Fullback University

Jan 31, 2017

As most of you know, I am writing a book about early {1887-1917) Notre Dame Football.  As I was checking over my list of the greatest players from this period, it stood out to me that our fullbacks were especially noteworthy.

As a young football fan, I always admired fullbacks.  This was back in the day when “third and three” was a perfect time to hand the ball off to Nick Pietrosante or Rick Casares or Alan “The Horse” Ameche.  Now, third and three is a passing down and nobody has fullbacks. Very sad.

All discussions about who was Notre Dame’s greatest player from 1887-1917 begin and end with Louis “Red” Salmon.  From 1900-1903, Red played in 35 games, starting in 34 of them and never leaving the field in 31, leading all ND players in the first two categories.  He was our second leading scorer, with 35 TD’s, 49 xp’s, and two field goals.  He would have ranked first, except TD’s were worth only five points back then (one more point than a field goal).  Everyone played both ways in these early days, so it is difficult to determine who the great defensive players were, but Red was known as a tough “line backer”, even though he packed only 175 pounds on his 5’10 frame.  Red played fullback in 29 of his games.  

Salmon, Louis John “Red”

b. 6/10/1880; d. 12/27/1965 (85), Liberty, NY.  5’9, 165*.  *Wikipedia entry of  6’3, 230 is wrong, according to contemporaneous game accounts in the SCHOLASTIC.

At ND, 1901-1905, Civil Engineering Degree.  Transfer from Mt. St. Mary's College (MD), 1898-1900.  When ND played Purdue, in 1902, the SCHOLASTIC reported: “When the team pulled into Lafayette Wednesday night there was an immense throng at the Depot anxious to get a glimpse of the ‘Red-topped Terror’, as they called Captain Salmon”.  ND Captain and Coach, 1903.  Led team to 8-0-1 record, in which they did not surrender a single point all season.  The only blemish on the slate was a 0-0 tie with Northwestern, played in Southside Park, home of the Chicago White Sox.  After the season, Red was named a 3rd Team All American fullback by Walter Camp, the first Notre Dame player to receive All American mention.  Elected to the College Football Hall of Fame, 1971.

In October, 1913, G. W. Axelson, in the “Chicago Record-Herald”, wrote an article titled “Notre Dame's Greatest Football Player”.  He rattled off the names of a dozen of ND’s best players from their first 25 years of play.  He picked Red Salmon as the greatest.  I have found nothing in my research to contradict that conclusion.  Salmon was a terrific running back and punter and also known as a strong tackler.  Apparently a modest man, his work career was as an engineer.  He worked on the Merriman and Neversink Reservoirs which supply most of the water to NYC.

Ray “Ike” Eichenlaub was likely our second best fullback.  He played in 27 games, all at fullback, starting 25.  He scored 98 points, from 1911-1914.  

Eichenlaub, Raymond Joseph “Ike”

b. 7/15/1892, Columbus, OH; d. 11/9/1949 (57), Columbus, OH.  6’, 210

At ND, 1911-1915, Architecture Certificate.  The Chicago Record-Herald, of 11/15/1913, wrote: “One man at least knows how (Rube) Marquard feels when (Home Run) Baker comes to bat; he is the lone tackler who stands between Eichenlaub of Notre Dame and a touchdown”.  WWI-Lt.  NFL-1925.  1940-President of Notre Dame Alumni Association.  

Insurance Business.  Elected to College Football Hall of Fame, 1972.

Pete Vaughn is my choice as our third best fullback.  He scored 85 points, 14th best, in only 14 games.  

Vaughan, Robert Edward “Pete”

b. 12/29/1888, Lafayette, IN; d. 2/18/1969 (80), Crawfordsville, IN.  6’0, 195.

At ND, 1908-1910.  Pete was one of the stars in Notre Dame’s 1909 victory over Michigan, in Arbor.  In Notre Dame lore he allegedly broke the Michigan goal post with his head, while scoring the winning TD.  Princeton grad-1912.  Athletic Director and Coach, Wabash College for more than 30 years.  Football Line coach and Head Basketball Coach at Purdue, 1913-1916; Assistant Football Coach, University of California-1916; Football Coach at Camp Shelby, during WWI; Head Football Coach at Wabash, 1919-1945 (113-84-23), and Head Basketball Coach 1919-1940 (194-175).  Led his team on a 1919 tour of Belgium, where he allegedly explained the game to King Leopold.  In 1922, coached the Wabash “Little Giants” to the championship in the first “National Intercollegiate Basketball Tournament”, held in Indianapolis.  His 1924 team lost only to Wisconsin.  Returned from retirement to serve again as Wabash Athletic Director, 1961-1963.  Elected to Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame (1966).

Bill Downs was at ND for only the 1905 season.  He scored 16 TD’s while playing seven games at the fullback position.  

Downs, William Robert

b. 9/25/1883, Waverly, NY; d. 11/23/1979 (96), San Diego, CA.  5’10, 190.

At ND, 1904-1906.  Both parents born in County Cork, of the Irish Free State.  Scored 16 TD’s, in 1905, a total that was not equaled until Vegas Ferguson, in 1979.  Married in 1909, with teammate Barlow McAvoy as his groomsman.  Lived in Nippenose Township, PA, in 1910.  Their population in 2010 was 729.  On March 9, 1951, retired after 44 years with the Pennsylvania Division of the New York Central Railroad, as Master Mechanic.  Three-term President, Notre Dame Club of Williamsport, PA, beginning in 1950.  Still active in 1959.

Charles Bachman would surely have been one of our all-time top fullbacks, except his brawn was needed more on the line.  Charlie played 25 games, all as a starter, of which 8 were at fullback.  It was common for players to play several positions, including switching between the line and the backfield. 

Bachman, Charles William

b. 12/1/1892, Chicago. IL; d. 12/14/1985 (93), Port Charlotte, FL.  5’11, 187. 

At ND 1913-1917, LLB.  WWI-Navy.  After the 1916 season, “Bach” was named first team All-Western by G.W. Axelson (Chicago Herald); Malcolm McLean (Chicago Evening Post); and Jack Velock (International News).  He was a fine weight man for the ND Track Team, with a specialty in the discus.  From the SCHOLASTIC of September, 1917: “Charles W. Bachman, better known as ‘Bach’, and member of the '17 class of Law, is now assistant coach at De Pauw University, Greencastle, Indiana.  Bachman also played on the 1917 Pine Village football team, perhaps the strongest professional team in the country, prior to the NFL.  Among their accomplishments was not being scored upon for seven years.  They were from Warren County, IN.  During the summer, he taught in the physical culture department at De Pauw.  Mention need hardly be made that Charlie was one of the greatest athletes in the history of Notre Dame.”  The SCHOLASTIC also reported on his arrival at boot camp: “A husky, well-proportioned youngster took his place in detention camp here to-day with a thousand other recruits. He gave the name of Charles Bachman of Chicago. Ensign Jack Kennedy, who knows a man when he sees one, stepped up to the big fellow and called him from the line. He quizzed Charlie for a few minutes and learned he was from Notre Dame. Mr. Kennedy had mistaken him for a fighter, but found out that he was a fighter—when fighting was called for.  He was then brought over to see one of his old friends at school. To him Charlie looked bigger than ever. He weighed in the Navy at 205 pounds, and expects to put on a little more as soon as he gets going in the work.  Mr. Kennedy has made Charlie the master-at-arms of his company—a bouncer in the Navy—and predicts that no trouble will start for a few days at least. Charlie enlisted at Indianapolis a few days ago and arrived at Great Lakes yesterday. Although he enlisted for the aviation corps, he is going to transfer to the petty officers' school, where he will study for the ensign examination. According to Mr. Kennedy it will be but a short time before ‘Bach’ will be all done up in gold stripes. His official navy name is to be ‘big boy’, it being wished on him. before he was in camp an hour.”  As Captain of Great Lakes Football Team, he was injured, in the 9/9/1918 game, playing against ND.  There were some interesting players in the game.  Great Lakes featured All American Paddy Driscoll, future Bears owner George Halas, and former ND teammates Emmett Keefe and Jerald Jones.  Notre Dame’s backfield featured George Gipp and Earl “Curly” Lambeau.  This game was the first time that Halas and Lambeau faced off against each other.  From 1921 through 1953, they would still be trying to take the measure of each other in the NFL. 

Bachman coached Northwestern, 1919 (1-6); Kansas State, 1920-1927 (33-23-9); Florida, 1928-1932 (29-18); and Michigan State “College” (70-34-10), succeeding Sleepy Jim Crowley, of the Four Horseman backfield.  Eight years after Charlie left Florida, he was succeeded by Tom Lieb, who was a few years behind him at ND, and was a two-time NCAA champion in the discus.  Tom held the world record in the discus (156’ 2 ½), set not long after he finished third in the 1924 Olympic Games.  Lieb is credited with creating the “spin delivery” still widely used today.

 According to the MSU Media Guide, “Bachman used the Notre Dame methods to lead the Spartans to 10 winning seasons in 13 years”.  In 1924, his KSU team defeated Kansas for the first time in 18 years.  In 1934, his MSU team defeated Michigan, 16-0, the first time the Wolverines had lost to their East Lansing rivals in 20 years.  “For good measure, Bachman defeated them the next three years”.  MSC went to their first ever bowl game, the 1938 Orange Bowl, after an 8-1 record in 1937.  His final year of coaching was with Hillsdale College, in 1953 (5-3-2).  College Football Hall of Fame.  His son, Charles, Jr. received many awards for his work in computer science, including the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, from President Obama, in November, 2014.  He specialty was in database design.

John “Tiger Lily” Farley, later a legendary dorm rector known as “Pop” Farley, was one of ND’s first great three-sport players.  His 30 games played, tied for sixth.  He was fourth in TD’s, with 25.  Farley was primarily an end, but played three games at Full Back.  He scored those TD’s because of a common play in those days called “Ends Back”.  At that commend from the QB, the ends would drop into the backfield and two halfbacks would move up to take their spot on the line.  In effect, Farley would be a running back at the time the ball was snapped.  Farley coached several different interhall teams over a thirty year period.  He remains the only ND Hall Rector to have a dorm named after him.

Farley, John Francis “Tiger Lily”

b. 2/15/1876, Paterson, NJ; d. 1/15/1939 (63), Notre Dame, IN.  5’8, 165.

At ND, 1897-1903.  From one of Paterson’s pioneer families.  Played on the highly regarded Entre Nous Football Team, of Paterson, NJ, before coming to Notre Dame.  He sent a letter to Notre Dame, after seeing ND’s ad in “Catholic World”.  Farley said he desired to become a Priest and would like a catalogue of courses.  One of ND’s first great three-sport athletes.  Vice-President, Notre Dame’s “Temperance Society”.  Ordained as C.S.C. Priest-1907.  Briefly managed Athletics at Columbia University (University of Portland) after his ordination.  As Rector of Corby (1907-1914), Walsh (1914-1920) and Sorin (1930-1937), he coached all three interhall teams.  He acquired the nickname “Pop” after his long career as Rector.  Comedian/Actor Joe E. Brown was the toastmaster at the December, 12, 1938 ND Football Banquet, during which Fr. Farley was presented a Monogram sweater.  Barely a month later, Fr. Hugh O’Donnell, his football teammate and C.S.C. colleague, celebrated Farley’s requiem mass.  Other famous natives of Paterson, NJ were Emil T. Hofman ’53 M.S., ’63 Ph.D, legendary Chemistry Professor; Vince Naimoli ’59, former owners of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays Baseball Team; and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, father of Notre Dame student Sarah.


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