shirts, beanies, pins, and stickers. If you’re in the Las Vegas area they have weekly family-friendly gatherings for all the games during the season. It really is a great organization, and if I didn’t live a thousand miles away I would definitely be a weekly attendee, although I’m proud to support them from afar in Texas. (Oh yeah…f*ck the Cowboys)