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Jim Thorpe

Jim Thorpe (Sac and Fox) in his Carlisle football uniform, later went on to be the first president of the National Football League in 1920

Jacob “Jim” Francis Thorpe (Sac and Fox) is considered one of the most versatile athletes in modern sports.  He began playing football for the Indian Training School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania in 1907. This team earned a record of ten wins and only one loss, beating such teams as Harvard, Syracuse, Villanova, and the Universities of Chicago, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. From 1906 to 1913 Carlisle Indian School ranked no less than fifth in the national rankings.

Jim Thorpe achieved First Team All-American status both in 1911 and 1912. In one often reported incident during the 1912 season against the Army Team at West Point, he returned a kickoff the full length of the field for a touchdown only to have the play nullified because of a rule infraction. Army was again forced to kick off and once again Thorpe received the ball and ran the full length of the field for a touchdown, which counted. Dwight Eisenhower, the future president, played for the Army team.

Thorpe earned varsity letters in eleven different sports at Carlisle. His letters were earned in boxing, wrestling, lacrosse, gymnastics, swimming, hockey, handball, and basketball. He also excelled in golf, bowling, rowing, and billiards.

Although the football team at Carlisle received much greater public attention, the track and field team was no less impressive. During the years 1910-1912, Jim Thorpe often won five events, Louis Tewanema usually won the two long distance events, and Joe Guyon won one or two sprints. The track program received little attention prior to Thorpe and Tewanema’s success at the 1912 Olympic Games.

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