Red Grange Named Big Ten Icon No. 1
March 5, 2011
CHICAGO - In the world of college football, he has been called the greatest player of all time, is a charter member of its hall of fame and his sensational career vaulted the sport into the national consciousness for the first time. Now, Illinois' Red Grange, the "Galloping Ghost," has been named the No. 1 Big Ten Icon by the Big Ten Network.
Presented by Discover and hosted by Keith Jackson, the Big Ten Icons countdown of the conference's top 50 student-athletes concludes at 10 PM ET on Thursday, following the network's coverage of that day's action in the Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament.
In an essay for BigTenNetwork.com, former Chicago Tribune sports editor Dan McGrath writes, "Grange was such an electrifying performer as `the Galloping Ghost' during those three Illinois seasons that he helped college football take its place alongside baseball, boxing and horse racing as headline attractions in what is still known as the Golden Age of Sport. It's an exaggeration, but only a slight one, to describe Red Grange as the `Babe Ruth of College Football.'"
Harold "Red" Grange grew up in Wheaton, Ill., and earned his nickname because of his hair color. He earned 16 letters at Wheaton High School in football, baseball, basketball and track, and scored 75 touchdowns on the gridiron. Despite his blazing speed and tremendous productivity, Grange was unsure whether he was big enough to play football at the collegiate level. He enrolled at Illinois in 1922, intending to play basketball and to run track.
According to legend, Grange was talked into joining the Illini football team by his Zeta Psi fraternity brothers. He made an immediate impact as a sophomore, scoring three touchdowns in his debut against Nebraska. That season, Grange averaged 5.6 yards per carry, scored 12 touchdowns and helped the Illini win the 1923 national championship with a perfect 7-0 record.
It wasn't until his junior season, however, that Grange's legend came to life. In the first game at Illinois' newly constructed Memorial Stadium, the Illini hosted Michigan, then owners of a 20-game winning streak. Grange returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, and rushed for touchdowns of 67, 56 and 44 yards, all in the first quarter. He later scored two more touchdowns in the Illini's 39-14 victory.
Grange's first-quarter, four-touchdown performance made the national newsreels. The Chicago Tribune called Grange's effort "the greatest performance ever seen on an American gridiron."
Legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice wrote, "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 -- Red Grange of Illinois!"
With that, the legend of Grange was born. He became a three-time All-American and on October 5, 1925, at the age of 21, Grange appeared on the cover of Time magazine.
McGrath wrote, "Numbers don't convey the spine-tingling excitement Grange brought to the field as a big-play threat."
In 1969, in conjunction with college football's 100th anniversary, the Football Writers Association of America named Grange to its all-time All-American team, its only unanimous selection.
The University of Illinois retired Grange's No. 77 jersey in 1925. Dick Butkus is the only other Illini football player so honored. A 12-foot statue of Grange stands outside Memorial Stadium.
Big Ten Icons is the network's most ambitious multi-platform initiative to date. All student-athletes from current Big Ten schools were eligible for the network's list.
Fans can visit BigTenIcons.com to see a complete roster of Big Ten Icons, which also features essays, video and other key facts about each Icon's career.
GRANGE'S CAREER STATISTICS AT ILLINOIS
Rushing Passing Total Offense Att Yds Avg Att Com Int Pct Yds TD Pl Yds TD 1923 129 723 5.6 9 4 0 .444 36 0 138 759 12 1924 113 743 6.6 44 26 4 .591 433 2 157 1176 15 1925 146 605 4.1 29 10 7 .345 106 1 175 711 7 Career 388 2071 5.3 82 40 11 .488 575 3 470 2646 34Click to view a PDF of Grange's Game-by-Game Stats
SOME OF GRANGE'S AWARDS