White House Dream Team: Red Grange

Drawing of Red Grange Red Grange

Harold "Red" Grange gave what many consider the greatest performance in a single football game on October 18, 1924. The man sportswriters nicknamed "The Galloping Ghost" was already known for his ability to almost magically avoid defenders, but he surpassed even his own legend in that October game playing for the University of Illinois against the University of Michigan. Red ran for three touchdowns in the opening 12 minutes of the game. After a brief rest, he came back to run for a fifth touchdown and pass for a sixth. All of this was against the best defense in college football, which had allowed only four touchdowns in the previous two years.

Red was always a good athlete. After his mother died when he was five, and Red moved from Pennsylvania to Wheaton, Illinois. Red, who earned his nickname for his flame-colored hair, worked on an ice truck in the summers, which helped his father pay the bills and helped Red build his muscles. Another one of Red's nicknames was "The Wheaton Iceman."

In high school, Red earned varsity letters all four years in football, baseball, basketball and track. His fraternity brothers at Illinois convinced him to choose football in college, and he scored three touchdowns in his first game. Red was named an All-American three times. He was one of the best players in college football.

When Red was playing football, professional football lacked the prestige and respect of today's National Football League. Many people objected when Red decided to play for the Chicago Bears. Some thought professional football would take attention away from college football. Others opposed playing football on Sundays. Red ignored this criticism, and he attracted large crowds as a professional player. Many have said that Red was the player who first made professional football a respected and popular sport.

Red was the most famous athlete of the time, and he lent his name to all different products. There were Red Grange teddy bears, Red Grange candy bars and even Red Grange meatloaf. However, Red remained very humble and down-to-earth about his achievements.

He once said, "They built my accomplishments way out of proportion. I never got the idea that I was a tremendous big shot. I could carry a football well, but there are a lot of doctors and teachers and engineers who could do their thing better than I."

One day Red and another Bears player, George Halas, met President Calvin Coolidge, who was known for his brief words and sharp tongue. They told the President they were with the Chicago Bears to which Coolidge reportedly replied, "Glad to meet you fellows. I always did like animal acts."

Red retired in 1935. In 1963, he was one of the first players inducted into the professional football Hall of Fame. Red was married for 50 years to his wife Margaret. He died at the age of 87 in 1991 in Florida.


  1. Can you name all three of Harold Grange's nicknames?
  2. What does it mean to be an All-American football player?
  3. What professional football team did Red play for?
  4. Why did some people think professional football was a bad idea?
  5. Which U.S. President did Red meet?
Share your answers with a parent, teacher or other adult.

Want to learn more?
Visit your school or public library to learn more about these fascinating Americans.

June 13, 1903 in Forksville, PA

January 28, 1991 in Lake Wales, FL

To bring respectability to professional football

Wheaton (IL) High School, University of Illinois

Football's greatest running back

Character trait

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Clara Barton
Booker T. Washington

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