In the middle of the Great Depression, LIFE did a feature on professional football titled "Beefy Bruisers Make It Rival College Game." Back in the day, the NFL wasn't the powerhouse it is in 2013. Baseball was the most popular sport in America, followed by boxing, horse racing and college football. The NFL was less interesting than MLS seems to most Americans now. Anyways, LIFE saw something in the game and highlighted a few of the best players. Some of these guys ended up in the NFL Hall of Fame, others joined the marines when their careers ended and died in WWII. Either way, these portraits are a rather fascinating look into a time and a place that seems so foreign now.