Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Rose Bowl in 1919: George Halas and Paddy Driscoll

Anxious to serve his country, with only six credit hours remaining to graduate from the University of Illinois, George Halas joined the Navy.  Halas had played three sports at Illinois and the University granted his degree and sent his diploma on to the family after he left for the service.   

George Stanley Halas entered Officer Candidate School and ended up serving at Great Lakes Naval Station as recreation officer.  A far cry from the sea duty he had envisioned, but it was a providential assignment that brought him together with many great college players.  His duties involved playing and coaching football as well as playing baseball and basketball.  The Great Lakes football team was a powerhouse in 1918.  This second “college career” gave Halas another opportunity to shine and play with a terrific group of athletes.  It also provided an opportunity to size up the best talent in football for the future.

The highlight of his Great Lakes career was playing the Mare Island Marines in the Rose Bowl on January 1, 1919.  On that particular day, Halas played exceptionally well on both defense and offense, perhaps the best of his long career.  He scored a touchdown on a 45-yard pass from Paddy Driscoll.  On defense, he tackled Marines all over the field and he intercepted a pass that he ran back 77 yards.  He was named the Rose Bowl’s Most Valuable Player; Great Lakes won, 17–0.

Halas's quarterback that day was Paddy Driscoll, who completed 4 passes on 8 attempts.  The football was about the size and shape of the Hindenburg so this was a pretty big day back then.   Driscoll rushed for 34 yards, drop kicked a 30-yard field goal, punted 6 times, and ran punts back for 115 yards.  Driscoll, like Halas, would go on to play professional football.

Although Halas would have liked to acquire Driscoll's services, first six seasons were across town from Halas's Bears with the south side Chicago Cardinals.  He later played for Halas for four seasons and no doubt the young Papa Bear was happy to have him.  Driscoll had a history of playing tough against the Bears. 

Driscoll served as Bears’ head coach in 1956 and 1957.  He was also a long-time assistant coach and technical adviser.

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