A 60 Minute Man went both ways.
Known to many as “The Greatest Football Player Who Ever Lived,” Bronislau “Bronko” Nagurski is perhaps most famous for playing for the Chicago Bears in the 1930’s (1930-37, and 1943). Born in Canada, he moved to International Falls, Minnesota, and gained fame on the gridiron while attending the University of Minnesota, where he played on both sides of the ball. Nagurski played fullback on offense and tackle on defense.
When Nagurski joined the NFL, he still played both sides of the ball. Even back in the 1930’s Nagurski was a monster, standing 6’2’’ and weighing 235 pounds, easily the largest running back of his time. A formidable presence in any era, he starred not only at fullback, but also defensive tackle. In addition, he also played offensive tackle, making him the only player in history to make All Pro in three non-kicking positions. In 633 attempts, he rushed for 2778 yards (a 4.4 average), while scoring 18 touchdowns. He also caught 11 passes for 134 yards. Nagurski helped the Bears capture several division titles and two Championships (1932 & 1933). So awesome was his defensive presence in both college and the pros, the “Bronko Nagurski Trophy” is awarded to the best defensive player in College Football. He was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963 as a charter member. He exemplified the Bears and their monicker, “Monsters of the Midway.”
When Bronko Nagurski died in January 1990, the people of International Falls were asked how they would like to honor their favorite citizen, so they decided to build him a museum, which opened in June of 1993. The Bronko Nagurski Museum is the first museum dedicated to an individual football player.
One would be remiss in discussing Nagurski’s career without pointing out that, in addition to all of his football feats, he was also a professional wrestler. During his football career, he became a three-time world heavyweight champion. After his football career ended, he continued wrestling for decades.
The uniforms Nagurski wore occurred during a decade of big changes in the Bears’ attire. In the 1920’s, the Bears threads were mostly simple wool sweaters with strips of material sewn onto them, and canvas pants. By 1932 numbers are added to the front of the jersey. As early as 1933, the team wore this orange jersey decked out with navy numerals, and black arm stripes. According to one source, in 1934, the team wore white helmets. However, in the famous “sneaker game,” it was the New York Football Giants who wore white lids (Nagurski is shown being gang tackled in that photo as well as this one). In 1936, the team debuted this awesome uniform described years later by an NFL publication as “an early version of psychodelia.” The Bears wore a dark helmet with three orange stripes from front to back, a white jersey with 14 navy and orange alternating stripes on the sleeves and shoulders, and some of the greatest socks. Ever.
Although photographs (particularly color ones) in this era are extremely rare, what struck me most was how visually imposing Nagurski was in the 1936 jersey. Even today, the uni is instantly recognizable as “Da Bears.” Nothing to me says more about “old time football” than this portrait. Truly a “60 Minute Man.”
Nobody who ever gave his best regretted it. — GSH
Notes & Quotes: • Still time to submit a pic for the “worst uni matchup” of the week. Send it to me [phecken (at) yahoo.com]. Worst uni matchup pics will run tomorrow •• Upset alert: Iron Eagle? ••• Lots of good football today…the Beavs look make their Run for the Roses (they haven’t been since 1964) in the Civil War in Corvallis — always a potential uni-disaster — Phil