Sunday, November 10, 2013

Minnesota Golden Gophers as National Champions

I’m talking football here (as advanced warning to those of you bored by the subject).. The U of Minnesota hasn’t had a nationally competitive football team since the 60s. Yup, the 60s, when we won a couple of national championships. The 60s when there were Gophers like Bobby Bell, Carl Eller and Sandy Stephens.
by Charlie Leck

Minnesota is one of the universities with a significant number of national football championships (7), but none of them in the last 50 years. Now, however, we’re proud of our boys who have won 4 straight games in the Big Ten and next play Wisconsin here in two weeks. We have dreams that football glory may return to Minnesota in the next few years.

I’m sure, however, that it will be nothing like the 1904 National Championship Gopher team that went undefeated and beat everyone on its schedule by a combined score of 725 to 12. That year the Gophers whipped up on Grinnell College 146 to 0. We also beat South Dakota 77-0. The closest game was one with Nebraska (16 to 12) and they were the only points the Gophers allowed during the entire season. We beat Wisconsin that year 28 to 0. Unfortunately, back then, there were no post-season bowls, no tastelessly elegant trophies and no general hype around the nation.

Bobby Marshall was a member of that 1904 Gopher football team. He played end. The Gopher sports web site tells us he was the first man of color to play in the Big Ten (back then it was called the Big Nine). He’s a member of the College Football Hall of Fame
This story about the 1904 Gophers’ football team was on a Fox Sports blog…

Dale Warner, was one of my favorite golfing buddies even though he was 17/18 years older than I. Dale loved his Golden Gophers. He played for them in the late forties after coming back from his time in the Navy. He was a teammate of such Gopher greats as Bud Grant and Billy Bye. And Dale could play a terrific round of golf. He was a pretty constant threat to shoot par, even in his seventies. We played Cyprus Point and Pebble Beach together and several other remarkable golf courses. I loved listening to his stories about his football days at Minnesota. Dale got me very excited about following Gopher football.

Great Gopher football players I remember?
How about these guys (besides Eller and Stephens, who I already mentioned)…

Tony Dungy
Matt Spaeth
Rickey Foggie
Ernie Wheelright
Marion Barber III (one of my all-time favorites)
Laurence Maroney
Darrell Thompson (all-time leading rusher with 4,654 yards)
Tyrone Carter
Bobby Bell (Outland Trophy in ’62)
Eric Decker (now a receiver with the Broncos)

Of course, there were some really famous Gophers before my time, including…

Bronko Nagurski (1929)
Bruce Smith (first player ever to win Heisman Trophy, 1941)
Paul Giel (1950-1952)
Bobby Marshall (1904-1906)
Pug Lund (1932-1934)
Leo Nomellini (1946-1949)
Bud Grant (team MVP in 1949)

 A great Minnesota Gopher football victory over the weekend has got me dreaming of Gopher glory here in the next few years.


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