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THE FIRST 100 YEARS
Dan Jenkins
September 15, 1969
It is recorded that the first intercollegiate football game was held at New Brunswick on Nov. 6, 1869 between Rutgers and Princeton and that Rutgers won 6-4, the scoring and playing rules being considerably different than they are today. What is not known are the names of the heroes of that game, for, surely, in a sense, they were the first All-Americas. It was not until 20 years later that such a list was officially compiled, and since then hundreds of players have been so honored, by newspapers, magazines and, more recently, television. Now, on the 100th anniversary of that first game, the writer boils down the list of All-Americas to 11, the first All-Century team
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September 15, 1969

The First 100 Years

It is recorded that the first intercollegiate football game was held at New Brunswick on Nov. 6, 1869 between Rutgers and Princeton and that Rutgers won 6-4, the scoring and playing rules being considerably different than they are today. What is not known are the names of the heroes of that game, for, surely, in a sense, they were the first All-Americas. It was not until 20 years later that such a list was officially compiled, and since then hundreds of players have been so honored, by newspapers, magazines and, more recently, television. Now, on the 100th anniversary of that first game, the writer boils down the list of All-Americas to 11, the first All-Century team

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"He simply never made a bad play," says his coach, Darrell Royal. "I've never seen any player handle his position so well—or ever heard of one."

Nobis was primarily a linebacker of the type who averaged 20 or so tackles a game, who was everywhere, quick, strong, nimble and eager, but who also, in a platoon era, went over to offense when the goal line got into view. Much to his credit is the fact that Nobis was at his best against the big names he faced—Namath, Roger Staubach and Donny Anderson among others—and Nobis won.

Notre Dame for some time has been up to its Dome in immortals at all positions and, if you said, O.K., the Irish can have all 11 of the Alltime team, South Benders wouldn't be able to agree on most of the names. One guy would be a cinch, however. Notre Dame never had a better tackle than George Connor, and if big George is the best Notre Dame ever had, then he must be better than nearly all the others.

A blocker who opened gaps for the Johnny Lujacks and Terry Brennans, he was a crushing defender who moved from one side to the other to put the brakes on runners like Buddy Young. Big and mobile, he was a leader who had a sense of humor. Once, before a great big Army game, he told the team, "The sons of slum and gravy are coming to the campus of beans and sausage."

"He had the agility to sort out the ballcarrier and the toughness to break up the power play," said Frank Leahy. "He was indestructible."

So, apparently, was our other tackle, Bronko Nagurski, who was more than just a tackle. For Minnesota, Nagurski was also a fullback and he was even an end for a time. He would have beaten out any man at any position, old Gopher fans will argue, but the experts pretty much agree that Nagurski, powerful, numb to pain, durable and inspired, played his best football at tackle, almost singlehandedly raising so-so Minnesota teams into winners.

Nagurski was considered a physical brute at 6' 2" and 217, and his bravery was often displayed when he would hunker into the line to stop every play, then shift to fullback to lug the ball repeatedly. One way or another, he made the big play.

Bronko Nagurski benefitted from a catchy name, to be sure, as did Grange, the Galloping Ghost. Between them in the Big Ten, there was a player who had a name to overcome—Bennie Oosterbaan. But while Oosterbaan might have been a headache for headline writers, he was the most splendid thing Michigan had ever seen.

Oosterbaan was the first of the brilliant pass catchers, an acrobatic player who dived and scooped up the ball or who one-handed it in midair. Wherever Benny Friedman threw it. It is said that he was the most complete end who ever played, that in three years of All-America performances no runner ever gained around his end. And this included Grange.

Oosterbaan was a natural type of player, fluid of motion, almost beautiful in his faking, the patterns he invented and the ease with which he gathered in the ball. Only Don Hutson, who came along in the next decade, has ever been compared with him as a receiver.

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