Red Grange: The Life and Legacy of the NFL's First Superstar

Red Grange: The Life and Legacy of the NFL's First Superstar

by Chris Willis head of the Research Library at NFL Films and author of Red Grange: The Life and Legacy of th


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In celebration of the National Football League’s 100th season, noted football historian Chris Willis brings to life the story of Red Grange, the nation’s first NFL star, in this definitive biography.

Harold “Red” Grange became a national sensation as a junior halfback at the University of Illinois in the 1920s. He quickly joined other great athletes of the Roaring Twenties such as Bobby Jones, Jack Dempsey, and Babe Ruth in enthralling audiences on the radio and in newspapers on a daily basis. A year later the "Galloping Ghost" stunned the country by dropping out of school after his last collegiate game and going pro with the six year old NFL, signing with the Chicago Bears.

In Red Grange: The Life and Legacy of the NFL’s First Superstar, Chris Willis tells the remarkable story of a humble football player who rose to fame in the 1920s and became an icon. With unlimited access and complete cooperation of the Grange family, Willis offers new insight into Grange’s rags-to-riches story, including details about his tomboy mother who died when Grange was six years old and never-before-published information on Grange’s barnstorming tour with the Chicago Bears that instantly gave credibility to the fledgling NFL.

With over fifty original interviews, personal letters to and from Grange, and more than forty photos, this definitive biography reveals in intimate detail the life of a sports pioneer. Whether as a player, coach, broadcaster, pitchman, Hall of Famer, ambassador, or icon, Red Grange was, and still is, the face of the early NFL and one of the greatest athletes of all-time.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781538101940
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 08/15/2019
Pages: 520
Sales rank: 274,694
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.90(d)

About the Author

Chris Willis is the head of the Research Library at NFL Films. He is the author of multiple books on early pro football, including The Man Who Built the National Football League: Joe F. Carr (2010), Dutch Clark: The Life of an NFL Legend and the Birth of the Detroit Lions (2012), A Nearly Perfect Season: The Inside Story of the 1984 San Francisco 49ers (2014), and Walter Lingo, Jim Thorpe, and the Oorang Indians: How a Dog Kennel Owner Created the NFL’s Most Famous Traveling Team (2017), all published by Rowman & Littlefield. Willis was nominated for an Emmy in 2002 for his work on the HBO documentary The Game of Their Lives and won an Emmy in 2016 for his work on HBO’s Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Houston Texans. He was awarded the Professional Football Researchers Association’s Ralph Hay award for lifetime achievement in pro football research and historiography in 2012.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction: The "Eternal Flame of Professional Football" xix

Part I Humble Beginnings (1903-1922)

1 Forksville 3

2 Losing Mom 8

3 Wheaton 14

4 Love of Sports 20

5 The Wheaton Iceman 24

6 High School Glory 31

Part II College (1922-1925)

7 Bob Zuppke 47

8 Freshman to All-American 55

9 12 Minutes to Immortality 70

10 C. C. Pyle 86

11 East Coast Invasion 103

12 Rumors Swirl and Red's Last Game at Illinois 115

Part III Barnstorming with the Chicago Bears (1925-1926)

13 George Halas and Dutch Sternaman 127

14 Signing with the Chicago Bears and First Pro Game 145

15 Eastern Barnstorming Tour (November 22, 1925-December 20, 1925) 159

16 Southern Barnstorming Tour (December 21, 1925-January 10, 1926) 184

17 Western Barnstorming Tour (January 11, 1926-February 4, 1926) 195

18 Impact of the Barnstorming Tour 211

Part IV Hollywood and the "Grange League" (1926-1927)

19 War with the NFL: The Grange League 227

20 One Minute to Play 236

21 1926 Pro Football Season 245

22 Back To Hollywood: The Racing Romeo 257

Part V NFL Career (1927-1935)

23 1927 New York Yankees 263

24 Out of Football 270

25 Halas Brings Back the Ghost 277

26 Indoor Madness 296

27 The NFL Grows Up 311

28 The Galloping Ghost Walks Away 326

Part VI Coaching, Radio and Television, and Marriage (1935-1962)

29 Coaching and Broadcasting 341

30 Margaret "Muggs" Grange 347

31 Television Star 355

Part VII Football Royalty (1963-1991)

32 Pro Football Hall Of Fame 371

33 50th Anniversary of Immortality 375

34 Super Bowl Coin Toss 381

35 Wheaton Homecoming 384

36 Meeting the Fighting Illini 394

37 Goodbye to the Galloping Ghost 402

38 The Legacy of Red Grange 405

Notes 419

Bibliography 453

Index 455

About the Author 465

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