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Soon to be 90, Gloden is an old Bird who still roots for Eagles

The first winner of the Heisman Trophy, Jay Berwanger, grew up in Dubuque, Iowa, a city that sits along the Mississippi River.

The first winner of the Heisman Trophy, Jay Berwanger, grew up in Dubuque, Iowa, a city that sits along the Mississippi River.

Four years after Berwanger was born, another future football player was born in Dubuque, a player who would become an Eagle and who is currently the 48th oldest living former NFL player.

Fred Gloden, who will turn 90 on Sunday, might not have won the Heisman but he put together a pretty solid resume.

Born in 1918 and attending the same high school as Berwanger - Dubuque High - Gloden earned first-team All-State honors in his senior year as a halfback.

"I loved to play all sports," he said. "But football was my favorite."

His love and success in the sport earned him the opportunity to play football at Tulane University from 1938-1940, and he was a member of the 1940 team that played in the Sugar Bowl.

The next year Gloden signed a contract with the Eagles after he was contacted by Earle "Greasy" Neale, who had just been hired from Yale to be the Eagles' new coach.

Gloden was moved from his normal halfback position to the other side of the ball. Since he was strong against the pass, Neale made Gloden a cornerback.

Gloden played six games for the Eagles in 1941 and seven games for the Miami Seahawks of the All-American Conference in 1947. A knee injury ended his career and he ended upwith two artificial knees.

"It was great," Gloden said of playing professionally. "It meant a great deal to me."

Between his tenure with the Eagles and Seahawks, something mattered more than football - serving his country. From 1942-45 Gloden was in the Navy.

"I lost some years of football in the service, but a lot of other guys did too," he said.

He was stationed in San Diego, where he was part of the Physical Training Department. Gloden said many of the athletes who served were stationed with him and they helped rehabilitate soldiers coming back from battle.

"It was a good program," he said. "We helped out a lot of the young guys."

Now, Gloden gets to watch young athletes play football every Sunday from his couch in Philadelphia.

"I love the game today. It's a different game," he said. "It's a game of specialists. You play offense, defense or special teams."

One of the biggest differences between when he was playing and the game today is that back then a player could be tackled and still get back to his feet and continue running.

"In the old days if you were tackled you weren't down until the ref blew the whistle," Gloden said. "You could get up and run."

Gloden's mind and body are still running perfectly as he exercises regularly, plays golf and - like any Philadelphian - dissects the Eagles.

"I wish the Eagles wouldn't be so damn straight-forward," he said. "You can sit there and call the plays."

There's one thing you can't call Gloden, and that's old. While his 90th birthday is only days away, Gloden feels he can still suit up and take the field.

"I'm in tremendous health," he said. "I feel like I can play football tomorrow." *