Born May 28,1887 – Died March 28, 1953
Born near Prague, Oklahoma, son of Hiram and Charlotte Thorpe
Indian Name: Wa-tho-huck
English Translation: Bright Path
The Sac and Fox Indian acclaimed by his peers and a King as the world’s greatest athlete of his time. An Olympic champion and professional football legend as a member of the world famous Canton Bulldogs.
A statue of Jim Thorpe stands at the entrance to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Canton, Ohio. The inscription on the statue reads, “Jim Thorpe was named first team Walter Camp All American in 1911 and 1912. He won gold medals in the decathlon and pentathlon in the 1912 Olympics, played professional baseball and in 1920, was elected the first president of what became the National Football League. He was the first great performer of that league, its highest paid player, both the precursor and prototype of the weapons of modern football.”
Thorpe’s athletic achievements at the collegiate level were at the Carlisle Indian Institute in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, which competed against the major universities of the time. Besides his accomplishments in football, he was a one-man track team and excelled in basketball, lacrosse, baseball and all other sports he attempted. He also won a national ballroom dancing contest. He was voted the greatest football player and the greatest athlete of the first half of the 20th century. He was also voted “Athlete of the Century” by a poll at the end of the century hosted by ABC.
Sports historian Murray Olderman called him the “greatest all-around athlete in the history of sports, dating back to Coreobus of Elis in the eighth century before the birth of Christ.” “Football will never see another Thorpe. The two or more platoon system produces defensive players who don’t know how to carry the ball or famous offensive players who don’t know how to block or tackle. There’s been only one all time , All-American football player and his name is Jim Thorpe.” – Jim Wood, Rochester Jeffersons. “He blocked with his shoulder and it felt like he hit you with a 4×4.”
“He was a great defensive player. — If he hit you from behind, he’d throw that big body across your back and damn near break you in two.” – George Halas, Chicago Bears. ” As one who played against him in football more than 40 years ago, I personally feel no other athlete possessed his all around abilities in games and sports…” – Dwight D. Eisenhower.
On a return to Carlisle in 1941, Thorpe stood in the middle of the field and drop- kicked a football over the goal. He then turned and place kicked a field goal over the other end zone – at the age of 52 and wearing street shoes. “He was the best natural athlete ever. No matter what sport he turned to, he was a magnificent performer. He had all the strength, speed and coordination of the finest players plus incredible stamina. His memory should be kept for what it deserves – that of the greatest all around athlete of our time.” — New York Times.