Jimmy Conzelman

Jimmy Conzelman
No. 1
Position: Halfback, quarterback
Personal information
Date of birth: (1898-03-06)March 6, 1898
Place of birth: St. Louis, Missouri
Date of death: July 31, 1970(1970-07-31) (aged 72)
Place of death: St. Louis, Missouri
Career information
High school: St. Louis (MO) McKinley
College: Washington–St. Louis
Career history
As player:
As coach:
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Coaching record: 87–63–18
Rushing touchdowns: 16
Games played: 104
Player stats at NFL.com

James Gleason Dunn Conzelman (March 6, 1898 – July 31, 1970) was an American football player and coach. He played for ten seasons in the National Football League (NFL) with five different teams between 1920 and 1929. He was a player-coach for the 1928 NFL champion Providence Steam Roller and was the head coach of the Chicago Cardinals, leading the team to its last NFL Championship in 1947. Conzelman was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1964.

Early years

Conzelman was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1898.[1] He attended Loyola Academy and later Central High School in St. Louis. He began playing football as a halfback at Central High in 1914. After a realignment of high school districts in 1915, Conzelman attended McKinley High School.[2] At McKinley, Conzelman played quarterback of the football team, competed on the basketball and track teams, was president of the boys' athletic association, and served as sergeant-at-arms of the Class of 1916.[3] He led the 1915 McKinley football team to a league championship.[2]

College and military service

Conzelman enrolled at Washington University in St. Louis in 1916. He played freshman football that year but enlisted in the United States Navy when the United States entered World War I in 1917. He was stationed at the Great Lakes Naval Station north of Chicago. During two years of service, he played for the Naval Station's football, baseball, and basketball teams. He also took up boxing while in the Navy and won a championship in the middleweight division.[2] He was the quarterback of the 1918 Great Lakes Navy Bluejackets football team that defeated previously undefeated Navy and then defeated defeated the Mare Island Marines by a 17–0 score in the 1919 Rose Bowl. Conzelman's teammates on the 1918 Great Lakes team included George Halas and Paddy Driscoll, all three of whom were later inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.[4]

After the war, Conzelman turned down offers to become a professional boxer and returned to Washington University in February 1919. He played for the 1919 Washington Pikers football team that compiled a 5–2 record and outscored opponents 127 to 30 and was selected as the All-Missouri Valley Conference quarterback.[2][5] He also was the catcher for the 1920 Washington University baseball team and organized an orchestra, played banjo, and wrote songs while attending Washington University.[2]

During the spring semester of 1920, Conzelman lost his eligibility to play football due to academic deficiencies.[6] His father also died that year, and he withdrew from school to help support his mother and younger siblings.[2] In June 1920, Conzelman announced that he would not return to Washington University in the fall. He spent the summer leading an orchestra in Arkansas.[6]

Professional football player

Decatur Staleys

In mid-October 1920, Conzelman joined the Decatur Staleys (later renamed the Chicago Bears) of the newly formed American Professional Football Association (later renamed the NFL). He planed to relocate permanently to Decatur and also play for the Staleys baseball and basketball teams.[7] Conzelman was reunited at Decatur with player-coach George Halas, with whom Conzelman had played on the 1918 Great Lakes team. In Conzelman's first game with the Staleys, he scored the game's only touchdown on a 43-yard run.[8] Playing at the halfback position, Conzelman handled punting, placekicking and passing for the Staleys in the important games and was selected as a second-team player on the 1920 All-Pro team.[9] The 1920 Staleys compiled a 10–1–2 record and finished in second place in the league.

Rock Island Independents

In October 1921, Conzelman joined the Rock Island Independents as the team's captain and coach.[10] He led Rock Island to a 4–1 record during the 1921 season.[11]

Milwaukee Badgers

During the 1923 season, Conzelman, as player and coach, led the Badgers to a 7-2-3 record and a third place finish in the NFL. Conzelman was also the team's second highest scorer with four touchdowns and two extra points.[12] During the 1924 season, Conzelman remained with the Badgers as a player only. The team's record fell to 5-8 and 12th place in the NFL.[13]

Detroit Panthers

In 1925, Conzelman organized and became the owner of a new NFL franchise in Detroit.[14][15] In addition to being the owner, Conzelman was also the team's coach and a player during the 1925 and 1926 NFL seasons. During the 1925 season, Conzelman's Detroit club compiled an 8-2-2 record, played at Navin Field, and outscored opponents by a combined total of 129 to 39.[16]

During the 1926 season, the Panthers dropped to 4-6-2 and compiled a record of 0-3-2 in the month of November.[17] In August 1927, Conzelman returned the Detroit franchise to the NFL.

Providence Steam Roller

In August 1927, following the collapse of the Detroit franchise, Conzelman signed as a player, manager and coach for the Providence Steam Roller. Conzelman brought players Gus Sonnenberg and Eddie Lynch with him from Detroit.[18] Conzelman and Wildcat Wilson were the leading scorers on the 1927 Providence team, each with four touchdowns. The Steam Roller finished the 1927 season an 8-5-1 record and a fifth place finish in the NFL.[19]

Conzelman led the 1928 Providence team to an 8-1-2 record and the club's first NFL championship.[20][21] The team's passing combination of Wildcat Wilson to Conzelman was the most effective in the league and accounted for most of the club's yardage until Conzelman twisted knee ligaments on a reception against the Yankees. Despite being unable to play in the second half of the season due to the injury, Conzelman was unanimously voted by his teammates as the team's most valuable player.[21][22]

In his final season as an NFL player-coach, Conzelman led the 1929 Providence team to a 4-6-2 record.[23]

Coaching career

Washington University

In January 1932, Conzelman returned to Washington University in St. Louis as the school's head football coach. He became the school's first alumnus to lead the football team.[24] Over the next eight years, Conzelman led Washington University Bears football team to Missouri Valley Conference championships in 1934, 1935, and 1939, and compiled an overall record of 40–35–2.[25]

In January 1940, Conzelman tendered his resignation as head coach of the Washington University football team, but the resignation was not accepted by the athletic board. The university chancellor directed Conzelman to attend an alumni rally in his support. Conzelman appeared and announced that he would not withdraw his resignation, though he would continue to support the program from the outside.[25] Newspaper accounts indicate that he may have been fired under pressure from a powerful "anti-Conzelman" group of alumni in downtown St. Louis.[26]

Chicago Cardinals (first stint)

In April 1940, Conzelman was hired as the head coach of the NFL's Chicago Cardinals. He replaced Ernie Nevers in the position.[27] In his first stint as head coach of the Cardinals, Conzelmena served three years with the Cardinals from 1940 to 1942, leading the club to a combined three-year record of 8–22.[11]

St. Louis Browns

Conzelman's tenure as head coach of the Cardinals was interrupted by a two-years stint as an administrator in Major League Baseball for the St. Louis Browns. In June 1943, he resigned his job as head coach of the Cardinals and was hired as director of public relations and assistant to Donald Lee Barnes, president and owner of the Browns.[28][29] He remained with the Browns for two years and was said to be the "secret weapon" of the 1944 St. Louis Browns team that won the American League pennant. Conzelman resigned his post with the club in August 1945.[30]

Chicago Cardinals (second stint)

In late November 1945, Conzelman was hired for a second time to serve as head coach of the Chicago Cardinals starting with the 1946 NFL season.[31] During the 1947 Chicago Cardinals season, the Cardinals compiled a 9–3 record and defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1947 NFL Championship Game.[32] Conzelman's 1948 Cardinals team compiled an 11–1 record during the regular season, led the NFL in offense with an average of 32.9 points per game, and lost to the Eagles in the 1948 NFL Championship Game.[33] In their second stint under Conzelman, the Cardinals compiled a 26–9 record from 1946 to 1948.[11]

On January 7, 1949, three weeks after the loss in the 1948 Championship Game, Conzelman resigned as the Cardinals' head coach. He had been working for D'Arcy Advertising Co. for the prior two years during the off-season and stated that he was resigning his coaching position to devote his full efforts to the advertising firm. The Cardinals' management said at the time that Conzelman's resignation was unexpected and "came like a bolt from the blue."[34][35]

Family, later years, and honors

Conzelman was married three times. He met Peggy Udell, a Ziegfield Follies performer, and the two were married in October 1923.[36][37] In July 1924, Udell sued for divorce seeking support for an unborn child.[38] The trial of the divorce action was postponed in July 1925 following the birth of the child.[39] Conzelman and Udell were ultimately divorced in 1930.[36] Conzelman's second marriage to Lilian Adele Conzelman ended in divorce in October 1935.[40] He married his third wife, Anna Forrestal, in December 1936.[41][42] Conzelman and his third wife had a son, James D. Conzelman, Jr. They remained married at the time of Conzelman's death.[43]

After resigning as coach of the Cardinals in 1949, Conzelman continued working as an advertising executive. He also made occasional appearances in stage and opera productions.[44]

In February 1964, Conzelman was chosen by a committee of nine newspapermen as part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's second induction class. Conzelman objected to his selection, but the committee tied his nomination to Art Rooney and selected him by acclamation in a voice vote that prevented Conzelman from raising a dissent.[45]

Other honors include the following:

After a lengthy hospitalization, Conzelman died in July 1970 at age 72.[43] He was buried at Calvary Cemetery and Mausoleum in St. Louis.[51]

Head coaching record


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Washington University Bears (Missouri Valley Conference) (1932–1939)
1932 Washington University 4–4 1–2 4th
1933 Washington University 4–5 1–2 4th
1934 Washington University 7–3 1–0 1st
1935 Washington University 6–4 3–0 T–1st
1936 Washington University 3–7 1–1 4th
1937 Washington University 4–6 2–2 T–3rd
1938 Washington University 6–3–1 2–1–1 4th
1939 Washington University 6–3–1 4–1 1st
Washington University: 40–35–2 15–9–1
Total: 40–35–2
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title


  1. "Jimmy Conzelman". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "New Coach Star at Football, Baseball, Basketball; Is Musician and Songwriter". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. January 22, 1932. p. 2B via Newspapers.com.
  3. Carnation (McKinley High School yearbook). June 1916. p. 81.
  4. David Condon (January 22, 1932). "Sports World Mourning for Jimmy Conzelman". Chicago Tribune. p. 2–2 via Newspapers.com.
  5. "1919 Washington (MO) Bears Schedule and Results". SR/College Football. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  6. 1 2 "Conzelman Says He Will Not Be Back". The Des Moines Register. June 28, 1920. p. 4.
  7. "Jimmy Conzelman Joins Staley Football Team". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. October 13, 1920. p. 24 via Newspapers.com.
  8. "Conzelman's 43-Yard Run Nets A Touchdown and Wins for Staley Eleven". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. October 18, 1920. p. 19 via Newspapers.com.
  9. "Jim Conzelman Gets Position on Second All-Star "Pro" Eleven". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. December 12, 1920. p. 12 via Newspapers.com.
  10. "Conzelman Is Made Manager: Former Staley Player To Handle Rock Island Football Team". The Decatur Herald. October 21, 1921. p. 4 via Newspapers.com.
  11. 1 2 3 "Jimmy Conzelman Coaching Record". SR/College Football. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  12. "1923 Milwaukee Badgers Statistics & Players". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved December 4, 2016.
  13. "1924 Milwaukee Badgers Statistics & Players". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved December 4, 2016.
  14. "Pro Grid Loop Dates Named: Conzelman Has Local Franchise". Detroit Free Press. August 3, 1925. p. 12.
  15. "Conzelman Is Versatile Stars In Athletics, Music". Detroit Free Press. August 23, 1925. p. 23.
  16. "1925 Detroit Panthers Statistics & Players". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved December 4, 2016.
  17. "1926 Detroit Panthers Statistics & Players". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved December 4, 2016.
  18. "Detroit Surrenders Its National Wheel Football Franchise: Conzelman To Manage Providence; Takes Sonnenberg and Lynch With Him". Green Bay Press-Gazette. August 22, 1927. p. 14 via Newspapers.com.
  19. "1927 Providence Steam Roller Statistics & Players". SR/College Football. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  20. "1928 Providence Steam Roller Statistics & Players". SR/College Football. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  21. 1 2 "Jimmy Conzelman "Most Valuable Man" On Greatest Team in "Pro" Football". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. December 9, 1928 via Newspapers.com.
  22. "Conzelman Still at It". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. October 18, 1929. p. 44 via Newspapers.com.
  23. "1929 Providence Steam Roller Statistics & Players". SR/College Football. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  24. "Jim Conzelman Named Head Football Coach at Washington". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. January 22, 1932. p. 2B via Newspapers.com.
  25. 1 2 W. Vernon Tietjen (January 17, 1940). "Conzelman Definitely Resigns As Bears' Grid Coach: Accepts Post on Athletic Council, Cheered by Grads". St. Louis Star-Times. p. 18 via Newspapers.com.
  26. "Washington Alumni To Probe Firing of Conzelman: Indignant Group to Determine if Coach Was Treated Fairly". St. Louis Star-Times. January 18, 1940. p. 22 via Newspapers.com.
  27. "Conzelman Is New Cardinal Football Boss: Former Star Will Take Charge at Once". Chicago Daily Tribune. April 11, 1940. p. 30 via Newspapers.com.
  28. Jack Hemstock (June 3, 1943). "Browns Sign Conzelman As Assistant To Barnes". St. Louis Star-Times. p. 22 via Newspapers.com.
  29. Wilfrid Smith (June 4, 1943). "Baseball Calls Conzelman To Job In St. Louis". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. p. 23 via Newspapers.com.
  30. "Conzelman Quits As Browns Aide". Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, NY). August 25, 1945. p. 11 via Newspapers.com.
  31. "Conzelman Will Resume Coaching Chicago Cards". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. November 28, 1945. p. 2B via Newspapers.com.
  32. "1947 Chicago Cardinals Statistics & Players". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  33. "1948 Chicago Cardinals Statistics & Players". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  34. "Conzelman, Cardinal Grid Coach, Resigns Post With NFL Titlists". Portland Press Herald. January 8, 1949. p. 7 via Newspapers.com.
  35. "Jimmy Conzelman Quits As Coach of Grid Cards For Ad Firm Job Here". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. January 8, 1949. p. 6A via Newspapers.com.
  36. 1 2 "Sues Jimmy Conzelman". The St. Louis Star. January 17, 1930. p. 1 via Newspapers.com.
  37. "Peggy Udell Again Wears Wedding Ring: Mother Announces Former Follies Girl's Marriage to Professional Ball Player". The Philadelphia Inquirer. April 15, 1924. p. 9 via Newspapers.com.
  38. "Peggy Udell Seeks Divorce". The Great Falls Tribune. July 10, 1924. p. 9 via Newspapers.com.
  39. "Stork Holds Up Former Follies Girl's Divorce Suit". The Gazette Times (Pittsburgh). July 5, 1925. p. 1 via Newspapers.com.
  40. "Coach Conzelman To Wed Miss Anna Forrestal Soon". St. Louis Star-Times. December 3, 1936. p. 28 via Newspapers.com.
  41. "Football Coach Conzelman To Wed Miss Anna Forrestal: Wedding to Take Place at Seminary in Florissant; Third for Athlete". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. December 2, 1936. p. 6C via Newspapers.com.
  42. Marriage License for James Conzelman and Ann Forrestal, both of St. Louis, issued November 27, 1936, ceremony December 5, 1936. Ancestry.com. Missouri, Marriage Records, 1805–2002 [database on-line].
  43. 1 2 "Jimmy Conzelman Dies". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. July 31, 1970. Retrieved July 23, 2016 via Newspapers.com.
  44. "Conzelman Signs Up For Park Opera Role". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. April 14, 1957. p. 4G via Newspapers.com.
  45. "Conzelman, Hinkle Gain Hall of Fame". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. February 28, 1964. p. 1E via Newspapers.com.
  46. "Conzelman Nominated To Hall". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. December 7, 1967. p. 1E via Newspapers.com.
  47. "Conzelman Plaque To Be Dedicated". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. September 11, 1968. p. 2E via Newspapers.com.
  48. Bob Broeg (August 27, 1969). "'Nice Things' Surprise Modest Jim Conzelman". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. p. 2E via Newspapers.com.
  49. "Maxvill, Devine In First Class To Enter Washington U. Hall". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. June 24, 1992. p. 8D via Newspapers.com.
  50. "Honors scheduled". The Arizona Republic. July 31, 2000.
  51. "Jimmy Conzelman". Find-a-Grave.com. Retrieved December 3, 2016.

External links

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