Red Grange single-handily gave NFL football life and will forever be remembered as a shining star.
Early Life of Red Grange
Born Harold Edward Grange, nickname "Red," 13 June 1903 in Forksville, Pennsylvania to Lyle and Sadie Grange. Red's mother died when he was five years old, and shortly after, his father moved the family to Wheaton, Illinois. His father worked his way up to become the police chief, and Red would enter Wheaton High School. Before he graduated, he had earned sixteen varsity letters in football, baseball, basketball, and track. He scored 75 touchdowns and 532 points for the football team. In his senior year, the team won every game except when they lost to Scot High School in Toledo, Ohio. (my home town). In that game, Red was knocked out and unconscious for two days. Wheaton lost the game 39-0.
During this time, Red had to help the family financially and took a job at the Wheaton Ice House and was paid $37.50 a week for loading blocks of ice. He didn't seem to mind as it helped to build his strength for football.
After graduating high school, he enrolled in the University of Illinois and joined the Zeta Psi Fraternity. Originally Red wanted to play baseball or basketball, but the fraternity brothers had other ideas for him and told him to go out for football. As Red went to the football field and saw all the 'big' guys, he was only 5'9 and 160 pounds at the time, returned to the fraternity and said, "no way" am I playing football. They got the 'paddle,' and Red said OK, I'll play football.
In his first collegiate football game against Nebraska, he scored three TD's. A phenomenon was taking shape.
The Big Game-Illinois vs. Michigan
It was October 18, 1924, and Michigan was favored to win since they had won the National Championship title the year before and hadn't lost in the last twenty games. Suddenly, it was like a lightning bolt was on the field. In the first twelve minutes, Red scored four touchdowns. Michigan was in shock; sportswriters were stunned. As Coach Zuppke pulled him out to give him a rest, the crowd gave him a standing ovation that delayed the game five minutes.
Red was an instant celebrity and impossible to forget. In his final collegiate game against Ohio State before a crowd of 85,000 fans, Illinois won 14-9. During his entire collegiate career, Red ran for over 3362 yards, 14 passes for 253 yards, and had 31 touchdowns. An illustrious career and put the University of Illinois in the limelight. But Red wanted more and decided to turn pro.
In 1925, the NFL was regarded as a dirty business and run by rogues. He was warned he would 'sully' his reputation, and Coach Zuppke tried to talk him out of it but to no avail. Red's agent, C.C. Pyle, and Chicago Bear's owner Halas agreed to a contract of an unheard-of amount of $100,000 and a share of the gate.
Red Grange and the National Football League
After Red signed with the Chicago Bears, it was decided to do a barnstorming road of games. Over the course of 67 days, the Chicago Bears played 19 games. Red was injured and re-injured in both his knees and with a blood clot in his arm. But the crowds were swarming the fields to see Red play, and the money was rolling in at the gates of every game. The NFL had new life and status in the league, and Red was the influencer.
After the NFL
Red tried Hollywood for a short time, but it wasn't his style, and he returned to Wheaton, Illinois. He tried insurance for a while and then became an analyst for the Chicago Bears for fourteen years. In the meantime, Red had married Margaret "Muggs," as she was called and Red was aware his football days were over. They would retire to Lake Wales, Florida, along with their two dachshunds, Rusty and Ginger. Red only wanted to relax, do some fishing and reading. Red died on January 28, 1991, and was cremated. Muggs had donated a lot of Red's mementoes to the Football Hall of Fame, even his ice tongs which were chrome-plated. Muggs died in 1997 and was also cremated.
Quotes from Red Granger
Red was a humble man and avoided publicity and believed he did nothing spectacular, and everyone had nothing but praise and respect for him. When asked by reporters, Red would often say, "Ten years from now, no one will care or know what Red Grange did or who he was. I think he was wrong about that as he is almost immortal.
His favorite saying was I played football the only way I knew. If you have the football and 11 guys are after you, if you're smart, you'll rub. It was no big deal."
Something that irritated him was that many people think if you play football, you're dumb, but if you play golf or tennis, you're smart. That's not true, I had more trigonometry than anyone, and I wasn't dumb. He went on to say football hasn't changed much except the ball. In the 20s and 30s, the ball was round like a basketball, and on a windy day, it was like throwing a balloon. Today, there's a coach for everything, every position.
In 2008, ESPN voted Red Grange the Best College Player of All Time, in 2011, he was voted the Greatest Big Ten Icon in Big Ten Football. And he is a Charter Member of both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame. So, Red Grange will always be the epitome of football and well deserved.
fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on December 16, 2020:
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fran rooks (author) from Toledo, Ohio on December 12, 2020:
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Rosina S Khan on December 11, 2020:
This is an interesting account of Red Grange, the great football player. The honors he received are well deserved. Thank you for sharing, Fran.