Red Grange Named Big Ten Icon No. 1

Red Grange is known by many as the greatest college football player of all-time.
Red Grange is known by many as the greatest college football player of all-time.

March 5, 2011

Illinois' Red Grange Website | Grange Big Ten Icons Locker | Grange Photo Gallery

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, 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 to see a complete roster of Big Ten Icons, which also features essays, video and other key facts about each Icon's career.


		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	34

Receiving Int. Punt Ret. K.O. Ret Scoring No Yds TD Avg No Yds No Yds No Yds TD Pts 1923 10 178 1 17.8 3 140 15 212 1 7 12 72 1924 2 40 0 20.0 2 24 11 83 4 136 13 78 1925 2 35 1 17.5 6 83 22 191 10 310 6 36 Career 14 253 2 18.1 11 247 48 486 15 453 31 186

Click to view a PDF of Grange's Game-by-Game Stats

1924 Chicago Tribune Silver Football Award as Big Ten Most Valuable Player (First year of the award)
1924 Frank A. Toomey Trophy by the Veteran Athletes of Philadelphia for national player of the year (The Heisman Trophy of its time)
1951 Inducted as charter member into College Football Hall of Fame
1963 Inducted as charter member into National Football League Hall of Fame
1969 Football Writers Association of America All-Time All-America team (unanimous) 1989 Walter Camp All-Century Team
1990  Illinois All-Century Team
2011 Big Ten Network Icon No. 1