Captain Louis (Red) Salmon, front row center, was the first Notre Dame
player to win All-American mention in 1903. The team was undefeated (one 0
- 0 tie) and unscored on in nine games. James F. Faragher was the coach.

"As usual, Salmon was the star." Almost every account of Notre Dame's 1902 and 1903 campaigns contains that sentence. Salmon is largely forgotten now. He made the mistake of playing in an age when newspapers did not devote page after page to sporting news, when football games and church socials drew about the same number of people. The few who can remember seeing him in action, however, rank him as one of the finest if not the best of all Notre Dame fullbacks.

The alabaster-skinned Salmon has been described as both a slasher and a smasher, a colorful way of saying he would run right over you if he could not run around you. Salmon kicked off, punted, and drop-kicked field goals and extra points with deadly accuracy. He returned kicks, blocked exceptionally well, and - in those days of one-platoon football - was Notre Dame's outstanding linebacker. Had the forward pass been legal, he would undoubtedly have mastered it as well.

The 1902 and 1903 squads had no head coach, but they had Captain Salmon. He provided more than enough leadership for the Irish to post a solid two year record of 15-3-1, including that awesome unscored-upon season of 1903. Ironically, after Salmon actually became the coach in 1904, Notre Dame finished a lackluster 5-4. The team needed Salmon on the field, not the sidelines.

As soon as he received his engineering degree, Salmon left Notre Dame. He returned to campus only twice. The University's most popular football star disliked the idea of people making a fuss over him.

Best of all, this pigskin magician never marred his football career with a personal agent, contractual agent, press agent or theatrical agent. He had no private lawyer, accountant, secretary, valet, answering service or mail drop. No one offered Red Salmon big money to brush, spray, comb, shave, or scrub with various cosmetics. Nor did he model panty hose, lip balm, or department store leisure suits. He never worried about the Heisman trophy, the pro draft, bowl games, or the NCAA, because they did not exist.

Red Salmon played the game because it was fun. This makes him our hero forever.


The pigskin in the early days of football.

Until 1912, the football was described in the rule book simply as a "prolate spheroid twenty-seven inches in circumference." A pretty vague description, especially if you don't know what prolate means. (it means the opposite of oblate.) Numerous balls can squeeze into that wide category, and most of them were used at one time or another during footballs formative years. More than one argument began simply because the visiting team couldn't recognize the shape of the ball they had been handed for the kickoff.

The turn-of-the-century pigskin had two other major faults. Because it was sewn without a lining, it frequently lost its contour and evolved into a misshapen melon as the game wore on. Besides this, the old prolate spheroid had an affinity for water and mud, greedily soaking up as much as possible, perhaps in memory of happy days in the pigpen. After the 1902 Notre Dame-Purdue tussle, the wet, muddy, lopsided ball weighed in at fourteen pounds. Fourteen pounds! Still, Red Salmon averaged thirty yards with his punts. Ace bandage, Red?


The modern football player, you are always told, is not only bigger and stronger. He's faster. You should have been around for the second half of the 1902 American Medical game.

When George Nyere skedaddled 106 yards for a touchdown, timekeeper Pete Crumley lunged excitedly onto the field. "He's just broken the world's record for the hundred yard dash!" shouted Crumley.

The referee tried to shoo the timekeeper back to the sidelines. Crumley would not be moved. He was flabbergasted. He kept insisting something important had happened.

According to the Notre Dome Scholastic, it took the official and about forty bystanders almost five minutes "to convince Pete that the contest was a football game and not a track meet." The game continued, a 92-0 romp for the Irish. Nyere's time, whatever it was, was not recorded.


Louis Wagner won renown for kicking Hershbergers. Not that Wagner was carrying on some weird vendetta against the family Hershberger. Quite the contrary. Before the advent of the forward pass, the only spirals on a football field were the rare accidental ones flying off a punter's foot. In this era when kicking was so vitally important, punters booted end-over-end jobs, fluttering ducks, wobbling gliders, anything to get their teams in better position. To most punters, spirals were as essential as napkin rings at the training table. They might bring an "ooohh"- from the crowd; other than that, what good were they? Then a Chicago kid named Hershberger developed a novel way of punting that produced a spiral every time. On receiving the pass from center, Hershberger lifted the ball over his head, and slammed the pigskin onto the foot that was sweeping up to kick the ball. Viola! The punt whorled majestically downfield with uncanny accuracy and distance. A spiral was no longer called a spiral. It was called a Hershberger. And that brings us back to Louis Wagner. He was one of the few Notre Damers who mastered the now lost and forgotten art of booting a Hershberger. Think you're coordinated? Give it a try..

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