Biography of Football Legend George The Gipper Gipp Part 1

About the legendary Notre Dame football player George Gipp, history and biography of the man best known as the Gipper.


One for the Gipper

George Gipp, whom Knute Rockne called "the greatest football player Notre Dame ever produced," is a legend in collegiate football.

He was from the small town of Laurium, Mich., and went to Notre Dame in 1916 in the hope of playing his favorite sport--baseball. One day Rockne, who at that time was still an assistant to head football coach Jesse Harper, saw Gipp booting a football to a third-string squad member on a deserted field and urged him to come out for the team. Gipp had starred in high school as a baseball player; he had played football only as a secondary sport. Therefore, he wasn't enthusiastic, but he showed up three days later and impressed Harper and Rockne with his kicking and his graceful movements. They put him on the freshman team as a halfback.

Gipp immediately attracted attention in a freshman game against Western Normal of Michigan. With the score tied and two minutes to go, the quarterback called for Gipp to punt. After dropping back to his own 38-yd. line, Gipp decided not to punt. Instead, he drop-kicked the ball 62 yd. for a field goal and won the game.

But his real fame was yet to come. As a freshman he was not eligible for the varsity. Beset by financial problems, he waited on tables in the college dining hall to earn his room and board. He earned additional money by sneaking out at night to downtown hotels to beat pool hustlers and card sharks from Chicago.

He didn't play much as a sophomore in 1917, and the 1918 season was declared an unofficial one because of W.W. I. The ruling gave him an extra year of eligibility for football.

Rockne replaced Harper as coach in 1918 and began spring practice in 1919 with expectations that Notre Dame would have its biggest year ever. He was stunned to learn that Gipp, captain-elect of the football team, had been suspended for missing too many law classes. Gipp told Rockne he had been ill at least three of the times he cut classes, and said, "I know the material that's been covered. Let them give me an oral exam, as tough as they want to make it, and I'll prove it to them." Important people in South Bend appealed to the university to give Gipp a second chance, and Rockne went to Notre Dame's president to ask for an oral exam. While an anxious campus waited, Gipp impressed the law professors by turning in a good performance. He passed.

Notre Dame and Rockne went on to fame that year. Thanks to Gipp's sensational all-around play, the team finished undefeated in its nine games, including a 14--9 win over Nebraska, a 12--9 upset of Army, and a 33--13 triumph over Purdue.

Much as Gipp enjoyed playing in a game, he detested practice, and although Notre Dame was known for its rigid training rules, Rockne permitted him a fairly free hand. His teammates did not resent this one bit. "It was impossible for anyone not to like him and enjoy every moment spent with him," said Rockne. "He was always in excellent physical condition, but there'd be times he'd come out of a game absolutely drained from exhaustion from putting out all he had."

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