Red Grange

Harold "Red" Grange
May 13 1903(1903--)
Forksville, Pennsylvania
January 28 1991 (aged 89)
Lake Wales, Florida
Position(s)| Halfback
College| Illinois
Career highlights
NFL 1920s All-Decade Team
Chicago Bears #77
University of Illinois #77
Stats
* DatabaseFootball
Teams
College Football Hall of Fame
Pro Football Hall of Fame, 1963
Harold Edward (Red) Grange (June 13, 1903January 28, 1991) was a professional and college American football player. He was a charter member of both the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Early life

Grange was born in Forksville, Pennsylvania. When he was five, his mother died and his father moved the family to Wheaton, Illinois. At Wheaton High School, he earned varsity letters in four sports (football, baseball, basketball, and track) during each of the four years he attended, notably scoring 75 touchdowns for the football team. As a high school junior, Grange scored 36 touchdowns in leading Wheaton High School to an undefeated season. To help the family earn money he worked a part time job as an ice toter for $37.50 per week, a job which helped him build his core strength (and is the source of the sometimes used nickname "Ice Man", or "the Ice Man from Wheaton").

College football

After graduation Grange enrolled in the University of Illinois, where he was admitted to the Zeta Psi fraternity. He had initially planned to play only basketball and track but changed his mind once he arrived. In his first collegiate football game, he scored three touchdowns against Nebraska. In seven games as a sophomore he ran for 723 yards and scored twelve touchdowns, leading Illinois to an undefeated season and the 1923 Helms Athletic Foundation national championship.

Grange vaulted to national prominence as a result of his performance in the October 18, 1924, game against Michigan. This was the grand opening game for the new Memorial Stadium, built as a memorial to University of Illinois students and alumni that served in World War I. He returned the opening kickoff for a 95-yard touchdown, and scored three more touchdowns on runs of 67, 56 and 45 yards in the first twelve minutes. This four-touchdown first quarter outburst equaled the number of touchdowns allowed by Michigan in the previous two seasons. After sitting out the second quarter, Grange returned in the second half, contributing two additional touchdowns, for a nigh-unheard-of grand total of six touchdowns in a single game.

When Illinois played at Penn in 1925, it was such a big game that Laurence Stallings, a famed war correspondent who had co-written What Price Glory? covered the game for the New York World. After Grange accounted for 363 yards in leading Illinois to a 24-2 upset of the Ivy League powerhouse, Stallings said, "This story's too big for me. I can't write it."

The game inspired Grantland Rice to write the following poetic description:

A streak of fire, a breath of flame
Eluding all who reach and clutch;
A gray ghost thrown into the game
That rival hands may never touch;
A rubber bounding, blasting soul
Whose destination is the goal — Red Grange of Illinois!


However, it was Chicago sportswriter Warren Brown who nicknamed Grange, "The Galloping Ghost." [1]

When questioned in a 1974 interview, "Was it Grantland Rice who dubbed you the Galloping Ghost?" Grange replied, "No, it was Warren Brown, who was a great writer with the Chicago American in those days." [2]

He earned All-America recognition three consecutive years, and appeared on the October 5, 1925, cover of Time.

His number 77 was retired at the University of Illinois in 1925. It remains one of only two retired numbers in the history of University of Illinois football (the other being the number 50 worn by Dick Butkus).

NFL career

He signed with the NFL's Chicago Bears the day after his last college game; player/manager George Halas agreed to a contract for a 19-game barnstorming tour which earned Grange a salary and share of gate receipts that amounted to $100,000, during an era when typical league salaries were less than $100/game. That 67-day tour is credited with legitimizing professional football in the United States. In the 1920s, college football was far more popular than professional football. Fans preferred cheering on a college alma mater than professional paid athletes. Grange is credited with changing that view and bringing professional football into the mainstream.

On December 6, 1925, more than 65,000 showed up at the Polo Grounds to watch Grange, helping save the New York Giants' franchise. Grange scored a touchdown on a 35-yard interception return in the Bears' 19-7 victory. Offensively, he ran for 53 yards on 11 carries, caught a 23-yard pass and completed 2-of-3 passes for 32 yards.

Grange became involved in a dispute with the Bears and left to form his own league, the American Football League, to challenge the NFL. The league only lasted one season, after which Grange's team, the New York Yankees, was assimilated into the NFL. Grange suffered a serious knee injury against the Bears, which robbed him of some speed and his cutting ability. After sitting out 1928, Grange returned to the Bears, where he was a solid runner and excellent defensive back through the 1934 season.

The two highlights of Grange's later NFL years came in consecutive championship games. In the unofficial 1932 championship, Grange caught the game winning touchdown pass from Bronko Nagurski. In the 1933 championship, Grange made a touchdown saving tackle that saved the game and the title for the Bears.

Later life

Grange retired from professional football in 1934, earning a living in a variety of jobs including motivational speaker and sports announcer. Grange married his wife Margaret, nicknamed Muggs, in 1941 and they were together until his death in 1991. She was a flight attendant, and they met on a plane. The couple had no children.

His autobiography, first published in 1953, is The Red Grange Story (1993 paperback edition: ISBN 0-252-06329-5). The book was written "as told to" Ira Morton, a syndicated newspaper columnist from Chicago.

In the 1950s, he visited Abington Senior High School (in Abington, Penn., a suburb of Philadelphia). Shortly thereafter, the school adopted his nickname for the mascot in his honor, the Galloping Ghost.

Legacy

I was interviewing George Halas and I asked him who is the greatest running back you ever saw. And he said, 'That would be Red Grange.' And I asked him if Grange was playing today, how many yards do you think he'd gain. And he said, 'About 750, maybe 800 yards.' And I said, 'Well, 800 yards is just okay.' He sat up in his chair and he said, 'Son, you must remember one thing. Red Grange is 75 years old.'
Chris Berman on ESPN's SportsCentury show[3]
"
Enlarge picture
Grange Field at Wheaton Warrenville South High School, which was named in his honor.
  • To commemorate college football's 100th anniversary in 1969, the Football Writers Association of America chose an all-time All-America team. Grange was the only unanimous choice.
  • In 1999, though 65 years had passed since his last game, he was ranked number 80 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players.
  • Wheaton Warrenville South High School's football field is named in his honor; however, Grange's high school eventually became Longfellow Elementary School, which feeds into rival Wheaton North High School.
  • On January 15, 1978, at Super Bowl XII, Grange became the first person other than the game referee to toss the coin at a Super Bowl.

External links

National Football League | NFL's 1920s All-Decade Team
Jimmy Conzelman | Paddy Driscoll | Red Grange | Joe Guyon | Curly Lambeau | Jim Thorpe | Ernie Nevers | Guy Chamberlin | Lavern Dilweg | George Halas | Ed Healey | Pete Henry | Cal Hubbard | Steve Owen | Hunk Anderson | Walt Kiesling | Mike Michalske | George Trafton |
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Forksville is a borough in Sullivan County, Pennsylvania, United States. The population was 147 at the 2000 census. It is the home of the Forksville Folk Festival, held at the Sullivan County Fairgrounds, and near Worlds End State Park.
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Lake Wales, Florida
Location in Polk County and the state of Florida
Coordinates:
Country United States
State Florida
County Polk
Area
 - City 36.
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