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Red Grange's Barnstorming Tour (Part 3/3): In late 1925/early 1926, the Bears' tour took them through Florida and the West Coast.Part 1 , Part 2 Welcome to the third and final chapter of my series following Red Grange and the Chicago Bears' barnstorming tour through America! Last time, we covered the first leg of the tour that wrapped up the NFL season and took on other teams in the Midwest and East Coast. Today, we wrap up the tour with the second leg through Florida and the West Coast! Part 3: The January Tour The Florida League Remember Tim Callahan's Florida league and C.C. Pyle's West Coast tour? Eight days after the first tour ended, Grange traveled south to participate, but he wasn't alone for the Bears were joining him on his excursion spanning 7,000 miles.[1][2] Before leaving, Grange went home to Wheaton to heal his arm and visit his family. "For the first time in my life I had money and got a big kick out of being able to afford certain luxuries for my family," said Grange in his autobiography.[1] "For Christmas I bought a roadster for Garland and presented Dad with a check for one thousand dollars." Grange's contract for the Florida games stipulated he would start and play the entire game if possible, with an exception being if he was seriously injured.[3] Speaking of injuries, he and Dr. E.B. Cooley expressed concern over his arm and potential complications after taking X-rays, but with the first game of the tour not being until Christmas Day, he had time to heal.[4] After giving further treatment and his patient assuring the media he would not be "taking any chances with (his) injured wing", Cooley cleared Grange to play.[5][6] The Bears' roster, which had 18 players for the first tour, featured some changes as they prepared to head to Florida. Now at 21 players, quarterback Richard Vick, halfback Harold Erickson, end Paul Goebel, tackle Roy Lyman, and center Ralph Claypool joined the team; Vick was a member of the Detroit Panthers, whom the Bears had played earlier in December, while Erickson and Claypool came over from the Chicago Cardinals. Goebel was an All-American at Michigan.[1] Grange and the Bears left for Florida on December 21.[5][6] This time, Pyle came prepared; he organized a special Pullman train car called "Bethulla" for the team, hired a personal porter for their luggage, and provided matching sweaters and pants. On the ride between cities, the players gave the train the nickname "Dog House", a name they honored by barking.[2] Although the Bears continued their trend of playing on consecutive days, they explained it would not be an issue provided they had week-long breaks between such stretches.[7] Game On The Bears' train arrived in Miami on Wednesday afternoon, December 23. Later that day, the team was treated to a banquet at a Coral Gables country club, attended by 200 Illinois students and faculty. After a night of speeches and dancing, Grange and company got to work with practice the following day.[8] Christmas Day marked the first matchup of the Florida tour, the Bears taking on a team of former college all-stars led by Callahan in Coral Gables . When they arrived in town, Halas, Pyle, and Bears co-owner Dutch Sternaman noticed the venue for the game was simply a large field of sand; to their astonishment, a 200-man team of carpenters showed up and quickly started building a temporary 25,000-seat stadium.[1][2] However, the field was a disaster, prompting Halas to call New York for new cleats, including a hard toe shoe for fullback/kicker Earl Britton. Britton complained the hard toe wouldn't help him punt, and although he had two 50-yard punts in the game, he eventually switched to his usual shoes.[2] In the second quarter, Grange scored the game's lone touchdown on a two-yard run that had been set up by his 33-yard dash. Grange played all but one quarter (third) in the 7–0 win, recording nine carries for 89 yards.[9] Although the game's promoter expressed excitement at possibly making a lot of money from it, only 8,000 tickets were sold as tickets went for $20 ($292.68 in 2019), over five times more expensive than for an NFL game.[2] The stadium was demolished the next day.[1] In other news that tied into a discussion in Part 2, the NCAA and American Football Coaches Association hosted their annual meeting in New York over the weekend, during which they condemned pro football for taking college football's stars like Grange and the Cardinals' Ernie Nevers away.[10] The Big Ten Conference, whom Grange's Illinois was a member of, had already prohibited pro players from accepting coaching jobs in the conference. The AFCA also voted to prevent anyone affiliated with pro football from picking college all-star and All-American rosters, assuming those on such teams would eventually go pro.[2] Others proposed going as far as to ban or restrict pro football figures from getting close to college games. But then again, as the Associated Press wrote, the forward pass had been torn apart by critics at the previous year's meeting, yet many "agreed that the pass had made football a better game."[11] In the media, some were especially and directly hostile to Grange as they attacked pro football. In January 1926, Herbert Reed ofThe Outlook magazine used his name as a verb in his article "De-Granging Football": to "grange" a game means to exploit it. Reed also called him "rather pathetic" and supported ostracizing college referees should they officiate a pro game. He added he knew of "hundreds" of companies that had banned pro players from working for them, and even proclaimed the next generation of football players had been "inoculated against professionalism in sport" and would never follow Grange's footsteps.[2] The next game was not until New Year's Day in Tampa. In the meantime, Callahan – whose team was scheduled to play the Giants that day – announced his intention to write a biography on Grange.[1][12] There was also talk of Grange participating in a boxing match (he was an amateur boxer in college), but he shot it down.[13][14] The night before the Tampa game, Grange was arrested for speeding at 65 mph (the speed limit was 45), but he wasn't alone; golfers Jim Barnes and Johnny Farrell and Olympic swimmer Helen Wainwright accompanied him in the car. After listening to the officer's lecture and apologizing, the four attempted to pay for their release in cash, which he was hesitant to accept until he took $25 from Grange to let them go.[15] January 1, 1926 saw the Bears take on the Tampa Cardinals, featuring the great Jim Thorpe . Although he was 41 at the time and in the twilight years of his athletic career, Thorpe decided to join the Florida league to boost publicity. That decision did not work out for him as he struggled to keep up, fumbling multiple times.[1] On the other side, Grange scored on a 70-yard run to break a 3–3 tie, followed by Sternaman's six-yard run to secure a 17–3 victory.[16] In the eyes of Tampa Tribune writer Marvin McCarthy, the game was proof that pro football may not be so bad after all, as Tampa fans showed plenty of enthusiasm as they rooted for their team to "show those Bears up." Dr. H.E. Opre, who helped organize the event, was asked if ticket sales would cover expenses, to which he responded, "That doesn't matter. We are seeing a good football game. There is enough good land in Florida to make up whatever I lose on today's game."[16] Shortly before leaving for the next game, Grange and Pyle decided to invest $17,000 each in the city's real estate, which ultimately turned out to be a bad idea when hurricanes brought an end to the Florida land boom.[2] A day after the Tampa game, Nevers and his all-star team welcomed the Bears to Jacksonville. The Stanford star kept the Illinois great at bay, recording two interceptions and stuffing Grange on multiple occasions. To combat Nevers, the Bears opted for a quick passing attack that paid off as Grange threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Verne Mullen, with a second touchdown also coming through the air.[1] Later in the game, Nevers lost a fumble that was returned for a TD, and although he scored late in the game, it was effectively in garbage time as the Bears won 19–6.[17] During the game, Mullen got into a fight with another player, sparking a brawl that was broken up by his teammates and police. Game promoters lost $12,500, but did not express worry as they were confident the money could be made up with later games.[18] Before continuing their tour out of state, Halas' family decided to call it a trip. His wife Minnie, two-year-old (turning three in a few days) daughter Virginia, and newborn son George "Mugs" Jr. elected to return to Chicago rather than keep going with the team.[19] "My brother had been born that September 1925, and [the tour] was just before my third birthday, so I don’t have any real memories," Virginia Halas McCaskey said in a June 2019 interview with NBC Sports Chicago.[19] "But I have heard many stories about the traveling on the train with my mother and her sister, my aunt. And we went as far as Florida and then decided, my mother decided we would go home and not make the trip to California." Go West, Young Red Afterwards, the Bears enjoyed a week off, during which they "lapped up some more sunshine and gorged themselves with shrimp," as Grange quipped.[1] Once they finished their time in Florida, the team traveled to New Orleans to play Tulane captain Lester Lautenschlager and his all-star group of players from other colleges in the South.[20] Chicago easily handled New Orleans as Grange recorded 136 rushing yards and a touchdown in a 14–0 shutout (he also had a 51-yard punt return nullified by a holding penalty).[1] From Louisiana, the team went westward to Los Angeles, California. This was actually not the first barnstorming tour to reach the Golden State, let alone involving an NFL team; in 1920, the then-APFA champion Akron Pros conducted a tour of the state, though there was obviously not as much fanfare as there was for the Bears'.[2] While going around town, Grange was surprised to discover a street in nearby Glendale had been renamed Grange Street in his honor (thanks to a city council member being a big football fan).[1] He also met famed botanist Luther Burbank while in California . On game day, the Bears took on the Los Angeles Tigers in the Coliseum. The game was met with great excitement when All-American halfback George "Wildcat" Wilson of Washington joined the Tigers, hoping to get a chance to battle Grange .[21] In front of what was considered one of, if not the largest crowd for a football game in the West at the time with between65,000 and 75,000 fans , Grange opened the scoring with a four-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Wilson impressed with 126 rushing yards, but also lost a fumble. Roy Baker scored the lone touchdown for the Tigers, while Joey Sternaman added a TD of his own in the 17–7 victory. [1][22] According to game organizer P.S. Halbriter, receipts amounted to nearly $135,000, with approximately $50,000 going to Grange; it was the largest purse Grange had received up to that point in his pro career.[23] The following day, the California Stars hosted the Bears on a high school field in San Diego. Chicago's Oscar Knop scored in the first quarter.[24] In a game that he considered himself "listless throughout" until very late, Grange played the first half and fourth quarter, scoring on a two-yard run in the latter to clinch a 14–0 shutout.[1][25] A day later, Portland Coast Baseball League President Tom Turner announced his plans to convince Grange and the Bears to come to Portland for a game later in January.[26] Pyle also expressed interest in taking Grange and the sport overseas to China.[7] After another week to unwind, Grange and company went upstate to the Bay Area totake on the San Francisco Tigers at Kezar Stadium. Once again, Wilson was the leader of their opponent.[1] The local Olympic Club led by Babe Hollingbery considered playing, but were threatened in December by club directors with losing their memberships if they did so; when reports surfaced that Hollingbery was helping to promote the game anyway, he denied them and said he had been offered $5,000 to coach in the game but took no other action. Instead, Olympic Club member "Buck" Bailey took the reins as coach.[27] Although the Bears were 2 to 1 betting favorites, the Tigers' James "Rabbit" Bradshaw surprised with two interceptions (one off Grange), a 43-yard fumble recovery, and a 33-yard punt return.[28] Teammates Bob Fitzke and Houston Stockton scored two touchdowns in the Tigers' 14–9 upset, while Wilson outperformed Grange with 87 rushing yards against the latter's 41 until Wilson suffered a head injury in the fourth quarter (Stockton also exited the game, though with a leg injury).[1][29] The Bears' lone touchdown was a 20-yard throw by Sternaman to Paul Goebel.[28] On January 30 and 31, Turner's words became a reality as the Bears visited the Pacific Northwest to play all-star teams in Portland and Seattle. And guess what? Wilson was their captain. Yes, for both teams. He agreed to play under the conditions that he gets paid in advance and game organizers provide him with a good offensive line; as Wilson explained, "The Chicago Bears have the biggest and best line I ever saw on a football field."[30] He got his request as the rosters drew their players from the Waterfront Athletic Club; to quote the United Press, these players were "made up of a bunch of husky longshoremen, hard as nails, who are in the best of condition and ready to fight."[31] In the days leading up to their Northwest slate, uncertainty surrounded Grange, whose contract with the Bears was set to expire at week's end.[32] But we'll get to that once we finish the tour. With a "small but highly critical crowd" of between 5,000 and 6,500 watching, Grange and the Bears slaughtered Wilson and the Longshoremen 60–3.[33][34] The Illinois duo of Grange and Britton had a field day as the latter recorded a hat trick of TDs, while Grange scored twice in the first half on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Laurie Walquist and a 45-yard TD run.[35] However, Grange did not complete the game as he was hurt in a pile-up shortly before the first half ended.[1] On Wilson's side, he never had a chance to do anything, only being on the field for six of his team's offensive snaps before he joined Grange in exiting prior to halftime.[34] The next day, Chicago wrapped up the tour against Wilson's Seattle All-Stars, comprised mostly of the same players on Portland.[1] During the second quarter, Grange was breaking away on the verge of scoring an easy touchdown when Wilson tackled him; Wilson hurt his right leg on the play and was knocked out of the game.[36] While on the topic of injuries, Wilson's teammate Rollie Corbett broke his leg during the game, prompting Grange, Pyle, and Wilson to set up a fund to help out; the three donated $50 each.[37] Grange had two touchdowns — a 36-yard run and a 31-yard pass — and 99 rushing yards on nine attempts before watching the second half from the sidelines. The Bears won 34–0.[36] When the gun sounded in Seattle, Pyle gave Grange his final check of his rookie season: $50,000. "Counting the money I drew weekly, I had earned nearly $125,000 in my first season as a professional football player. Charlie had kept his word. Now I thought I could go on to make it a million."[1] After 19 games in 66 days, the tours were finally complete. Grange concluded: [1] The Bears' eight-game exhibition series wasn't nearly as hard on any of us physically as the ten-game schedule that followed my joining the team on Thanksgiving Day. I found it no strain to play a minimum of thirty minutes in every one of the games on the winter trip. What made the difference was the fact that we had five and a half weeks in which to play the eight tilts, besides having four more teammates to share the load. Nevertheless, we were all in need of a good long vacation. The Bears had played a total of twenty-eight games from the start of their season early in September 1925, and I had appeared in twenty-four contests counting the eight games of my senior year at Illinois. When I became a member of the Chicago Bears it was considered a move of such importance in the sports world, many of the outstanding sports writers of the day like Westbrook Pegler, Ford Frick and Damon Runyon were assigned by their syndicates and papers to travel with the team. They wrote about anything and everything that happened to me. Because of the reams of copy given over to me and the tremendous public interest it stirred up, the Bears were able to attract over 360,000 fans in eighteen games from Thanksgiving Day, 1925, to January 31, 1926. More than 150,000 of this impressive total was recorded on the exhibition junket that started Christmas Day. We covered one end of the country to the other, making in excess of 7,000 miles in the swing from Coral Gables to Seattle and back to Chicago again. We made enough pro-football converts all over the land to give the sport the shot in the arm it so badly needed and, from the 1925 season on, professional football began to grow steadily in popularity. Results Date Opponent Location Score Leg Record Approx. Attendance December 25 Coral Gables Collegians Coral Gables W 7–0 1–0 8,000 January 1 Tampa Cardinals Tampa W 17–3 2–0 8,000 January 2 Jacksonville Stars Jacksonville W 19–6 3–0 35,000 January 10 New Orleans Stars New Orleans W 14–0 4–0 10,000 January 16 Los Angeles Tigers Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum W 17–7 5–0 75,000 January 17 California Stars San Diego W 14–0 6–0 10,000 January 24 San Francisco Tigers Kezar Stadium L 9–14 6–1 25,000 January 30 Portland Longshoremen Portland W 60–3 7–1 5,000 January 31 Seattle All-Stars Seattle W 34–0 8–1 5,000 Epilogue: Beyond the Tour Lights, Camera, Action Grange and the Bears returned to Chicago the Thursday after the game, from which he went home to Wheaton for a break before going to Los Angeles to work on his movie that had been brought up a few times in the first two parts. [38][39] The film in question, One Minute to Play by FBO Studios, featured Grange as Red Wade, a high school football star who wishes to attend Claxton University and play for their prestigious team. However, his father John (portrayed by Charles Ogle), who hates football, orders him to quit and instead attend Parmalee, a school down on its luck financially and on the football field. Regardless, Red stands by his choice and chooses Claxton. On the train ride to Claxton, he meets Sally Rogers (Mary McAllister), the sister of Parmalee head coach Tex Rogers (Lee Shumway), and ends up in a brawl with Claxton team captain/Sally's love interest Biff Wheeler (Hendricks) that knocks him out. When he recovers, Red learns the train had taken him to Parmalee, but decides to stay after his pet dog leads him to a reunion with Sally. Although he initially follows his father's words and doesn't try out for the football team, the urge to play is too strong and he does so anyway. With Red leading the way, Parmalee wins its first game in years.[40][41] When John finds out about his son's on-field success, he confronts Red the day before the Parmalee/Claxton game and threatens to pull a $100,000 endowment he had made to the university. That night, Red pretends he is intoxicated to get out of playing, leading to Tex benching him. The next day, John attends the game to make sure Red isn't on the field, but starts to develop genuine interest in the action and realizes his mistake. Coach Rogers is reluctant to let Red play, but with Parmalee trailing 6–0 with not much time left, he sends him in. With one minute to play, Red scores the game-winning touchdown and extra point. And yes, he gets together with Sally in the end.[40][41] For the climactic Parmalee/Claxton game, Wilson appeared as a player on the Claxton team. Since the game action scenes were shot at California's Pomona College in summer while the film's setting is the Midwest in autumn, the director struggled to figure out how to get extras to participate in the heat. Considering their rivalry on the tour, Pyle suggested advertising the scene as an exhibition game between Grange and Wilson, with fans being granted free admission if they arrived in fall clothing. 15,000 extras turned up.[1][2] After the movie premiere, FBO Studios head Joseph P. Kennedy reached out to Grange and asked if he would consider retiring from football to become a full-time actor for the company; he declined. "If you've never seen Red Grange play football, now's your chance, for he plays it like every thing in this picture," aChicago Tribune movie critic under the newspaper's popular pseudonym Mae Tinee wrote.[1] Grange went on to work on other productions like A Racing Romeo, an auto racing movie that allowed him to connect with early motorsports great Barney Oldfield, and the 12-chapter seriesThe Galloping Ghost, an action serial that saw him perform his own stunts including vehicle chases and explosions.[1] The Yankees and the Rebel League So One Minute to Play did alright and people loved Grange's acting, but what about his future with the Bears? Well, with the 1926 season nearing, Pyle approached Halas and Sternaman about buying a part of the Bears. As Pyle argued, if the team wanted to thrive, they should continue to capitalize on Grange's celebrity status. However, the two rejected his offer.[1] Severing ties with the Bears, Pyle and Grange decided to start their own team in New York. They received a five-year lease at Yankee Stadium and sought to place their "New York Yankees" in the NFL, but Giants owner Tim Mara – the man whose franchise had been saved by Grange's tour in December – did not want to give up his territorial rights.[1][39] Out of options, Pyle did what any reasonable businessman looking to break into pro football without the NFL would do: start his own league. Dubbed the American Football League, the new group consisted of nine teams: the Yankees, the Chicago Bulls (yes, the Bulls), the Cleveland Panthers, the Brooklyn Horsemen, the Boston Bulldogs, the Newark Bears, the Philadelphia Quakers, the Los Angeles Wildcats, and the Rock Island Independents. The Independents came over from the NFL, while the Wildcats were led and partly owned by Wilson, who continued his association with Pyle and Grange when he signed a contract with them.[1][42] The Bulls featured two of Grange's former Bears teammates in Johnny Mohardt and Joey Sternaman; with the Chicago Cardinals moving to Normal Park for the 1926 season, the Bulls took over as the football team of Comiskey Park.[1][43] Spoiler alert: the AFL lasted just one year as financial issues plagued many of the teams. Discussing the lone season is probably enough to be a story for another time. Until then... Tell me if this sounds familiar. Grange and Pyle, seeking to make it big, embark on a barnstorming tour to bring legitimacy to a fledgling football league. After the 1926 season, they did it again. Joined by a team created by Wilson dubbed Wilson's Wildcats, the Yankees toured California and Texas on a ten-game schedule.[1] Although he played in every game, the slate was relatively unremarkable for Grange. In fact, his "only memorable part of the tour" was when he and his teammates were arrested at a Dallas hotel at 4 AM for disturbing the peace and supposedly being intoxicated, the latter of which they denied. According to reports, the team walked into the hotel lobby, where they proved to be too loud for the hotel manager who called the police on them; Grange explained they were looking for a nightlife spot to hang out and an officer had recommended the hotel.[1][44] When police arrived, teammate Pooley Hubert began arguing with a large policeman and was thrown at a seat against the wall. The hotel proprietress ordered them to leave and said there were no rooms available, but Grange commented they weren't looking for a place to stay. From there, the players were loaded into police cars and sent to jail, where they stayed until they were released after paying $10 fines each. Since they had a game to play in Beaumont, they elected to pay the fines instead of fight the rulings in court. [44] "We had no idea it would turn into such a hullabaloo as this," Grange said after the arrest.[44] "If we had felt guilty we could have easily given fake names. "To this day I'm trying to figure that one out," he remarked in his autobiography.[1] Although the AFL died, Pyle reached an agreement with the NFL to assimilate the Yankees into the league, and Grange remained with the team.[1] In 1927, his career came into doubt during a game against the Bears; although he averaged five yards per carry and recorded an interception, the Yankees fell behind 12–0. [45][46] Late in the fourth quarter, teammate Eddie Tryon threw a pass to Grange, who was hit by Bears centerGeorge Trafton . As Grange landed, his cleat caught in the field. Trafton then fell on Grange, causing the latter to twist his right knee. His injury was revealed to be a torn tendon, which was aggravated when it swelled and water began to form. He underwent diathermy to treat the leg, but his running ability was effectively ruined.[1][47] "After it happened, I was just another halfback," Grange said.[46] Despite his knee, Grange returned to action just four weeks later — mostly due to contractual obligations — against the Cardinals, though at quarterback. The Yankees won 20–6, but he exacerbated the injury. Regardless, he continued to play and finished out the season. For the third straight year, he participated in a winter barnstorming tour.[1] Prior to the 1928 season, Grange's contract with Pyle expired and the two formally parted ways, ending their three-year partnership. While the Yankees dragged along to a 4–8–1 record before Pyle shut down the operation for financial issues, Grange — who had sold his stake in the team — sat out the entire year. Instead, he and his father decided to join Chicago movie distributor Frank Zambreno on a nationwide vaudeville tour.[1] Grange returned to the Bears in 1929.[48] Although he wasn't as electric of a runner as he was before the injury, he was still a contributor to the Bears' 1932 and 1933 championship teams, including catching thegame-sealing touchdown in the former's playoff game on a controversial score that ultimately helped shape the NFL's passing attack . He retired after the 1934 season, but remained with the Bears as the backfield coach for the next three years; Halas had even offered him the head coaching position if he wanted it, but he declined.[49] "I was highly flattered by Halas' offer, but didn't think I had enough experience for the job," Grange wrote.[1] "Besides, I never had any ambition to be a head coach in either the professional or college ranks." He was a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's inaugural class in 1963.[50] Pro Football's Future With both tours now in the history books, this brought up some questions: Was it a success? Did it help pro football? The answer to that is... kind of? Maybe not? As the Chicago Tribune's Don Maxwell wrote, you could make cases for both sides; on one hand, attendance was quite unimpressive (especially in Florida), game organizers lost money, Grange and Pyle didn't make as much cash as they had expected, and Grange's teammates like Joey Sternaman outperformed him in the games. On the other hand, Grange's presence still attracted plenty of interest, especially on the West Coast, and the total money he made was more than he "could have made in any other business in the same period."[51] Others were more cynical. In a 1991 article published a week after Grange's death, Vito Stellino of theBaltimore Sun questioned Grange's impact on pro football and compared him to Herschel Walker's decision to join the United States Football League; although Walker was a high-profile signing, the league still died after a few years. Instead, he said television was what made the NFL. [52] "But there's no point in even trying to puncture the myth," Stellino wrote.[52] "It's too embedded into the American sports psyche to disprove now. Anyway, it's a better story than the reality." Historian John M. Carroll noted that among critics, the tours led to the belief that pro football was a circus led by certain stars, which could prove dangerous if such stars decided to play while hurt for the sake of bringing people to the games (as exhibited by Grange's injuries during the first tour). Some also feared the possibility of rigging certain game events like scores to favor the superstars and raise fan interest; Brooklyn Dodgers owner/player John "Shipwreck" Kelly even said he had reached an agreement with Halas and the Bears to let Grange record a long run in a 1934 postseason exhibition game held in Knoxville, Tennessee.[53] Ironically, Kelly had a long run of his own with a 90-yard kickoff return touchdown in the exhibition, the last score of the game in the Bears' 20–6 victory; on the previous drive, Grange clinched the win with a five-yard touchdown reception.[54] However, Carroll also added Grange helped speed up the NFL's development from a small-town group to a national, big-city league by the early 1930s as he proved pro football could draw a crowd, especially during the first tour.[53] "Because there are so many variables to consider, it is difficult to state with certainty Grange's role in the rise of professional football," he wrote. [52] "We can safely say that Grange did not save a faltering NFL in 1925. The preponderance of evidence suggests that Grange's emergence as pro football's first real superstar propelled the NFL and pro football in general forward in establishing the game as a major league sport. The line of progress was halting and certainly Grange was only one of the forces that contributed to the rise of pro football. But Grange deserves some of the accolades accorded him as a pivotal individual in the emergence of the professional game." In a February 1926 interview with the UP, Grange stood behind his decision to leave Illinois early for the pros, but also voiced his support for a rule prohibiting college players from going pro until they graduate.[38] Of course, this became a thing with the Red Grange Rule passed in 1926 and discussed in Part 1. Despite the skepticism and attacks from the college level, he expressed his optimism for pro football:[39] "Certainly, I am sold on the future of professional football. I believe it is headed for much the same position now held by professional baseball. "[Pro football] is a much better brand of football, but lacks the intense rivalry of a school nature. I cannot see where it will detract from college football. "About the best statement I have read is one written by Bill Tilden recently, in which he said the colleges have now commercialized the game, and the only difference between the two in the fact that college players get nothing for their labor." Based on how it's evolved in the 90+ years since, things ultimately worked out quite nicely for pro football, didn't it? Red's Reflection Decades later in 1985, Grange reminisced about the start of his pro career, his celebrity status, and the tours' influence on the league during a conversation with a "visitor" that was covered in aSports Illustrated article by John Underwood:[55] "You didn't graduate, which I suppose at the time was perceived as a bad thing for college sport," the visitor said. "Do you regret it?" "Well, I never had anybody ask me for my diploma, if that's what you mean. But I suppose I resent it a little that people mistake a lack of a diploma for a lack of brains. I was a good student. Hell, I had all kinds of trigonometry. A lot of people think if you play football you're dumb, but if you play golf or tennis you're smart. "The thing is, I had a chance to make some money, a lot of money for me. When Herschel Walker got his chance, I couldn't blame him. I don't see how you can turn down four or five million dollars, no matter what anybody thinks. Ten or 15 years from now there'll be new Herschel Walkers. Herschel Walker has to take care of himself." (Wife) Muggs returned, holding up a pair of old football pants. They were the color of dead leaves, and beneath the stark weave of their canvas skin the mysterious bulges of protection stood out like large welts. The pants had a formidable, inviolate look, as if they were capable of sweating on their own. The old man sitting in the chair smiled and turned over the belt for the visitor to see the inscription sewn inside: RED GRANGE MODEL. "I never wore these," he said. "They were sent to us by an Indian in Oklahoma." "They were one of your endorsements?" "I endorsed everything there for a while." "Tell me about Cash and Carry Pyle," the visitor said. "Dapper, that's the first word that comes to mind. He went to the barbershop every day of his life, and he was immaculate. He wore that derby and spats and carried a cane, and he had that neat little mustache. The greatest ladies' man you ever saw. He was married five times, three times to the same woman, and despite everything you might have read, he was one of the most honest men I ever knew. "Charlie had more good ideas than any 10 men about how to make a buck. He'd made and lost a million three or four times. If he were active today, there'd be no end to the money he'd make. But he was straight with me from the start. He owned two theaters in Champaign. One night I was in there and the usher said, 'Mr. Pyle wants to see you.' I thought he was going to give me a couple of passes. "I went into his office and he said, 'How'd you like to make $100,000?' I said, 'You've got the wrong guy. I don't do things like that.' He said, 'I'm talking about playing pro football. I'll guarantee you that much.' I said, 'Well, I'm interested.' I was only with Charlie for about three years, but I got everything he said I'd get, and more." What you have to remember about the times, Grange said, "was that there just didn't seem to be a future in football. Now, of course, the game gives so many atha-letes a chance, and that's good. There's money in it, and when you're at your prime you should be able to pursue it. I told (Illinois HC) Zuppke, 'I've played three years. I've got more than three years left. I've got my life ahead of me. Are you going to take care of me until I'm 60?' "We had some terrific arguments in his kitchen. He'd close the door and keep Mrs. Zuppke out. I said, 'You teach football, I'll take care of Grange.' I just couldn't accept the fact that it was all right for him to coach football for his life and not for me to play it. But most people take care of themselves first, and that's what he was doing. The colleges were scared to death that the pros would lure away their players with money. "That's why I did it, of course. Football itself wasn't that important to me. But I went from having nothing to owning two or three cars at a time. I bought my father a $25,000 house, which was an expensive house in those days. I spent money like it was going out of circulation, until I learned better. I was a big shot. I drank Dom Perignon champagne. I wore a raccoon coat. I'd go into a restaurant and order from the right side of the menu. After I became a pro, if something I ordered didn't cost $20, I didn't want it. "It was fun, but I don't think it was a good phase of my life. I noticed one thing that still seems to apply. Once you start getting paid to play, the crowds treat you differently. I got booed for the first time as a pro. It was a new feeling. I can understand it, though. They expect you to play up to what you're being paid. When we made that tour, the crowds only cared that I produced. They didn't care if I was tired or beat-up. I can't blame them. But it made football different for me. "I don't have any complaints. I've lived the way I wanted, done what I wanted. I don't owe anybody. I couldn't be this way if it weren't for football. But I wonder now and then how the other guys are doing, guys who helped make the pro game, guys who played even after I did. "Pro ball in the early days got two or three inches on the third page. After we made those tours, it was getting top headlines. We spread the NFL across the country, taking it to towns that never saw a pro game, doing anything to push the product. We played in Memphis one year, and after the game started, we were driving for a touchdown when the promoter came running on the field and told everybody we'd have to start over. The backer of the game was the founder of the Piggly Wiggly stores, Clarence Saunders, and he'd gotten caught in traffic and missed the kickoff. So we started over. They're benefiting today because of the things we did. And isn't it too bad that the NFL never took care of those early players? I complained a few times, because we had guys in hospitals, guys who had had amputations because of football injuries. Guys who had problems. I thought the game could have done something for them, but it never did. As far as I know, pro football hasn't done anything for anybody except lately, and that's mostly for itself. I never made a real stink about it, but I was sad for the oldtimers." [...] It must have been an exciting time, the visitor said, "and to be so well known." "Well, something always happens to keep you in line. When Pyle took us to Washington, Senator McKinley of Illinois sent a car around to take Halas and me to the White House to meet President Coolidge. He said, 'Mr. President, this is Mr. Grange and Mr. Halas. They're with the Chicago Bears.' Mr. Coolidge said, 'Glad to meet you fellows. I always did like animal acts.' He didn't know anything about football, which is maybe the way it ought to be." Finally, the visitor got up to leave. Grange seemed sorry to see him go and invited him to come back "anytime." As they walked to the rented car, the visitor noted that the birdseed was all gone. He recalled what Zuppke had said about Grange. Zuppke had once seen a deer bound by in a national park, and he stopped his car and exclaimed aloud, "There goes Red Grange!" The visitor recited the story for Grange and told how Zuppke, years later, had remarked, "They can argue all they want about the greatest football player who ever lived. I was satisfied I had him when I had Red Grange." The Galloping Ghost laughed. "I played football the only way I knew how," he said. "If you have the football and 11 guys are after you, if you're smart, you'll run. It was no big deal." So did Red Grange save pro football? Probably not, but he was the icon of the early NFL, a sign of the nascent league's potential to become something big. He might not have set the nation on fire, but his legend was more than enough to prove pro football might be here to stay. And it did. Not a bad way to be remembered, eh, Red?