Posts Tagged ‘Willie Heston’

The First 2,000-Yard Rusher

July 27, 2012

I got a call this week from a reporter out in Oklahoma who asked if Jim Thorpe was the first 2,000-yard rusher. Since my focus is on the people, not the statistics, I forwarded the question to statswiz Tex Noel. Tex quickly responded with career rushing statistics for the period in question:

Top 10 Career Rushing Totals*

Yards         Player, Team Career                       

4469                     Chris “Kenner/Red” Cagle, Southwestern Louisiana Institute/Army, 1922-29

3616                     Jim Thorpe, Carlisle, 1907-08, 11-12

2729                     Ted Hudson, Trinity MA, 1910-13

2516                      Bill Banker, Tulane, 1927-29

2341                      George Gipp, Notre Dame, 1917-20

2382                      Alphonse “Tuffy” Leemans, George Washington, 1933-35

2369                      Don Zimmerman, Tulane, 1930-32

2339                     Willie Heston, Michigan, 1901-04

2140                      Kayo Lam, Colorado, 1933-35

2124                      Henry Benkert, Rutgers, 1921-24

*(C) 2011 Stars of an Earlier Autumn

From this, it is clear that Jim Thorpe did run for more than 2,000 yards in his career at Carlisle—a lot more–but he wasn’t the first player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in his career. That was the great running back from the University of Michigan, Willie Heston, who, almost a decade earlier, ran for 2,339 yards between 1901 and 1904. As an aside, this is probably why Bemus Pierce named his son Heston.

According to these statistics, Thorpe was the first 3,000-yard career rusher and it took the better part of two decades for Red Cagle to surpass his record. Something to keep in mind is that Carlisle always scheduled several tough teams, all on the road, not one or two each year as Warner advised in his books and as The Big Four and most other powers did. So, Jim Thorpe’s individual records were amassed against mostly stiff competition where many other top athletes played mostly against lesser opponents. Also, Pop Warner used his early-season games against easier opponents to take a look at younger players in game conditions and protected his stars against unnecessary injuries by severely limiting their playing time when they weren’t needed to win.

Now, I’ll ask Tex for single-season records to see how Jim Thorpe stacks up in those comparisons.

Were Carlisle Players Really Older?

March 17, 2011

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.

Carlisle’s First All-America Selections

July 23, 2009

While researching the 1905 Carlisle-Massillon game for an article in an upcoming issue of the Professional Football Researchers Association’s (PFRA) journal, The Coffin Corner, I came across a statement in the late Robert W. Peterson’s Pigskin: the early years of pro football that caught my eye. Of course it has nothing to do with the article but it made me curious.

Peterson wrote, “It was not sectional chauvinism at work when 129 out of 132 All-American berths between 1889 and 1900 were filled by players from those four schools [Harvard, Yale, Princeton & Penn]. The best players were really there.” I recalled that Carlisle’s first Walter Camp first team All-American was Isaac Seneca in 1899. If Peterson was accurate, that would put Seneca and the Carlisle program at a lofty level.

The Walter Camp website lists all of his All-America teams beginning in 1892 when he created the concept of such a team. Sure enough, all the players named were from the Big Four until 1895 when Cornell’s Clinton R. Wyckoff was named to the team. The next non-Big Four player to be named was Clarence B. Herschberger of Chicago in 1898. Seneca became the third in 1899. The fourth was William Morley of Columbia in 1900. Whether Peterson was right depends on the meaning of between. Does between include the 1900 team?

Things changed a lot in 1901 when four outsiders were selected: two from Army, one from Cornell (Pop Warner’s younger brother) and one from Columbia. In 1902, Paul B. Bunker of Army, a repeat from the previous year, was the only non-Big Four player on the list. And in 1903, Carlisle had its second All-American in the person of James Johnson. H. J. Hopper of Dartmouth, Willie Heston of Michigan, and Richard Smith of Columbia were also on that team.

Here’s a question? Did Carlisle have a first Team All-American before any Big Ten school had one? (Disregard when schools entered and left the Big Ten for this question.)