Harold E. "Red" Grange
1923-25 // Halfback // Number retired in 1925
Born: June 13, 1903 // Died: January 28, 1991
Harold E. "Red" Grange is one of football's all-time greats, and arguably the game's greatest all-time offensive player. As its first legitimate "star," Grange is credited with establishing the popularity of professional football. At 5-foot-10-inches and 170 pounds, Grange was a three-time consensus All-America halfback at Illinois from 1923-25. He is a charter member of the Pro (1963) and College (1951) Football Halls of Fame. Grange's most memorable performance came Oct. 18, 1924, when he scored four touchdowns in the first 12 minutes vs. Michigan in the Memorial Stadium dedication game. Later in the same game, he ran for a fifth touchdown and threw for a sixth. Nicknamed the "Wheaton Iceman" and "Galloping Ghost," he left Illinois to play pro football with the Chicago Bears under former Fighting Illini George Halas. During an age when professional football rarely saw crowds of more than a few thousand, Grange attracted 36,000 spectators for his pro debut on Thanksgiving Day at Wrigley Field; 10 days later 73,000 watched him play at New York's Polo Grounds.
Grange was an All-American in each of his three seasons with Illinois and won the 1924 Silver Football Award as the Big Ten's Most Valuable Player, the first recipient of the award. In addition to his feats as a halfback, Grange is sixth on Illinois' all-time career interception list with 11; seventh in career punt return yardage; and possessed amazing average-yards-per-carry statistics in interceptions (22.5), pass receptions (18.1) and kickoff returns (30.2). He was named to The Sporting News All-Time Team, the Big Ten Diamond Anniversary Team, the Walter Camp All-Century Team, the UI All-Century Team and the Big Ten Network's No. 1 'Icon'. Grange's legendary No. 77 was retired after the completion of his final game at Illinois, Nov. 21, 1925, and he currently has a 12-foot statue outside of Memorial Stadium. He died Jan. 28, 1991.
Quotes About Grange
"This man Red Grange of Illinois is three or four men and a horse rolled into one for football purposes. He is Jack Dempsey, Babe Ruth, Al Jolson, Paavo Nurmi and Man O' War."
-- Damon Runyon, famed sportswriter
"He ran with a rhythm I've never seen duplicated -- the over¬all effect being one of orchestrated perfection. Generations to come will produce their great runners, but only Grange's name will be immortal. They can argue all they want about the greatest football player who ever lived. I was satisfied I had him when I had Red Grange. I will never have another Red Grange, but neither will anyone else."
-- Bob Zuppke, former UI coach
"I played football the only way I know how. If you have the football and 11 guys are after you, if you're smart, you'll run. It was no big deal."
-- Red Grange
"They knew he was coming; they saw him start; he made no secret of his direction; he was in their midst, and he was gone!"
-- excerpt from Chicago Tribune article after Illinois-Michigan game of 1924
"A streak of fire, a breath of flame, eluding all who reach and clutch, A gray ghost thrown into the game That rival hands may never touch; A rubber bounding, blasting soul, whose destination is the goal."
-- Grantland Rice, famed sportswriter