ND's All-Opponent Team: The Early Years
As most of you know, I have been researching early (1887-1917) Notre Dame Football.
I have been struck by how many of the early greats of college football lined up against ND in those years. Here’s my version of the “All Opponent Team” we faced:
Amos Alonzo Stagg-Stagg would be on everyone’s list of one of the top handful of figures in college football history. On January 1, 1894, Notre Dame played the University of Chicago Maroons. The SCHOLASTIC writer opined about this game: “If the Notre Dame eleven will refrain from gorging themselves with eatables during the holidays, they will keep their record unbroken.” Lots of ND highlights in this game: First New Year’s Day game; first indoor game (played in Chicago’s Tattersall’s Arena); opposing Coach (uber legendary Amos Alonzo Stagg) played the entire game because his team was short of players over the Holiday break; and the opposing QB was Frank Hering who would in a few years acquire the sobriquet “The Father of Notre Dame Football”. The 31–year old Stagg scored one of the two Chicago TD’s. 2,000 fans attended. Stagg was a great all-around athlete and is the only man elected in the inaugural class of the College Football Hall of Fame (1951) AND the Basketball Hall of Fame (1959). Also, his football election was as both a player and coach. He was still coaching at age 96 and lived to be 102. When Notre Dame faced Stagg, the University of Chicago was in the “Western Conference”, also called “The Big Nine”. It later became the Big Ten…..and Lord knows who’s in the league today. The University of Chicago is the only Big Ten team Notre Dame has never defeated (0-4).
Robert “Tiny” Maxwell-On Wednesday, September 27, 1899, Notre Dame defeated Englewood H.S. (of Chicago), 29-5. More than 600 fans came to newly-opened Cartier Field. One of the stars for Englewood High School was right tackle Robert “Tiny” Maxwell, for whom the Maxwell Award is named. He was a very large player (240) for his era. He had varied career in sports, as an outstanding track athlete; college All American; early pro player; celebrated referee; and sports columnist. Notre Dame players who have won the Maxwell are Leon Hart (1949); Johnny Lattner (1952-1953); Jim Lynch (1966); Ross Browner (1977); Brady Quinn (2006); and Manti Te’O (2012). He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame, in 1974.
Elmer Oliphant-He entered Purdue University, waiting on tables; carrying laundry; stoking furnaces; and selling shoes to earn his way. He worked as a coal miner during his summer vacations. He earned 7 Varsity letters in football, basketball, baseball and track. He also swam and wrestled. In one game, he single-handedly beat Wisconsin by kicking a game winning field goal with a broken ankle to give the Boilermakers a 3–0 victory and then fainted in pain. He still holds records the individual record for scoring in a single football game at Purdue which was for 43 points in 1912. He helped turn Purdue's football into a winning program. He graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering.
After graduation, he received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy, where he was the first cadet athlete to letter in four major sports. He also lettered in hockey, boxing, and swimming, even though he could not be full-time members of those teams. He also found time to have been one of the Champion Boxers in the school. At West Point he is the season leader with 125 points. During his college career, he scored 135 points at Purdue and 289 points at West Point. He also established the World Record in 220-yard low hurdles on grass. While at West Point he won the Army Athletic Association Trophy, in 1918. While in military service at West Point in 1919, he created their intramural sports system. Oliphant played professional football in 1920 and 1921 for the league which became the NFL, in 1922. In 1921, he led the league in points, FGs, and PATs and threw 7 touchdown passes. Notre Dame defeated the Oliphant-led Army team, 7-0, in 1915. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame, in 1955.
Pat O’Dea-Known as “The Kangaroo Kicker”, because of his Australian birth, O’Dea may have been the greatest kicker-punter of all time, as an All American fullback at Wisconsin. He was Notre Dame’s Football Coach in 1900 and 1901. The opening and closing games of the 1901 season were played against the South Bend Athletic Club. Their top player was O’Dea! The first game was a scoreless tie. ND won the second game 22-6, with O’Dea scoring the only points against his OWN team! He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame, in 1962.
John McEwan-John “Cap” McEwan (ya gotta love a guy with that nickname!) was an All-American Center for West Point. He played against ND, 1913-1916. There is an excellent book on the history of the Notre Dame-Army Football series Army vs. Notre Dame, “The Big Game”, 1913-1947, by Jim Beach and Daniel Moore (New York, Random House, 1948). The authors have an anecdote from the 1915 game. ND’s Center, Hugh ‘Pepper’ O’Donnell (future C.S.C. Priest and President of Notre Dame), had a broken rib and asked the Army trainer to tape it and provide extra padding over it. The Army man facing O’Donnell asked him which side had been hurt. After O’Donnell pointed to it, Center John McEwan ‘didn’t touch it once’. After the game, Ring Lardner wrote “It is said that President Wilson, in the event of a war with Mexico, will leave the Army at home and send Notre Dame to the front”. McEwan was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame, in 1962.
Berlin Guy Chamberlin-Guy was an All-American at Nebraska and a player-coach in the NFL. On November 30, 1915, his two touchdowns led the Nebraska Cornhuskers to a 20-19 defeat of Notre Dame, in front of 8,000 fans, at Nebraska Field. He holds the record for the highest NFL winning percentage. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1962 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965.
Wilbur “Fats” Henry-On Saturday, November 24, 1917, Notre Dame defeated W&J, 3-0. The SCHOLASTIC summarized the team values shown in the narrow Irish victory over The Presidents. “A typical example of the spirit of the men occurred in the Notre Dame car that was to bring the victorious Gold and Blue back from Washington & Jefferson. Someone started to compliment Joe Brandy, scorer of all the Notre Dame points made in the East this season, on his beautiful placement kick of the afternoon. He blushed and cut the speaker short by insisting that Bahan had held the ball so perfectly that anyone could have kicked the goal. Bahan was present and disclaimed any credit by insisting that Madigan had passed the ball so accurately that he did not have to move it six inches for Brandy. Madigan claimed the line held so well that the passing and placing before the kick was mere child's play. Any one of these fellows could have ‘nominated’ himself a hero, and such was the high caliber of his play that no one would have disputed him.” W&J tied California, 0-0, in the 1922 Rose Bowl, three years before the Irish would play in the granddaddy of all Bowl Games. Brandy’s kick was from 35 yards. ND was unable to use its passing attack because all their “throwers” were hurt. They resorted to punting on second and third downs because Walter Miller was kicking so strongly and ND was gaining on the exchanges. The big star for W&J was Wilber Francis “Fats” Henry, an All American and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as a long-time player for the Canton Bulldogs. He was one of the larger players of his time (5’10, 250+). He was also a leading punter/place kicker. At one time he held the NFL record for both the longest punt (94 yards) and field goal (50 yards). He later returned to W&J to serve as Athletic Director for 20 years. The Canton Bulldogs were a semi-pro football team in their 16th year when they were one of the founding members of the NFL (then called the American Professional Football Conference) in 1920. Henry was elected to the Inaugural Class of the College Football Hall of Fame, in 1951, and also to the Charter Class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, in 1963.
Winchester Dana Osgood-On Thursday, November 21, 1895, the Indianapolis Artillery “Cannoneers” defeated ND, 18-0. They were led by “Win” Osgood, one of the greatest athletes of early college sports. He was a football All-American while playing for Cornell and Penn. Osgood was also ridiculously talented in all sports. He was a 400 meter runner; shot putter; gymnast; tennis player; single skull rower; and boxer. He set a record in the two-mile bicycle race. For good measure, he won the 1895 A.A.U. Heavyweight Wrestling Championship. When the “Gold and Blue” took on the Indianapolis Artillery team, Osgood was nearby, having coached the Indiana University Football team that fall. Because of the strong team, aided by some ringers like Osgood, ND’s Coach Harry Haddon, put himself in the game at center. The SCHOLASTIC praised the play of ND, stating: “On the whole, Thursday's was the best game ever played on the Varsity gridiron, and there is glory even in our defeat”. Osgood would be dead in less than a year. When Cuba fought for its independence from Spain, Osgood volunteered for the Cuban Military. He was commissioned a major. During one of the principle battles, he was killed by a sniper, allegedly firing from more than 1,000 yards. Osgood was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1970.
Lawrence “Biff” Jones-Jones played for West Point against ND, in 1914 and 1915. He later served as head coach at the United States Military Academy; Louisiana State University; the University of Oklahoma; and the University of Nebraska, compiling a career record of 87–33–15. Jones was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, as a coach, in 1954.
Neil Snow-Snow was a four-year starter for the Michigan Wolverines (1898-1901). He was the MVP of the first Rose Bowl, scoring five touchdowns. Against ND, he played RE making three conversions in 1898; and one in 1899. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame, in 1959.
Zora Clevenger-Clevenger was a star halfback for Indiana University, playing LH against ND 1900-1902, and scoring the lone Hoosier TD in 1901. He also had a long and successful career as a college coach in three sports at four colleges. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1968. Clevenger was born in Muncie, Indiana, hometown of Notre Dame legend (and wonderful friend) Luther Bradley.
Omar Bradley-Bradley was a substitute lineman, for West Point, against ND, in 1914. He earned no honor for his football playing, although he was an outstanding baseball player. I’m giving him extra credit here because of his military career. He commanded all U.S. Army forces from the Normandy landing through to the end of the war in Europe. He ultimately commanded forty-three divisions and 1.3 million men, the largest body of American soldiers ever to serve under a single U.S. field commander. He later served as Army Chief of Staff and as the first Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was of only nine people to hold a five-star rank in the United States Armed Forces.
Andy Wyant-According to Wikipedia, Wyant might best be known for playing eight varsity seasons of college football, for an unprecedented total of 73 consecutive games, from 1887–1894. Wyant began playing for Bucknell University in 1887, while still a student in high school. He was nicknamed "Polyphemus," after the cyclops in Greek mythology. In 1892, he left Bucknell to attend the University of Chicago Divinity School. While in Chicago, he was played under the legendary coach, Amos Alonzo Stagg. He played guard against ND, on January 1, 1894, our first New Year’s Day and indoor football game. In 1895 Wyant graduated from the Divinity School and served as a Baptist minister. He would eventually earn five degrees, including a Doctorate of Medicine. He would go on to work as a teacher, author, minister, lecturer and financier. During World War I and World War II, he worked as a physician and served in the Red Cross. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1962.
Adolph “Germany” Schulz-Schulz was the All-American American center for the University of Michigan Wolverines from 1904 to 1908. Schulz was credited with inventing the spiral snap. He was also considered the first defensive center (formerly called “center rusher”) who stood up in back of the line, thus making him the first linebacker. He was a giant of his time. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in its 1951 inaugural class. At least one poll listed him as the greatest college center of all time. I’m fudging a little on this one, since Schulz did not play in our 1908 game, though he was on their team. Wolverines Coach referenced said after the game that he though ND might win, with Schulz unable to play. Michigan escaped with a 12-6 win, scoring all their points on three four-point field goals.
Ed Garbisch-Ed played eight years of college football at Washington & Jefferson College (1917-1920) and the United States Military Academy, (1921-1924), where he was a three-time All-American. He played right tackle for The Presidents, in Notre Dame’s 3-0 win, on November 24, 1917. He married the daughter of Walter Chrysler, founder of the car company. They were collectors of Native American art and benefactors to many museums. He was inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954.
Charles Herschberger-"Herschie" was a fullback and placekicker, for the University of Chicago from 1896 to 1898. He was reportedly the first player to punt spirals. In 1898, he became the first “western” player to be selected as a first-team All-American. An all-around athlete, he earned 13 varsity letters at Chicago. A fine student, he graduated as a Phi Beta Kappa. He helped defeat ND, in 1896, by scoring two TD’s. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1970.
“Hube” Wagner-J. Huber Wagner played for the University of Pittsburgh from 1910 until 1913, playing against ND in 1911 and 1912. In 1913, Wagner captained Pitt and received All-American honors. He became a prominent surgeon in Pittsburgh. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1973.
Alexander “Babe” Weyand- Weyand had a varied career as football player, Olympian, Army officer and sports historian. Weyand starred at tackle for West Point (1911-1915) and was the captain of the 1915 team. He was allegedly nicked “Babe” by his teammate, Dwight Eisenhower. Weyand played against ND in 1913-1915. He was selected to the College Football All-America Team, in 1915. After distinguished World War I service, he competed in the heavyweight Greco-Roman class in wrestling at the 1920 Summer Olympics. Col. Weyand wrote Saga of American Football (New York: MacMillan, 1955), one of the more than 100 books I have used in this research. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1974.
Gene “Shorty” Miller-Miller played quarterback at Penn State from 1910–1913, missing only one game during his tenure and amassing a 23-8-2 record. He was only 5’5. Another nickname he earned was “Meteroic Midget”. He was the Captain of the 1913 team which lost to Notre Dame, 14-7. It was a rare home field defeat for them. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1974.
Pete Calac-Pedro "Pete" Calac played for the Carlisle Indians, serving at team Captain, in 1914 when the lost to ND, 48-6, in Comiskey Park. As their fullback, he scored the only TD against the Irish. He was a Mission Indian. Calac later became one of the early NFL stars. Legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice once remarked that the all-time Indian backfield, containing Jim Thorpe, Joe Guyon, and Calac, would be better than the all-time backfield of Notre Dame or any other team.
Albert "Benny" Benbrook-Benny was an All-American guard and Captain for the Michigan Wolverines, from 1908-1910. He was on the 1908 team which barely defeated ND, and on the losing side of ND’s upset win in 1909. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1971.
Bob Neyland-Neyland played for West Point against ND, in 1914-1915, but it was as a college coach where he achieved his greatest athletic fame. He reached the rank of Brigadier General, at one time serving as Aide to General Douglas MacArthur when he was Superintendent of West Point. He was the Head Coach at the University of Tennessee (UT), in three stints from 1926 to 1952. He won four national championships. He still holds the record for most wins (173) in Tennessee Volunteers history. He had undefeated streaks of 33, 28, and 23 games. Sports Illustrated named him the defensive coordinator of its all-century college football team. He had 112 shutouts among his victories. In 1938 and 1939, his Vols shut out 17 straight opponents.
As you can see………….the above is yet another research detour, keeping me from finishing this project. LOL.
Go Irish! cap