Walter Camp: Football and the Modern Man

By Julie Des Jardins | Go to book overview

10
Realizing Real All-Americans in the 1910s

THE PROFILE OF THE ALL-AMERICAN changed faster in many American minds than in Camp’s annual picks for Collier’s, but even those changed in time. Take his 1913 selection of the boy who came from Norway to become, as it turned out, one of the most renowned All-Americans of the twentieth century. The boy’s father, a carriage builder, hoped to peddle his wares at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, and came to the United States alone before sending for his family. Knute Rockne knew no English when he arrived with his siblings in New York and settled in a Chicago neighborhood inhabited by Irishmen and Swedes. It was on the gritty streets of this immigrant enclave, rather than the fields of a Northeastern prep school, where he began playing football, unaware of Camp’s technicalities or amateur ideals. He sided with Swedes in street matches, but found “a couple of bruiser-like Italians” to join his squad. Everyone got so used to pummeling each other that cops insisted only players with nose guards be allowed to wade through the crowds after their pick-up games.

At thirteen, Rockne weighed 113 pounds and played on the scrub team of Northwest Division High School. It was not a Yale man, but South Side standout Walter Eckersall, who became his inspiration. Whereas privileged youths went straight onto Ivy League practice fields, Rockne took his time entering the college ranks. He washed windows

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