How Glenn ‘Pop’ Warner became football’s father figure

Welcome to The Daddy Issue, our very fatherly tip for the father figures in our lives plus all the fatherly things they can’t stop themselves from doing – from pretending they’re not sleeping on the couch, to making dad jokes which even make Tony Soprano smile. We’ll talk about famous dads and their equally famous offspring and also deconstruct paternal influence in each of its forms. In doing so, we hope to come out on the other side with a better understanding of our own daddy issues and those of everyone else. Read all the stories here.

Glenn Scobey “Pop” Warner’s story presents a compelling case of a nickname becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, setting the recipient down a winding path on which a jab evolved into a deserved honorary title and culminated in a fatherhood of sustainable substitution of young people around the world.

He first came to public attention in 1892 when his hometown newspaper, The Springville Journal, said he had enrolled at Cornell University. A year later, he reprinted an analysis of his soccer prowess from The Cornell Daily News: “Nature has spared nothing in his composition, and he is the adornment of any football pitch. Warner has proven himself to be a good runner with the ball and rushes into the opposing race like a locomotive leaving heaps of players scattered in its wake.

Glenn “Pop” Warner at Cornell

In 1894, Warner was voted captain of the Cornell football team, largely because he was the senior player on a Big Red team that was described in several publications as “green” due to the influx of so many young people. -freshmen, which made Warner stand out all the more as a 23-year-old senior. It was at this time that several publications reprinted telegrams from Ithaca, New York, in which Warner was given a new nickname.

“The remarkable exodus of football players in 1893 and again last year makes Warner the team’s veteran, and when the men were asked to choose a captain yesterday they chose ‘Pop’ Warner to direct them for the season,” said The Springfield Diary.

The father of football

After his college football career as a player ended, a very young Pop Warner became head football coach at the University of Georgia and Iowa State University. simultaneously. After two seasons at Georgia – a period in which he raised them from mediocre to undefeated champions of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association in 1896 – Warner said goodbye to the South and returned to Cornell to coach football at his alma mater , while still coach of the Iowa State team, largely by correspondence.

In 1899, Warner assumed the position of head coach at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, the nation’s flagship Native American boarding school. It was during this time that he was credited with truly “inventing football” – pioneering the use of the three-point position for his backfield players, inventing both the single and double formations wingback, refining what we now call blocking and introducing the first significant forward passing patterns.

Equally important during this time was Warner’s training and mentorship of the legendary Jim Thorpe, who is still widely considered to be one of the greatest athletes who ever lived. Not only would Thorpe be declared a multiple All-American in football in Carlisle, but he would also win the decathlon and pentathlon at the 1912 Olympics, while wearing a pair of mismatched shoes.

Unfortunately, Thorpe would be stripped of his gold medals after finding out he had played professional baseball before the Olympics, a violation of the Olympics amateurism rule. Warner quickly co-drafted a statement for Thorpe to sign that absolved Warner of blame even though Warner was almost certainly aware of Thorpe’s professional baseball experience. Many Carlisle football players at the time openly said that Warner stabbed Thorpe in the back to save his own reputation – not exactly the actions of an accomplished father figure, it should be noted.

The paternal legend takes root

After leaving Carlisle shortly after the Thorpe scandal, Warner landed at the University of Pittsburgh where his teams quickly won shares of three national championships in 1915, 1916 and 1918. In 1924 he left for Stanford and added a fourth national title to his resume. in 1926. Throughout this time, he regularly held training seminars around the country, advocating for the spread of the sport.

Once Warner returned to Pennsylvania to coach at Temple in 1932, an Associated Press national story began spreading a misguided account of how the now 61-year-old Warner had acquired his paternal nickname, the attributing to his paternal method of guidance. his players, imbuing them with such a fondness for him that they often returned to discuss all matters of life with him.

“These are the men who named Warner ‘Pop,'” claimed the December 1932 AP article. “He’s the massive, kind, soft-spoken patriarch of the pigskin who never spoke harshly to them in his entire life. He never forgot their names, their faces, although there were some hundreds now. He knows who they married, and when, and how big the family is now. And he never forgets to ask.”

The birth of Pop Warner Youth Football

The very creation of the brand that carried the name of Pop Warner well over half a century after his death was due to a combination of circumstances. Just prior to Warner’s return to Pennsylvania, stockbroker Joseph Tomlin had established the Junior Football Conference (JFC) in Philadelphia as a distraction to keep the area’s idle youth from vandalizing local businesses.

“Next year, I hope to have around 50 member teams representing every section of the city under expert guidance,” Tomlin said. The Philadelphia Investigator in November 1933. “The boys will be educated in the fundamentals of football and physical training during evening classes and training. This way I hope to see the boys playing better football and more importantly playing it without the risk of permanent injury or worse.

That same month, The Harrisburg Telegraph reported that Warner spoke to more than 400 Rotary Club members, as well as numerous sports program leaders at the Penn-Harris Hotel in Harrisburg. He spoke to the audience about how desperately needed football is as a developmental tool for young people in the United States. “Young people today don’t have the hard chores and the work to do like the boys and girls of my time,” Warner lamented. “They need football and other kinds of athletics to develop those priceless bodies that carry their life.”

To conclude, he added, “football develops courage, cooperation, personal initiative, self-sacrifice. It is also excellent preparation for training a young person to carry on despite intense stress and seemingly overwhelming obstacles.

It was at this meeting that Tomlin met Warner and invited him to speak at an April rally for JFC football players at a high school in the Frankford neighborhood of Philadelphia. Again, legend has it that Warner braved terrible storm conditions and was the only one of a dozen coaches invited to do so and answer questions from the hundreds of boys in attendance. But in reality, at least six local coaches successfully spoke at the event, with Warner appearing as the star attraction. After all the presenters wrapped up their remarks, Tomlin said Warner had been elected president of the JFC and the organization would carry his name from that day forward.

“We name the circuit after Pop Warner, and the conference will be divided into four divisions: 125, 140, 160 pounds and senior teams,” Tomlin explained to The Philadelphia Investigator. “I’ve scheduled the champion team from the various districts to play practice games with college scrub teams on Saturdays.”

Since then, Pop Warner Football has exploded into a truly international youth organization that includes over 90 organized youth football leagues in multiple countries and provides football opportunities to over 400,000 children aged 5 and over each year. at 14. Old.

So he may have been given the nickname of being the oldest player on his team during his senior year at Cornell and cynically embellished it to bolster his reputation as the type of coach whose influence s extended way beyond the football field, but somehow it turned out to be quite appropriate. In any event.

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