This week marks the start of the NFL’s regular season. In honor of the return of football, this week’s blog post spotlights an unusual discovery from the state records collection: two NFL contracts from a former member of the Philadelphia Eagles.
In Virginia, unclaimed property is remitted to the state if it has been abandoned, meaning it has been held for an extended period of time with no owner contact and there has been a “good faith” effort to locate the owner. This includes safe deposit boxes, which are presumed abandoned after five years. The Department of the Treasury, Division of Unclaimed Property, then sends any papers or records from those lots to the Library of Virginia. State records archivists appraise these records to identify papers with historical, legal, informational, or intrinsic value. For more information, check out this blog post on unclaimed property.
Lot number 13019 contains two contracts between Carl Hairston and the Philadelphia Eagles Football Club, the first beginning on 1 April 1981 and the second on 1 April 1982, although both were signed 8 July 1980. The contracts stipulate the expectations of the club for Hairston’s participation in training, practice, and publicity, as well as the details of compensation, conduct, and cases of injury.
The contract makes other expectations clear as well; for instance, it states that “Without prior written consent of the Club, Player will not play football or engage in activities related to football otherwise than for the Club or engage in any activity other than football which may involve a significant risk of personal injury.” This was an attempt to prevent the loss of the “special, exceptional and unique knowledge, skill, ability, and experience” that the football player represents.
The contract ends with a series of special provision, allowing for monetary bonuses based on special successes by the team or individual player. For example, Hairston could earn $7,500 for being selected first or second team of All-NFL, and $2,500 if he leads the Eagles in sacks for regular season play.
If the Eagles won their division he would receive a $5,000 bonus.
The lot also includes a deed for a property that Carl Hairston and his wife, Robin, purchased in Virginia Beach in 1979.
It’s unclear why, of all the records from a fifteen-year playing career, only these two contracts were held in the safety deposit box, or why they were abandoned along with the deed. However, it does give us access to an interesting piece of football history.
Carl “Big Daddy” Hairston was born in Martinsville, Virginia, in 1952. He attended the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, where he was a four-year starter and two-time captain. In 1976, Hairston was a 7th round draft pick for the Philadelphia Eagles. After a rookie term as a defensive tackle, Hairston was moved to defensive end; it was in this position that he was selected to the 1979 NFL All Pro Team.
He helped the Eagles to reach the 1980 Super Bowl, although they lost 27-10 to the Oakland Raiders.
Although Hairston didn’t know it at the time, the two contracts that are shown here represented the end of his career with the Eagles—although not his football career. After the 1983 season, Hairston was traded to the Cleveland Browns by new head coach Marion Campbell. Hairston spent six seasons with the Browns, who made the playoffs in each of Hairston’s last five seasons with them. He spent a final season with the Cardinals before retiring after the 1990 season. He turned to scouting and then to coaching, working as a defensive coach for the Chiefs, Rams, and Packers. He coached in the United Football League before being hired as the defensive line coach for the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League in 2012.
-Claire Radcliffe, State Records Archivist