Friday, May 16, 2014

Who Was Guy Chamberlin?

Sporting Chance Press recently published Pillars of the NFL. It includes a thorough discussion of the top ten coaches in NFL history--the greatest coaches of the NFL.  The selection of coaches is based strictly on championship wins: Joe Gibbs, Bill Walsh, Chuck Noll, Weeb Ewbank, Paul Brown, Vince Lombardi, Guy Chamberlin, Curly Lambeau, Bill Belichick and George Halas. One coach that many professional football fans may not know is Guy Chamberlin. Several things about Guy Chamberlin are striking. Unlike any other of the top NFL coaches, Guy Chamberlin’s play was inextricably woven into his total contribution to the game. Certainly George Halas and Curly Lambeau had long careers as player-coaches, but both went on for much longer periods of time coaching and not playing. But in all of Chamberlin’s coaching career when he was winning championships, he was one of the top performers, if not his top star player.

It was not unusual to see teams fold up in the early days of football. Only the Cardinals and the Bears remain of the original teams. The three teams that Chamberlin coached to championships are no longer in existence: The Canton Bulldogs, the Cleveland Bulldogs, and the Frankford Yellow Jackets. For the Canton Bulldogs, Chamberlin served as player and coach in the 1922 and 1923 Championship seasons. Chamberlin played end, but in his position in the 1920s, the end around play was used frequently. Players usually played the same position on both offense and defense in those days. As a defensive end, Guy  was known as a player who could disrupt an opponent’s play before it had a chance to develop.

A Cleveland Jeweler and sports promoter named Samuel Deutsch formed the Cleveland Indians football team in 1923, which played in the National Football League that year. He bought the Canton Bulldogs after the 1923 season, which he left inactive, but he merged some Canton Players including Chamberlin into his Cleveland Team calling the amalgamation, the Cleveland Bulldogs. In 1924, Chamberlin coached and played the Cleveland Bulldogs to the championship.

Chamberlin left to serve in the same capacity for the Frankford Yellow Jackets. In his second and last year with the Yellow Jackets , he won another league championship. Chamberlin was given the nickname "Champ" because everywhere he went, he won. Chamberlin moved on again to the Chicago Cardinals for one season and then left professional football. Chamberlin did not see professional football as a long terms means to support himself so he went back to his father’s farm in Nebraska. His family weathered the Great Depression and horrific draught during the 1930s.

Chamberlin would eventually get back into football part time by doing some sports commentary and speaking.  He held different jobs during his life with his last position working at a state correction facility with youth. He enjoyed this job the most. One place where they haven't forgotten Guy "Champ" Chamberlin is in Nebraska. He played college football at Nebraska Wesleyan in Lincoln initially and then transferred to the University of Nebraska. In 1911-1912, he played at Nebraska Wesleyan, where he had great success. When he moved to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, his transfer student status relegated him to the freshmen team his first year. But in 1914 with Chamberlin playing halfback and end, Nebraska posted a 7-0-1 record winning the Missouri Valley Conference Championship. They took the championship again in 1915. During the 1915 season in the Nebraska-Notre Dame contest, Chamberlin scored on two end-around plays and he passed for another touchdown leading the Bug Eaters, or Cornhuskers as they are almost exclusively called today, to a victory.

Between his college and professional career, Chamberlin served during World War I as a Second Lieutenant. To honor Chamberlin’s memory, the University of Nebraska created the Guy Chamberlin Award in 1967. The award is presented to the senior player who has “shown by the play and contributions to the betterment of the University of Nebraska football squad that he has the qualities and dedication of Guy Chamberlin to the Cornhusker tradition.”
Copyright 2014 by Sporting Chance Press.

 Update: Sporting Chance Press's Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships by Patrick McCaskey now available--March 2014!  Order your copies here  for immediate shipment.