Tuesday, February 17, 2015

How Halas Saw the Promise in Pro Football

Magnificent Jim Thorpe
After starting a new engineering job for the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad,
George Halas tried out and made a semipro football team, the Hammond Pros in 1919.  In his first game, he saw celebrated athlete Jim Thorpe and Hammond teammate Gil Falcon repeatedly go after each other like a couple of charging bulls.  Thorpe ended up winning the game on a touchdown run that was followed by a fine play on defense.  Thorpe was impressive in many ways—he was a one-man sports franchise who might play on several different teams in a single week.  Halas was awed with how football could attract a crowd, even at a semipro level.  He also remembered something his college coach Bob Zuppke from the University of Illinois said to his players:

"Just when I teach you fellows how to play football, you graduate, and I lose you."

Halas saw firsthand how men, who were past their college years, could get bigger, stronger, faster, and tougher—taking the sport to a new level. It's hard to imagine a world without pro football now.  As good as the college game is now, who would even give a moment's notice to the college career of Tom Brady.  Even the great running backs college careers are often forgotten outside their home state.  The pro game gives  players an opportunity to shine years after their college careers and gives us something to carry us through at least part of these long winters.

George Halas and a  few other visionaries saw the promise of pro football long ago.

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press
Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships a book that examines the football lives of the top ten NFL coaches and much of the history of the NFL.