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Baugh, Sammy (17 March 1914–17 December 2008), football player, was born Samuel Adrian Baugh and raised in Temple, Texas, the son of James “J.V.” Baugh, who worked for the Santa Fe Railroad when not running gaming houses and cockfights, and Lucy. The family was poor, a predicament that worsened when the father ran off with another woman. “Sammy” Baugh attended local schools. In junior high, he played end and switched to tailback before his mother took her three children to Sweetwater, near Abilene, after Sam's freshman year in high school. There, Sam practiced accuracy by throwing at a swinging tire, later starring at tailback and twice taking his team to the state playoffs. Texas Christian University gave him a scholarship to play baseball, but in his sophomore year the legendary Dutch Meyer became the school's football coach and urged Baugh to concentrate on that sport as quarterback. Between 1934 and 1936, the raw-boned, genial, but foul-mouthed Baugh led the Horned Frogs to a 29-7-3 record, passing a newly designed, slimmer football for 3,384 yards and 39 touchdowns, while being named an all-American in 1935 and 1936. He capped his college career with wins in the Sugar Bowl (1936) and the very first Cotton Bowl (1937), finishing fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting for 1936. Baugh was “the greatest athlete I ever saw,” said Meyer ( ...

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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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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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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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Davis, Ernie (14 December 1939–18 May 1963), football player, was born in New Salem, Pennsylvania, a coal mining district. The names and occupations of his parents cannot be ascertained. He never knew his father, who left the family soon after his son’s birth and subsequently died in an accident. His mother moved to Elmira, New York, leaving the one-year-old Ernie with his grandparents in nearby Uniontown, Pennsylvania. Ten years later Davis rejoined his mother in Elmira....

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Grange, Red (13 June 1903–28 January 1991), football player, coach, and broadcaster, was born Harold Edward Grange in Forksville, Pennsylvania, the son of Lyle Grange, a lumber camp foreman, and Sadie Sherman. When Grange’s mother died in 1908, his father moved the family, which included Red’s older sisters and his three-year-old brother, to Wheaton, Illinois, where the elder Grange had grown up. Years later, Red, as he was nicknamed because of his auburn hair, recalled that “at first I missed Forksville terribly,” but as time passed he realized that Wheaton “offered a more civilized way of life.”...

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Groza, Louis Roy (25 January 1924–29 November 2000), professional football player, was born in Martin's Ferry, Ohio, where his parents, John and Mary, Hungarian immigrants, ran a tavern on Main Street bearing the family name. He was the second of three children. An honor student at Martin's Ferry High School, Groza reached his adult height 6 feet, 3 inches and weighed more than 220 pounds as a teenager. A versatile athlete with a friendly personality, he was elected captain of the school's varsity baseball, basketball, and football teams, and was elevated to the status of town hero after the basketball and football squads won state championships under his leadership. Graduating in 1942, Groza accepted a football scholarship from Ohio State University....

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Halas, George Stanley (02 February 1895–31 October 1983), professional football player, coach, and owner, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Frank J. Halas, a businessman, and Barbara Poledna. Halas acquired a lifelong commitment to the values of hard work, frugality, and personal loyalty from the example of his parents, first-generation immigrants from Bohemia, whose personal fortunes expanded from a modest tailor shop to a grocery store and saloon to extensive real estate holdings, and by growing up in an ethnic, working-class neighborhood in southwest Chicago dominated by St. Vitus Roman Catholic Church and the Pilsen Sokol (community center)....

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Landry, Tom (11 September 1924–12 February 2000), football coach, was born Thomas Wade Landry in Mission, Texas, the son of Ray Landry and Ruth Coffman Landry. The members of the family were fixtures in their small-town community. Ray Landry owned a local garage and also acted as both the chief of the volunteer fire department and as superintendent of the First Methodist Church Sunday school. Tom Landry excelled in both academics and sports at an early age, and in high school he was not only a straight-A student but also president of his class and an outstanding football fullback. Graduating in the spring of 1942, only months after America's entry into World War II, he enrolled that fall at the University of Texas and joined the college football team; at the end of the semester he left college to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Forces. After training as a pilot, he flew thirty combat missions in Europe over the next three years with the Eighth Air Force....

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Lombardi, Vince (11 June 1913–03 September 1970), professional football coach, was born Vincent Thomas Lombardi in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Italian immigrants Harry Lombardi, a butcher, Matilda Izzo. Originally hoping to become a Catholic priest, Lombardi studied at the Cathedral College of the Immaculate Conception, Preparatory Seminary, from 1929 to 1932. Abandoning that goal, he set his sights on winning a college scholarship by playing football. To this end, in 1932 Lombardi attended Brooklyn’s St. Francis Academy, where he played both guard and fullback on the football team and played basketball and baseball. Named to the 1932 All-City football team, Lombardi was recruited by several colleges. He won a scholarship from Fordham University to play football under new coach ...

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Motley, Marion (05 June 1920–27 June 1999), football player, was born in Leesberg, Georgia, the son of Shakeful Motley, a foundry worker, and Blanche Jones. The family moved to Canton, Ohio, the cradle of the National Football League (NFL), when Marion was two. In junior high, Marion, who was an African American, discovered that because football was “a white game,” he would not be issued a uniform or pads. So for a time he practiced knocking over and running through players without them. In three years Marion's McKinley High School football team in Canton lost only three games, each loss imposed by rival Massillon High School, coached by ...

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Nitschke, Ray (29 December 1936–08 March 1998), football player, was born Raymond Ernest Nitschke in Elmwood Park, a suburban area of Chicago, Illinois, the son of Robert Nitschke, who worked for a Chicago streetcar line, and Anna Petersen Nitschke. Nitschke's father died in an automobile accident when he was three years old, and his mother died suddenly of a blood clot when he was thirteen years old, according to his autobiography. After his mother's death, Nitschke and his brother, Richard, were adopted by their elder brother, Robert, who was just twenty-one at the time. Ray took the loss of his mother hard, and he felt fate had robbed him of a normal childhood. He frequently tussled with others, taking on many who were older and bigger. Nitschke was able to channel his emotions through sports at Proviso High School in Maywood, Illinois. He excelled in football, baseball, and basketball. In his senior year, he led the Pirates to the 1953 Suburban League Football Championship as a quarterback and defensive lineman....

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Rockne, Knute (04 March 1888–31 March 1931), college football player and coach, was born Knute Kenneth Rokne in Voss, Norway, the son of Lars Knutson Rokne, a blacksmith and carriage maker, and Martha Gjermo. His father came to the United States in 1893 to exhibit his carriage designs at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Soon thereafter he was joined by his wife and five children, and the family took up residence in the United States. Rockne (the “c” was added to the surname in America) grew up in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago, where he attended Brentano Grammar School. He later was a student at North West Division High School, where he participated on the track team in the half-mile and pole vault events. Rockne played some football as a freshman, but he did not excel at the sport. As a senior, Rockne skipped classes to practice for an upcoming track meet. Consequently, school authorities expelled him in 1905....

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Stagg, Amos Alonzo (16 August 1862–17 March 1965), intercollegiate football coach, was born in West Orange, New Jersey, the son of Amos L. Stagg, a shoemaker, and Eunice Pierson. During his high school years Lonnie, as he was called, decided he wanted to be a minister. When he graduated from high school he lacked the credits to attend Yale University, but he obtained a scholarship to the Phillips Exeter Academy, at which he excelled as a baseball player....

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Unitas, Johnny (07 May 1933–11 September 2002), professional football player, was born John Constantine Unitas in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Francis Unitas, owner of a coal delivery business, and Helen Superfisky, a Lithuanian immigrant. Francis died of pneumonia when Johnny was only five years old, and Helen took over the coal business and worked multiple other jobs to support the family. Johnny was educated at St. Justin's High School in Pittsburgh, where he starred at quarterback and halfback. He initially struggled, though, to get on a college team. After failing to impress Notre Dame and the University of Indiana, and then failing the University of Pittsburgh's entrance exam, the six‐foot, 140‐pound Unitas finally accepted a scholarship to attend the University of Louisville....

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Walker, Doak (01 January 1927–27 September 1998), football player, was born Ewell Doak Walker, Jr., in Dallas, Texas, the son of Ewell Walker, a high school teacher and football coach and later the superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District, and Emma (maiden name unknown) Walker, a teacher. Reared in a middle-class, blue-collar environment, Walker attended Highland Park High School, where he excelled at football. Doak later said that his father neither pressured nor discouraged him from pursuing football as a career, but once, when asked if he thought his son would one day be president, Ewell Walker replied, “No. He's going to be an All-American football player.” Having grown up in the neighborhood surrounding Southern Methodist University, he decided to attend the school at the suggestion of his father, who felt that a degree from SMU would help him find work in Dallas after college....