While researching the last blog, I noticed that James Johnson was 24 at the time Walter Camp named him quarterback on his 1903 All America first team. His “advanced” age for a college football player brought to mind the criticisms that Carlisle Indian School played older players than did their college opponents. It seems logical that the Indians would have been older because most Carlisle students had little formal education prior to entering it. That Pop Warner considered their ages to be an advantage probably added to critics’ belief that Carlisle’s players were older. Something I saw on the list of Johnson’s All America cohorts caused me to see this in a different light.
Tackle J. J. Hogan (Yale) and guard A. Marshall (Harvard) were both 24 also and three others–end C. D. Rafferty (Yale), halfback W. M. Heston (Michigan) and fullback R. C. Smith (Columbia)—were 23. The others were 20, 21 or 22 as one would expect college All Americans to be. Perhaps 1903 was an anomaly, a year in which players were older than in other years. 1902 was a bit different; guard E. T. Glass (Yale) was 25! However, only one other player, tackle J. J. Hogan (Yale), at 23 was over 22. 1901 was greatly different than the two following years; three players—end D. C. Campbell (Harvard), tackle O. F. Cutts (Harvard) and guard W. G. Lee (Harvard)—were all 28 years old!! The rest were 20 or 21, but those three 28-year-olds brought up the average age. In 1900, end D. C. Campbell (Harvard) and halfback W. R. Morley (Columbia) were 27 and 24, respectively. Quickly scanning lists of Camp’s selection for years prior to 1900 yielded several players who were older than 23, some significantly older. After 1903, players aged 23 and older occurred less frequently but continued to be named to All America teams, even after Carlisle fielded its last team in 1917. As late as 1923, end H. H. Hazel (Rutgers) was 27.
While Carlisle players may have been a bit older on average than many college players, many of the best college players were quite old, much older than what we would expect today.