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Allen, George Herbert (29 April 1918–31 December 1990), college and professional football coach, was born in the Detroit, Michigan, suburb of Grosse Pointe Woods, the son of Earl Raymond Allen, an auto worker, and Loretta Hannigan. Allen attended the Lake Shore, Michigan, high school, where he earned varsity letters in football, basketball, and track. As an officer trainee in the U.S. Navy’s V-12 program during World War II, Allen attended Alma College and Marquette University. He played football at both schools. In 1947 Allen received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, where he also served as a part-time assistant coach for the junior varsity football team. In 1949 he earned a master’s degree in physical education from Michigan. While at Michigan, the intelligent and hardworking Allen fell in love with coaching, the vocation to which he devoted his adult life....

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Bell, Matty (22 February 1899–30 June 1983), athlete and college coach and administrator, was born William Madison Bell in Alvarado, Texas, the son of Ruben Edwin Bell, a dry goods store operator, and Elizabeth Morgan. As a teenager Bell adopted the nickname Matty because he admired professional baseball pitcher ...

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Bierman, Bernard William (11 March 1894–08 March 1977), college athlete and football coach, was born in Springfield, Minnesota, the son of William August Bierman and Lydia Ruessler. His father worked at odd jobs, causing the family to live in three Minnesota towns, along with two years in Oklahoma, by the time Bierman graduated from high school. A bone infection in his leg prevented him from undertaking high school sports until his sophomore year. He then participated in football, basketball, and track....

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Blaik, Red (15 February 1897–06 May 1989), college football coach, was born Earl Henry Blaik in Detroit, Michigan, the son of William Douglas Blaik, a real estate agent and housebuilder, and Margaret Jane Purcell. The family moved to Dayton, Ohio, in 1901, where at Steele High School Blaik lettered in football, basketball, and baseball. From 1914 to 1917 Blaik attended Miami University of Ohio, where he was a prelaw student and played four years of varsity football, starting at right end on teams that were undefeated in their 1916 and 1917 Ohio Conference championship seasons. In his senior year Blaik gained his first coaching experience under head coach George L. Rider, who had Blaik supervise the ends and tackles. Blaik also played basketball, and he won three letters as an outfielder on the baseball team, which he captained in 1917. He received an A.B. degree from Miami in 1918....

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Blanda, George (17 September 1927–27 September 2010), professional football player, was born George Frederick Blanda in Youngwood, Pennsylvania, the seventh of eleven children to parents of Czech extraction, Michael Blanda, a coal miner, and Mary Blanda. Located near Pittsburgh, Youngwood was part of a region in western Pennsylvania with a strong football tradition that produced the Hall of Fame quarterbacks ...

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Johnny Mack Brown. With Mae West, on movie set. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-111083).

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Brown, Johnny Mack (01 September 1904–14 November 1974), college football player and film actor, was born John Mack Brown in Dothan, Alabama, the son of John Henry Brown and Hattie McGillary. Brown’s father owned a small retail shoe store in Dothan that brought the family only a small income. Johnny had to go to work at an early age selling newspapers. He spent much of his youth fishing, hunting, and playing football and other sports with his five brothers. Brown attended Dothan High School, where he earned letters in track, baseball, and football and was an all-state football player. In 1923 Brown earned a scholarship to play football all four years at the University of Alabama....

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Brown, Paul E. (07 September 1908–05 August 1991), football coach and executive, was born in Norwalk, Ohio, the son of Lester Brown, a railroad dispatcher, and Ida Sherwood. Both of his parents were of English descent. Brown’s father, whose job required precise planning, instilled in him a love of organization. His mother enjoyed competing at games, particularly cards, and taught him the thrill of competition. Brown was given his first football when he was six years old; when the ball could no longer be inflated, he stuffed it with rags and leaves and continued playing with it....

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Bryant, Bear (11 September 1913–26 January 1983), football coach, was born Paul William Bryant in Moro Bottom, Arkansas, the son of Wilson Monroe Bryant and Ida Kilgore, truck farmers. The eleventh of twelve children, Bryant worked hard as a boy to contribute to the family’s meager income. As a teenager, he is said to have accepted a challenge to wrestle a bear at a traveling carnival show in nearby Fordyce in order to collect the one-dollar-a-minute prize money. Bryant later claimed that he easily wrestled the skinny bear to the floor, but the promoters left town before he could collect his money. All he got out of the experience, he said, was the nickname “Bear,” which he retained all his life. Bryant, who at age sixteen was 6′ 3″, 190 pounds, and still growing, was a star athlete at Fordyce High School and played tackle on the 1929 and 1930 state championship football teams....

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Camp, Walter Chauncey (07 April 1859–14 March 1925), football coach and administrator, was born in New Britain, Connecticut, the son of Leverett L. Camp, a schoolmaster and publisher, and Ellen Cornwell. Camp attended Hopkins Grammar School in New Haven, Connecticut, before enrolling at Yale University in 1876. On graduation with a B.A. in 1880 and the honor of being named class poet, he studied medicine for two years at Yale. He gave up his medical studies and joined the Manhattan Watch Company, a New York City firm, in 1882. The following year he began a lifetime career with the New Haven Clock Company, becoming president in 1903. Camp married Alice Graham Sumner, sister of the famed Yale economist and sociologist ...

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Walter Camp. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-116343).

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Guy Chamberlin. Courtesy of the Nebraska State Historical Society.

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Chamberlin, Guy (16 January 1894–04 April 1967), professional football player and coach, was born Berlin Chamberlin in Blue Springs, Nebraska, the son of Elmer E. Chamberlin and Ana I. Tobyne. He grew up in a large farm family. Tall and fast, Chamberlin had the makings of a fine athlete, but the local high school was too small to field a football team. Relegated to sandlot play against nearby teams and lacking confidence, he entered a small college, Nebraska Wesleyan, in 1912. There he blossomed as a football star, winning all-state honors in his first season and attracting the attention of Jumbo Stiehm, football coach at the University of Nebraska, who recruited Chamberlin to the larger state institution....

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Christiansen, Jack (20 December 1928–29 June 1986), football player and coach, was born John LeRoy Christiansen in Sublette, Kansas, the son of Leroy Christiansen and Catherine (maiden name unknown). Following a grain elevator accident in 1930 that killed his father, Christiansen briefly lived with his paternal grandparents in Wray, Colorado. During the Great Depression, fearing they could not provide for the education of Jack and his sister, who was two years older, Christiansen’s grandparents arranged for the youngsters to enter the Odd Fellows Orphanage in Canon City, Colorado. Christiansen attended the local schools in Canon City from the third grade on. Six-feet-one and spindly as he reached his teens, Christiansen excelled in football and track in high school, but an accidental gunshot wound to his left arm during his senior year threatened to preclude football thereafter. In 1947 he enrolled at Colorado A & M (now Colorado State University). There he initially confined his participation in sports to track, where he ran the 100-yard dash in 9.8 seconds, tying a school record in the event. He also ran the 220- and 440-yard dashes and was a member of the relay team that won the Skyline Conference title his senior year; for three consecutive years he held the conference’s 440 title. His love for football, however, caused Christiansen to disregard his physician’s advice to avoid contact sports. He made the powerful Colorado A & M football squad as a reserve defensive back his sophomore year but soon became a starting safety. He also returned punts and saw some action at halfback. Carrying the ball mainly on sweeps and reverses, he set a single-game school rushing record that endured for almost twenty years. In the spring of 1951 Christiansen married Doris Erickson, who was studying for a master’s degree in physical education at Colorado A & M. The couple would have four children....

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Conzelman, James Gleason (06 March 1898–31 July 1970), football player, coach, and sports executive, was born James Gleason Dunn in St. Louis, Missouri, the son of James Dunn and Margaret Ryan. After his parents divorced and his mother remarried, he took the name of his stepfather. Conzelman attended McKinley High School in St. Louis, where he excelled in sports. In 1916 he enrolled at Washington University in that city, where he played football. The following year he joined the U.S. Navy and served at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station for two years. During his naval service Conzelman played quarterback for the Great Lakes football team that defeated the Mare Island Marines 17–0 in the Rose Bowl game on 1 January 1919. He was also the middleweight boxing champion at Great Lakes. In the fall of 1919 he returned to Washington University and was an All–Missouri Valley quarterback. Conzelman left school in 1920 to help support his widowed mother, a sister, and two brothers....

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Crisler, Fritz (12 January 1899–19 August 1982), football coach and athletic administrator, was born Herbert Orin Crisler outside Earlville, Illinois, the son of Albert Crisler, a farmer, and Catherine Thompson. Since Crisler was small in stature, he did not play football at Mendota High School. In 1917 he was admitted to the University of Chicago with an academic scholarship. Crisler’s college sports career came about accidentally. While walking along the sidelines, he collided with ...

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Daugherty, Hugh Duffy (08 September 1915–25 September 1987), college football coach, was born in Emeigh, Pennsylvania, the son of Joseph Aloysius Daugherty, a miner and later a manager of a mine company store, and Elizabeth Nesbit Wilson. Daugherty’s father moved the family to Barnesboro, Pennsylvania, to open his own clothing store. The business failed during a prolonged local coal strike, and Daugherty’s father struggled for many years to pay off his debts. Daugherty began playing football at age eleven as a lineman with a local youth team, the “Alley Eleven.”...

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Dobie, Gilmour (21 January 1879–23 December 1948), college football player and coach, was born in Hastings, Minnesota, the son of Robert Dobie, a well driller, and Ellen Black. Dobie first played football in high school at Hastings as a 150-pound end and halfback. He graduated from Hastings High School and entered the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis in 1899. After joining the Minnesota Golden Gophers football team as an end in 1899, Dobie became quarterback and led the Gophers to the Western (later Big Ten) Conference Championship in 1900. He remained at quarterback until graduating from the University of Minnesota in 1902, after which he entered the University of Minnesota Law School and began a three-year tenure as a Minnesota assistant football coach. In 1902 he also coached the South Side Minneapolis High School football team to an undefeated season and the state championship. As an assistant coach, Dobie directed the Minnesota junior varsity football team to three consecutive undefeated seasons. Dobie graduated from law school in 1904 but never worked as an attorney....

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Dodd, Bobby (11 November 1908–21 June 1988), college football coach, was born Robert Lee Dodd in Galax, Virginia, the son of Edwin Dodd, a businessman, and Susan Nuckolls. The family also lived in Bluefield, Virginia, where they owned a small furniture factory. Because the nearest high school was located in Kingsport, Tennessee, Dodd attended school there. Academics were not as important to him as were sports, and his high school football accomplishments won him a scholarship to the University of Tennessee. There his athletic ability brought Dodd his first national fame. As quarterback he led Tennessee to a 27–1–2 record between 1928 and 1930. In 1930 Dodd was named to what was then the only All-American team, a unit selected for ...

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Driscoll, Paddy (11 January 1895–29 June 1968), professional athlete and coach, was born John Leo Driscoll in Evanston, Illinois, the son of Timothy Driscoll, a mason for the Milwaukee Railroad, and Elizabeth Mahoney. Of small stature, the 5′ 11″, 150-pound Driscoll began his formal football career relatively late, as a junior at Evanston High School. In 1914 Driscoll matriculated at Northwestern University in his hometown, where he starred as a halfback and team captain. Northwestern nearly won the league championship in 1916, as Driscoll led the Wildcats and was named to the All–Western Conference team....