Written By: Ben Cosgrove

The Rev. Roosevelt “Rosey” Grier has enjoyed as varied a life as one can expect from an actor, singer, ordained minister, political activist, author and NFL Pro Bowler.

He was on hand—and physically subdued Sirhan Sirhan—the night Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in the Ambassador Hotel’s kitchen in 1968; was part of the Los Angeles Rams’ famed Fearsome Foursome defensive line; wrote a best-selling book in the early ’70s on the pleasures and challenges of needlepoint; and is a cousin to the blaxploitation movie star, Pam Grier.

During Grier’s years in New York in the Fifties and Sixties, when he played with Big Blue Hall of Famers like Frank Gifford, Andy Robustelli, and Sam Huff, the Giants won four Eastern Conference championships and, in 1956, the NFL title.

Here—his memories stirred by looking at the previously unpublished photographs by George Silk of the 1960 New York Giants featured in this gallery—Grier talks with LIFE about his views on football and sportsmanship; his experience as a young man from small-town Georgia playing in the Big Apple; and the men he shared the road and the field with during a transformational period in his long, full life.

Grier was 6′ 5″ and played at close to 300 pounds—but moved like a smaller man. “When I played in high school,” he told LIFE, “I patterned my movements on the little guys. They were so fast, and I learned to watch how they moved, how they worked their feet. So after a while, the instant the ball moved at the line of scrimmage, I would just explode off the line. My quickness came from watching little guys. I penetrated so quickly because I beat everyone off the line, always.”

“It was an exciting time for me,” Grier recalled of his early days with the Giants. “Here we were, out of college—most of the guys, anyway, had all graduated from college—and to be with these players from all over the country was fun, a thrill … and, at first, a little nervous-making. I mean, when I first came to the Giants, a lot of the guys were from the South — the head coach, Jim Lee Howell, was from Arkansas — and I assumed that there was no way we’d get along. With me being black, and knowing that there were only going to be so many black ball players on a team — well, long story short, I could not have been more wrong. The camaraderie I found there was unbelievable.

“It was an an incredible thing,” Grier said, “coming from the South, playing college ball at Penn State, to end up in New York playing for a franchise with a history like the Giants. I enjoyed it so much, and became good friends with guys like Charlie Conerly, [halfback and receiver] Kyle Rote … oh, so many of them. The team felt like a family then. It really did.”

Rosey Grier (#76) finds himself in a familiar spot -- in the middle of the action during a 1960 game against New York's perennial rivals, the Eagles.

Rosey Grier (#76) during a 1960 game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

George Silk Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

New York Giants quarterback Charlie Conerly drops back to pass during a game against the Steelers, 1960.

New York Giants quarterback Charlie Conerly drops back to pass during a game against the Steelers, 1960.

George Silk Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Future Hall of Famer Andy Robustelli leads the Giants in a workout session at Yankee Stadium.

Future Hall of Famer Andy Robustelli leads the Giants in a workout session at Yankee Stadium.

George Silk Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Rosey Grier and Andy Robustelli, Yankee Stadium, 1960.

Rosey Grier and Andy Robustelli, Yankee Stadium, 1960.

George Silk Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Frank Gifford carries the ball against the Cardinals as guard Darrell Dess (#62) runs interference.

Frank Gifford carries the ball against the Cardinals as guard Darrell Dess (#62) runs interference.

George Silk Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Rosey Grier studies plays during a Giants “skull session,” 1960.

George Silk Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Steelers receiver Buddy Dial (upended) lands on the 1-yard line as the Giants' Lindon Crow arrives a moment too late to make the play.

Steelers receiver Buddy Dial (upended) lands on the 1-yard line as the Giants’ Lindon Crow arrives a moment too late to make the play.

George Silk Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

New York Giants, 1960.

New York Giants, 1960

George Silk Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

In a game against the Redskins, Grier, Robustelli (#81), and other Giants fight to block an extra point attempt by the 'Skins 6' 2", 230-lb. kicker and guard, Bob Khayat.

In a game against the Redskins, Grier, Robustelli (#81), and other Giants fight to block an extra point attempt by the ‘Skins 6’ 2″, 230-lb. kicker and guard, Bob Khayat.

George Silk Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Frank Gifford

Frank Gifford, New York Giants

George Silk Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Frank Gifford is carried off the field on a stretcher after a near-career-ending hit by the Eagles' Chuck Bednarik.

Frank Gifford is carried off the field on a stretcher after a hit by the Eagles’ Chuck Bednarik.

George Silk Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Redskins fullback John Olszewski (wearing a #0 jersey) leaps for a touchdown against the Giants.

Redskins fullback John Olszewski (wearing a #0 jersey) leaps for a touchdown against the Giants.

George Silk Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

New York Giants at Yankee Stadium, 1960

New York Giants, 1960

George Silk Time & Life Pictures/Shutterstock

More Like This

arts & entertainment

A Baseball Photographer With a Wandering Eye

arts & entertainment

The Champ, The Beatles and a Tearful Girl: The Photography of Bob Gomel

arts & entertainment

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Rolling Stones!

arts & entertainment

The ‘Queen of Soul’ in ’90’s Fashion

arts & entertainment

Before She Was Catwoman: Julie Newmar in LIFE

arts & entertainment

Indiana Jones: Harrison Ford’s Icon of Neverending Adventure