Column: Jim Thorpe and the All-Americans
"It’s 1913 and you’re a pro football general manager trying to decide which player to select with the No. 1 choice in the draft.

In 1913, of course, there was no National Football League and no college draft, although a few semipro teams, such as they were, did exist. There was also no videotape, no scouting combine. In choosing the best player in 1913, about all you had to go on, aside from having seen him play, was what was in the newspapers of that era, and for a running back and occasional roustabout named Jim Thorpe that was enough.

“Starting like a streak,” The New York Herald-Tribune wrote of Thorpe in Carlisle’s famous victory over Army in 1912, “he shot through the line, scattering tacklers to all sides of him.”

That was one of the many tributes to Thorpe’s football ability unearthed by Sally Jenkins in a new book, “The Real All-Americans” (Doubleday, $24.95), the first up-close-and-personal view of what Thorpe and Carlisle were really like: Thorpe, from the Sac and Fox tribe in Oklahoma, Carlisle the training school for American Indians in Pennsylvania where Pop Warner coached a team that played a college schedule.

Students of American sports know that Thorpe won Olympic decathlon and pentathlon gold medals in 1912 in Stockholm and that when King Gustav V proclaimed him “the greatest athlete in the world,” he said, “Thanks, King.” They know that, as the star of the Canton Bulldogs, he was football’s most famous player in 1920, when he was a founder of what is now the N.F.L. But until now, only the barest details were known about him at Carlisle."

Get the Story:
With Jim Thorpe, a Real No. 1 Choice [free preview only] (The New York Times 4/27)

Relevant Links:
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