Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Blood and Whizzer on Steelers

In 1937, Art Rooney hired Johnny “Blood” McNally to run the team. Blood was a talented running back, but was footloose and wild. He was a poet, a public speaker, merchant seaman, bartender, hotel desk clerk, cryptographer, economics professor, and Pro Hall of Fame football player.6 He had driven Green Bay Coach Curly Lambeau to distraction before joining Pittsburgh. Blood would coach a couple seasons and end up resigning during the third. 

Under McNally's watch,  the Pittsburgh fans had one fascinating season due to the extraordinary play of a young wonder, Byron “Whizzer” White. White was a potential superstar, but he was headed straight to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar when Art Rooney attempted to delay him for a time in Pittsburgh. Rooney waved $15,800 in front of Whizzer, who paused, but still decided to cross the pond. Rooney sent Blood to persuade White to take the money. 

Eventually, White decided a detour to Pittsburgh would work. White played inspired ball in the 1938 season and won the rookie of the year honors along with the league rushing title. Everything White did was exceptional because he put exceptional effort into everything he did. However, the Steelers were just 2–9 for the season. 

Blood would credit the team’s constant change in personnel for their poor performance. After one season, White went to Oxford, but returned to the league in 1940–41 playing for the Detroit Lions to earn enough to pay for law school. Before attending law school, he joined the Navy at the outset of World War II. He met future President John F. Kennedy, worked for his administration, and was called on to serve on the Supreme Court Justice Byron White would remain there for 31 years.

 Post is taken from Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout.

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press.  Patrick McCaskey is a senior director of the Chicago Bears, Chairman of Sports Faith International that recognizes athletes who lead exemplary lives, and  Chairman of Catholic Radio Station WSFI 88.5 FM. Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devout and the Devoted by Patrick McCaskey published by Sporting Chance Press and available on Amazon and selected stores and public libraries.