In 1914, George Halas attended the University of Illinois with his older brother Walter, who was the Illini’s star pitcher. George enrolled in civil engineering, joined a fraternity, and got a job as a waiter. Although he was a thin underclassman, he started out with designs on playing the halfback position on the football team. He took a terrific beating and was switched to end. After the 1914 football season, George Halas played on the freshman baseball team. When summer came, he returned to Chicago and a summer job at the Western Electric Company.
At the University of Illinois, George Halas would play under some of the greatest coaches of his day. Coach Robert Zuppke, a legend at the university, won induction into the College Hall of Fame on the strength of a 28-year career for the Illini during which his teams won four national championships in football.
On the basketball court, George Halas played for Ralph Jones, another remarkable coach. Jones was an excellent teacher and very versatile. In addition to basketball, he coached baseball and football. Halas needed great coaching in basketball especially. He had a physical intensity on the court that the coach had to help him control. Halas appreciated the help and he liked Jones so much that he would later ask him to coach the Bears.
Halas played baseball under yet another University of Illinois legend, George Huff, who had also coached football and served as athletic director. Like his brother Walter, George Halas was an excellent college baseball player. Like fellow NFL owner Pittsburgh’s Art Rooney, he enjoyed baseball most of all and would be a fan all his life.
Perhaps because he had played under a virtual who’s who of college coaching, Halas would never be entirely satisfied with his own coaching although by all accounts he would turn out to be one of the greats.
On the football field, Halas would give his all at the University of Illinois. In his sophomore year, he broke his jaw diving to make a tackle—players wore no facemasks then. In his junior year, Halas broke his leg one day at practice and continued to play, attempting to ignore the pain until the coach criticized his play. After a five-day hospital stay, he was back on the sidelines to cheer his team on in practice. He recovered and resumed his athletic career once again. As an upperclassman, Halas did well in football. The speedy end returned kickoffs and punts. He also performed well on the baseball team, playing outfield and batting about .350. Halas made a name for himself at the university and established friendships there that would last a lifetime. In his senior year in the midst of the basketball season, the United States was a combatant in World War I. Halas’s University of Illinois student days came to end when he volunteered for the Navy. His diploma would follow.
Copyright 2021, Sporting Chance Press
Two of our books.
We have published several books that cover some material on the Chicago Bears. One of our recent books is called PAPA BEAR AND THE CHICAGO BEARS’ WINNING WAYS reviews the exciting story of George Halas and his dynamic role in professional football for those in middle school and older. Author: Patrick McCaskey. Visit Amazon, Great offer today on this great educational and sports resource for middle grades students!
Our most ambitious book on sports is a 2014 effort called PILLARS OF THE NFL. This book is a real collector’s book on the 10 greatest coaches in NFL history. It includes stats as well as stories and more. Visit Amazon, this one is also offered at a great price today.
Image: Bill Potter’s biographical montage of George Halas, Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press