Football Short Stories - 16
Other authors entertain us.
How Glenn Warner Got His Nickname
Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team, Steve Sheinkin
When Glenn Warner enrolled at the Cornell University law school in 1892, he had never played football or even seen a game.

Now twenty-one, Glenn was a burly six foot two, with curly brown hair. He rode the train from Buffalo to Ithaca, in central New York, and walked around the Cornell campus, strolling pathways between grassy lawns and gray stone buildings. He wandered out to the sports field, where the football team was practicing.

Curious how the American version of this sport was played, he stood for a while and watched. He was startled to see the team captain, Carl Johanson, striding toward him.
Johanson looked Warner up and down and asked what he weighed.
"Two hundred and fifteen pounds," Warner said.
"Fine. Get on a suit right away. We need a left guard."
Warner was stunned. "Wait a minute," he managed to say. "I don’t know anything about the game at all."
"Never mind," Johanson told him. "All you’ve got to do is keep them from going through you and spoiling the play when we’ve got the ball. And when they’ve got the ball, knock the tar out of your man and tackle the runner. Perfectly simple."
The day after meeting Carl Johanson, Glenn Warner walked onto the Cornell football field for his first day of practice. The game had changed somewhat in the twenty-three years since Princeton had traveled to Rutgers (in 1869)—there were now eleven men per team on the field at once, for instance.
But the sport was still just loosely organized combat.
"Early-day football was anything but a parlor sport," Warner recalled, "many games being little more than free-for-all fights."
After only one practice, Warner was named starting left guard on the Cornell football team. Like everyone, he’d be on the field for every play, offense and defense. He learned on the fly.

L-R: Glenn Warner at Cornell; "Soldiers playing football," a Winslow Homer Illustration
Each play started with the teams lined up, facing each other, the ball on the ground between them. Before the play began, opposing linemen grunted at one another, spat, picked up dirt and threw it in each other's eyes. A lineman on offense snapped the ball to the quarterback, who then tossed it backward to one of the running backs lined up behind him. The man with the ball started forward, and defenders tried to knock him down. Teams could score by carrying the ball across the opponent’s goal line, or by kicking it through goalposts at the goal line. The ball itself was bigger and rounder than today’s ball, made for tucking under an arm or kicking, not throwing.
There was no such thing as passing; the forward pass was illegal.
Modern players memorize binders full of intricately choreographed plays. This was not the sport Warner learned. Early-day football was simple, repetitive, and—believe it or not—much more violent than today’s game. The typical play involved the ballcarrier plunging headfirst into a tightly packed wall of defenders, while his entire team pushed and pulled him—a "mass play," as it was called. Some teams even sewed suitcase handles onto the pants of their running backs so teammates could lift and drag ballcarriers through the pile. Defenders dove for the runner’s legs or leaped onto his back until he fell to the ground.
But the play still wasn’t over. It wasn’t over until the man with the ball quit moving. So while he squirmed and wriggled forward, more defenders piled on, and plays ended in massive, writhing mounds, inside of which guys would throw elbows and knees, scratch and bite, spit and choke, until the refs could untangle the heap.
Then, bruised and bleeding, everyone lined up and did it again.
The team on offense had three plays to move the ball just five yards. Five yards got you a first down—a fresh set of three plays to gain another five—so there was no need to do anything other than plunge straight ahead, play after play. "The stronger team usually was able to smash and grind the ball downfield in short, steady gains," Warner recalled, "until they had finally crossed the goal line."
And unlike today, football players wore little or no padding.
"In fact, one who wore homemade pads was regarded as a sissy," recalled John Heisman, an early player and coach for whom the Heisman Trophy was later named. Leather helmets were optional, and considered borderline wimpy. "Hair was the only head protection we knew," Heisman said, "and in preparation for football, we would let it grow from the first of June."
Warner joined the fashion, growing out his curly locks. "This sometimes had its disadvantages," he’d later say, "for when no arm or leg presented itself, a man made his tackle by simply knotting both hands in the opponent’s hair."
It was hardly enough to dampen Warner’s growing enthusiasm. "After I had gotten used to having my face pushed in and my head tramped on, I began to take an interest in the game."
One day, soon after he’d joined the team, Warner made a nice play at practice, and Carl Johanson shouted, "Good work, Pop!" Johanson never explained the nickname’s origin. Warner figured it had something to do with his being a couple of years older than most college freshmen.
Anyway, the name stuck. From then on, he was Pop Warner.
"Pop worked his way through school by waiting tables at a restaurant and played well enough to keep his spot at left guard." On the field, he paid special attention to the way his coach tried to get an edge using strategy—to use the word loosely. "If a player was too good-natured or easy-going," Warner explained, "the coach would tell one of his own mates to sock him in the jaw when he wasn’t looking and then blame it on the other team so as to make him mad."
Pop Warner was among the first coaches inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame when it began in 1951. He compiled a record of 319-106-32.
The First Legal Forward Pass
Highlights of College Football: John Durant and Les Etter (1970)
Football officials and college delegates held two meetings in New York in December and discussed various reforms. This led to the historic gathering on January 12, 1906 from which an organization that later became the National College Athletic Association (NCAA).
The Rules Committee, under the leadship of Walter Camp and Captain Palmer E. Pierce of West Point, made some far-reaching changes that opened up the game and reduced the hazards. Among them were:
Legalization of the forward pass
Establishing a neutral zone the length of the ball between the opposing lines
Increasing the yardage required for a first down from five yards to 10 in three downs
Reducing game time from 70 to 60 minutes and dividing it into two halves

L-R: Walter Camp, Palmer Pierce, Edward Cochems
The year 1913 marked the beginning of the modern game. Here, briefly, is a partial list of the major changes made from 1907 to 1912:
The value of a field goal was reduced from 4 to 3 points, and a touchdown was increased from 5 to 6 points.
Outlawed were: the flying tackle, crawling by the ball carrier, and interlocking interfer­ence (a form of the wedge). It was also declared illegal "to use hands, arms, or body to push, pull or hold upon his feet the player carrying the ball."
Seven men were required to be on the offensive scrimmage line, thus eliminating the deadly mass plays.
The halves were divided into two quarters of 15 minutes each; the number of downs required to keep possession of the ball was increased from 3 to 4 in 10 yards; a player withdrawn from the game could return in any succeeding period. (Before this rule, a player removed from the game had to stay out.)
The field was reduced from 110 yards to 100, but 10-yard end zones were created in which forward passes could be caught.
The forward pass was at first hampered by many restrictions, but it was liberalized within a few years. At first, the pass had to cross the line of scrimmage within five yards from the point where the ball had been put in play. An incomplete pass when touched but not caught, could be recovered by either side (in effect, a fumble). If the pass fell to the ground un­touched, the offensive team lost the ball. A pass caught behind the goal was a touchback, not a touchdown.
In 1910 the five-yard restriction was removed and the pass could cross the line of scrim­mage at any point. However, it had to be thrown at least five yards behind the line.
In 1912 the receiver was protected by rules prohibiting defensive players from interfering with him. (Earlier, a player on defense could flatten the would-be receiver with a block, even clip him from behind, without committing a foul.)
Who tossed the first legal forward pass? The answer is not quite clear. However, we do know that the play was first used legally in a little-known game in 1905 between two small Kansas colleges: Fairmont (now Wichita State) and Washburn.
It came about this way. The forward pass was legalized during the 1905 season and used in the closing stages of that season. But the major colleges decided to wait until next year.
Fairmont and Washburn did not want to wait, however. They agreed to meet in a post-season game and try out the pass provided the rules committee would grant them permis­sion to use it. Wires were sent to Walter Camp, who, following a meeting of the rules-makers in early December, told the two Kansas colleges to go ahead with their plans. The teams agreed to play on Christmas Day and both began practicing the forward pass. They had two weeks to go.
There is no doubt that the first legal forward pass was thrown in this now-forgotten game, but who threw it or which team initiated it will never be known. Both colleges claim the honor. Old press reports do verify the fact that forward passes were used by both teams but oddly enough, they fail to say who actually tossed the first one.
In any event, we learn that Hugh Hope, the Washburn quarterback, completed three passes to halfback Glenn Millice for a total of 25 yards, and Bill Davis, Fairmont's cap­tain, completed two for a total of 15 yards. Both passers threw the ball underhand and it floated forward end over end. Neither team scored during the game.
Most football historians are not aware of the Fairmont-Washburn game and the few who are generally ignore it on the grounds that the forward pass rule was not officially en­tered in the rules book until January 12, 1906. They maintain–and with some justification–that the first legal pass was thrown on September 5, 1906 when Bradbury Robinson, a St. Louis Univesity halfback, tossed the ball forward to his running-mate, Jack Schneider, in a game with Carroll College of Waukesha, Wisconsin.
The St. Louis team was the first one to make full use of the new pass rule. It was coached by Edward B. Cochems, who was years ahead of his contemporaries in adopting the newfangled weapon.
He prepared for the 1906 season by taking his entire squad to Lake Beulah in Wisconsin for the two summer months. There, he studied the proportions of the clumsy, melon-shaped ball, which players called the "blimp," and realized that it had been designed for kicking and carrying, not for passing. He saw that the lacing was the oly part of the ball that allowed finger purchase for throwing on its long axis. Before the first practice he told his players to put their fingers on the lacings nearest the end of the ball and throw it overhand with a twist of the wrist.
Eddie Cochems found an apt pupil in 6-foot, 4-inch Brad Robinson, who had a buggy-whip arm. In an early practice session Robinson, all excited, ran up to Cochems and said, "Coach, I can throw the darn thing 40 yards." His target was Jack Schneider and they worked together the rest of the summer. Cochems and his players could hardly wait for the season to begin.
What they did that fall stood the football world on its head. The slick Robinson-Schneider combination gave a perfect demonstration. Victims were Iowa (39-0) and Kansas (34-2). Against Kansas, Brad would shoot the ball hard and accurately to Jack Schneider at distances up to 50 yards. Opposing teams became panic-stricken as they stood helplessly watching long passes spiral over their heads for touchdowns. The defenders did not know what to do. When they dropped back to cover Schneider, the St. Louis backs darted through the line or around ends for long gains. Even the officials working the St. Louis games were stunned. One referee said that he had officiated at games around the country and had never seen anything like the St. Louis pass plays.
The team raced through an undefeated season, winning 11 games and scoring 402 points while yielding only 11.
The wonder of it all was that other coaches did not immediately take up the pass and do with it what St. Louis had done. Perhaps it was because St. Louis was a relatively obscure school deep in mid-America, outside of the Big Ten and far from the eastern seaboard, where the game had reached its highest development.
Little attention was paid to the pass in the East even though Yale beat Harvard with it in the 1906 game when HB Paul Veeder lofted a 35-yard pass to Clarence Alcott the right end, who caught it three yards from Harvard's goal line and was promptly downed. Moments later Yale scored the only touchdown of the game to win, 6-0. Navy beat Army, that year, 10-0, also by means of the pass.
In general, the East looked upon the pass with mild contempt–something not quite manly, like smashing the line. Furthermore, it carried severe penalties and was not worthwhile. The East could win games without it, so why use it? And anyway, the new play was a fad and would soon die out. So thought the East, with the exception of a few coaches. Pop Warner, Carlisle's coach, was one of the few.