Alex Agase Dead At The Age Of 85
May 4, 2007
The Fighting Illini football family has lost one of the most recognized players in its history. Alex Agase, an All-America guard and linebacker at Illinois in 1942 and 1946, died yesterday in Tarpon Springs, Fla., at the age of 85.
Perhaps Agase's most unique distinction in college football is that he is believed to be the only player in history to have earned All-American honors at two different schools. The Evanston, Ill., native lettered for the Illini in 1941 and 1942, and was named an All-American that second year. Agase transferred to Purdue for military training in the wake of World War II and was chosen as an All-American once again in 1943. Finally, after the war, he returned to Illinois. In 1946, as a senior, he not only was feted as an All-American for the third time, he also won the Chicago Tribune's Silver Football award, emblematic of Big Ten's most valuable player.
The honors for Agase's collegiate playing career didnt end there. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1963 and was later named to two all-century teams--the Walter Camp in 1989 and the University of Illinois version in 1990.
Agase went on to play professionally for six years with the Cleveland. During his time there, the Browns won three championships.
"He was a great guy," said Tom Stewart, a freshman quarterback during Agase's senior season when the Fighting Illini played in the first Rose Bowl under the Big Ten-Pac 10 agreement (Illinois beat UCLA, 45-14). "His leadership was very evident. He was a veteran of the war (fighting in the South Pacific), and he had played on Ray Eliot's first team in 1942. He scored two touchdowns for us in a big upset over Minnesota."
Agase's influence wasn't limited to his exploits on the gridiron as a player. He returned to his home town and spent 17 years as the head football coach at Northwestern. The Football Writers Association of America voted him the national coach of the year in 1970. Agase also served as Purdue's head coach from 1973-76, and he later aided Michigan coach Bo Schembechler as a volunteer assistant.
"I just spoke with Alex about a month-and-a-half ago," Stewart said, "and he was doing fine at that time. It's sad to lose him, but he was 85 and had a great life. A lot of people really looked up to him, and he certainly did a lot for college football."