Ebert Van Buren, a two-way football star who played his way out of his famous brother Steve’s shadow to become a member of the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame and NFL standout in his own right, died Friday in Monroe, the school announced Tuesday. He was 94.
Van Buren was residing at the Northeast Louisiana War Veterans Home in Monroe at the time of his death.
Ebert was inducted into the LSU hall of fame in 2015, a remarkable achievement for someone who never played high school football. The story goes that in 1947, then LSU coach Bernie Moore found Van Buren playing football on a playground in Metairie.
Despite his obvious talent, it was an adjustment for Van Buren in conditioning and in learning the game.
“I remember an incident when we were at practice with Bernie Moore as coach,” Van Buren once said. “He told me to go out in the flat and catch a pass. I ran over the goal line.
“Of course, that was a mistake. I got back in the huddle and coach said, ‘I told you to go in the flat.’ I said, ‘Coach I don’t even know where that is.’”
It didn’t take long for Van Buren to learn the game. He earned three letters as a fullback and linebacker, helping the 1949 Tigers to a surprising berth in the 1950 Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma.
In 1950, Van Buren was named LSU’s team captain.
“That meant a lot to me,” he said. “I started off not knowing anything. The players who came to LSU were high school stars, and I was elected captain of the team over them.”
Van Buren was a No. 1 draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1951. His first season with the Eagles was also the last with the team for his brother Steve, also a member of the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame and a 1965 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Ebert Van Buren was a Pro Bowl selection in 1952 and retired from football after the 1953 season.
Van Buren returned to LSU to earn his master’s in psychology in 1961. He began a private practice specializing in working with children with autism and special needs. He also worked as a psychologist for the Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield.
Born in 1924 in Tela, Honduras, Van Buren moved to New Orleans at 8. He joined the U.S. Army in 1943, serving in the 96th Infantry Division in the Pacific during WWII from 1943-45 in The Philippines and Okinawa.
He was wounded during intense combat on infamous Hacksaw Ridge during the Okinawa campaign. Van Buren was decorated with the Purple Heart, two Bronze stars, the Philippine Liberation Medal, Combat Infantry Badge and Good Conduct Medal. Van Buren later served as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve.
Van Buren will be interred in a private ceremony at Mulhearn Memorial Park Mausoleum in Monroe.