Friday, April 12, 2013

Carlisle Fools Harvard: The Hidden Ball Trick

Pictured above is Jim Thorpe, known as the greatest athlete of all time.  He played football for the Carlisle Indians before going on to professional football.  However, most of Carlisle's players were not as big and powerful as Thorpe.  The average weight of the players on Glen "Pop" Warner's teams was about 170 pounds.  They were smaller than the college teams they played against.  And they made up for it with speed, deception, and tricky plays, the most famous of which was the "hunchback" or "hidden ball play."

A number of years before Jim Thorpe came to Carlisle, the team's quarterback was an All-American named Jimmie Johnson.  Johnson was a Stockbridge Mohican.  Under Johnson's leadership, Carlisle pulled off one of the most remarkable trick plays in all of sport.  And it happened during a game against the arrogant Harvard Crimson.  It was a home game for Harvard but the Carlisle Indians duped the Harvard players so badly that the fans were laughing at the home team's obliviousness.

The game and the play that I'm talking about is featured in Sally Jenkins' book, The Real All-Americans.  Fortunately for us, the chapter is already online, thanks to NPR books

After Carlisle, Jimmie Johnson continued his education and became a dentist.  He also continued playing football at Northwestern University.  (They didn't have strict eligibility rules back then in college sports.)  A special tribute to Jimmie Johnson was created by an unoffical website of Northwestern Football.

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