While doing a little research at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio recently, I came across a photocopy of a newspaper article titled “Backfield of Indians—Plan of Jim Thorpe.” The article began by saying that Thorpe planned on fielding an Indian backfield for the Canton Bulldogs during the 1919 season. The name of the newspaper and date were not on the copy but the paper must have been local to Canton or nearby Massillon because the third paragraph began, “Guyon’s presence here…” which implies that the paper is local to the team’s location. Discussing the possible line-up for the 1919 season suggests that the article was written after the end of the 1918 season, definitely after Armistice in November 1918. Sometime in 1919 is more likely because the article stated, “…will reach shores not later than September.”
The writer discusses how Thorpe plans to reunite with three of his former Carlisle teammates all in Canton’s backfield. Gus Welch would play quarterback (blocking back in the single-wing, wingback in the double-wing), Joe Guyon and Thorpe would be the halfbacks, and Pete Calac would be the fullback. All had played together on the 1912 Indian team but Guyon and Calac were needed on the line to replace Lone Star Dietz and Bill Newashe at the tackle positions because they were no longer playing on the team. Welch, Guyon and Calac were all in the backfield on the 1913 edition but Thorpe had departed by then.
Thorpe’s dream of being reunited fell through because Gus Welch took the head coaching position that had opened up with Lone Star Dietz’s dismissal. Thorpe, Calac and Guyon played pro ball together for several years and won championships in 1919 and 1920. Thorpe tried to field the same all-Indian backfield in 1917 but Joe Guyon elected to play college ball for National Champions Georgia Tech, was named to Walter Camp’s All America Second team at halfback, the same honor he received in 1913, his last year at Carlisle.
Tags: Canton Bulldogs