RECREATION & FITNESS

Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame

Ernie Nevers
Ernie Nevers
Class of 2006
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1926-1927 Duluth Eskimos,
1929-1931 Chicago Cardinals
Ernest Alonzo Nevers. . .Stanford All-America, 1925 Rose Bowl hero. . .Lured from pro baseball career by Eskimos. . . Truly a do-everything iron man, playing 1714 of 1740 minutes in 29-game 1926 season. . .Missed 1928 with injuries, returned with Cardinals, 1929. . . Scored record 40 points in one game against Bears, 1929. . .All-league all five NFL seasons. . . Player-coach one year in Duluth, two in Chicago. . .Born June 11, 1903, in Willow River, Minnesota . . .Died May 3, 1976, at age of 72...

Statistics
  GAMES AVG HR RBI
Career 723 .263 16 217

One of the toughest, most versatile athletes of the 20th Century, stories of Ernie Nevers were so outlandish, they read like fiction.

The only man in the history of sports to play professional football, baseball and basketball in the same year, Nevers' single game scoring record remains the oldest National Football League's record for any category.

Ernie NeversBorn in Willow River, Minnesota, on June 11, 1903, Nevers soon moved with his family to Santa Rosa, California. He played as a senior on his high school's very first football team. It turned out that Nevers knew more football than his coach; and soon took over designing the offense, placing himself at fullback.

Although Ernie Nevers is still regarded as one of the greatest athletes ever to attend Stanford, Stanford landed him only after an epic recruiting struggle with its archrival, the University of California at Berkley.

At 6-1, 205, he was a big man by the standards of his day. As a fullback, he was gigantic. Called "Swede" and "Big Dog" by his teammates, he truly did everything - he ran, passed, punted and tackled. He was noted for his fearless, reckless style of play, and on occasion, when the action got especially ferocious, he would toss his helmet aside and fling himself into the action bareheaded. Legendary football coach Pop Warner once called Ernie Nevers, "the greatest player I ever coached."

Ernie Nevers Nevers' most legendary performance was in the 1925 Rose Bowl against Knute Rockne's Fighting Irish, featuring the legendary Four Horsemen.

After recovering from two broken ankles earlier in the season, Nevers almost did not play. Walking on crutches two days before the Rose Bowl, coach Pop Warner fashioned a pair of braces made from rubber tubes to help support Nevers' ankles.

Everyone doubted that Nevers would last no more than 10 minutes, but he played all 60 minutes, out gaining all four Horsemen. Nevers carried the ball 34 times for 117 yards. On defense, he intercepted a pass and was in on 80 percent of Stanford's tackles.

Although Stanford lost, 27-10, Irish coach Knute Rockne was in awe of Nevers' performance. "Nevers could do everything," Rockne recalled later. "He tore our line to shreds, ran the ends, forward-passed and kicked. True, we held him on the 1-yard line for four downs, but by that time he was exhausted."

At Stanford, Nevers earned 11 letters - in football, baseball, basketball and track. - In baseball, he once pitched 37 consecutive scoreless innings - a school record that still stands.

In 1926, Nevers turned pro, signing with the National Football League's Duluth Eskimos. Nevers missed just 27 minutes of action in the entire 29-game schedule - when doctors ordered him to sit out a game after he was diagnosed with appendicitis. But with Duluth trailing 6-0, Nevers could not stand to watch. Disregarding doctor's orders, he inserted himself into the game, and threw a 62-yard TD pass and kicked the extra point to give the Eskimos a 7-6 win.

In 1927, Nevers set a new record by becoming the first man in the history of sports to play professional football, baseball and basketball in the same year, when he signed a contract with a Barn Storming Professional basketball team in St. Louis, Missouri, earning $300 per game.

Ernie NeversNevers' major-league baseball career was a short one. Playing for the woeful St. Louis Browns from 1926-1928, he did gain a measure of fame as a result of Babe Ruth hitting two of his record-setting 60 home runs off him in 1927.

The Babe, not one to flatter anyone unnecessarily, said to Nevers, "You've got good speed, kid. For my sake, I hope you stick to football."

Injuries forced Nevers to sit out the entire 1928 football season, but he returned as the do-everything man for the Chicago Cardinals from 1929 to 1931. In 1929, Nevers scored a NFL record 40 points in one game in a 40-6 win over George Halas' Chicago Bears led by Red Grange. Nevers' single game scoring record still stands to this day and may never be broken.

After his football playing career ended in 1932, Nevers began a coaching career, but at the outbreak of World War II, too for the draft, he enlisted in the Marine Corps. While serving in the Pacific, he and his battalion were reported missing for several months. When they were finally found on a deserted island, several had died, and Nevers, who suffered from beriberi, weighed only 110 pounds.

Following the war, Nevers was involved in starting the Chicago Rockets' franchise in the All-American Football Conference, and spent most of the rest of his life working in a variety of positions for Bay Area beer, wine and liquor distributors.

Nevers was modest and private, and declined most requests for interviews. He kept few football mementos in his home, and reportedly never talked about sports with his family. Around the news media, he seemed embarrassed to talk about himself, and when he did, it was often in a humorous, self-deprecating way.

In 1951, Nevers was enshrined into the College Football Hall of Fame and became a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963. Sports Illustrated also named him the best college football player of all time. Ernie Nevers passed away in 1976 at the age of 72.