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A look at back at the Wake Forest football team of 1889

Posted Friday, July 10, 2009

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George Blanton, a four year letter winner and member of the Wake Forest football team from 1889-1892 composed a letter in 1957 recalling his days on the fledgling squad. The team officially began the year before Blanton's arrival and had no coach. No teams in North Carolina had played the game before. The young men learned tactics and rules exclusively from the rule book written by Walter Camp, the man credited with inventing football in the late 19th century by tweaking the rules of rugby.

Blanton played the fullback position for three years and in 1892 the 136-pound senior moved to quarterback and became captain of the squad. The following is transcribed from his memoir:

In 1889 we had a student body of approximately 150 from which to select a team. We had poor fields and no seats. But since in those days we had little in the way of amusement at Wake Forest, when football season came around most of the students and a good number of the members of the faculty and townspeople were on the field to watch practice.

The varsity backs would play on one side against the varsity line on the other, the two elevens filled out with other students out for an afternoon's exercise. This was the only way we could get enough players for opposing teams practice.

It was custom for each team to choose one official to referee in one half and to umpire in the other. Since these chosen representatives usually had strong loyalties, this naturally produced numerous differences of opinion.

Each boy had to purchase his equipment - a lady on campus made the uniforms out of canvas - and was responsible for expenses on trips. The captain had all responsibilities for selecting and running the team. The manager arranged the games and looked after finances.

Our first game in 1889 was against U.N.C. at Chapel Hill. We won the game 18 to 8 and when we returned to Wake Forest we were met by our fellow students with a wagon into which we were thrown and drawn through campus to the ball field on Faculty Avenue. When I was called for a speech I was much more frightened than I had been playing in the game, my first match.

From that time on for four years I played the entire time in every Wake Forest game for three years as a fullback and one year as a quarterback (by then weighing 136 pounds) and captain of the team in 1892.

Substitutes were few in 1892. The team started off for Virginia to play three games in one weekend with three substitutes. We used them all on our first day when we played an exceedingly tough game against V.M.I., ending in a tie at 12 to 12.

V.M.I. used a member of their boxing team as center and I think he used our team for boxing practice. Three of our men were laid out: Walter Sikes got a cut above one eye though he did not quit the game. Will Jones and Carl Pridgen did not fare so well. The game was very close all the way through. The score was 6 to 6 until three minutes before V.M.I. made a touch down. To put the ball back in play, instead of kicking off as now, the team which was last scored against took the ball and ran it behind a flying V formation. We varied this by putting our swiftest man, Tom Crudup, in the center of the V then using the left wing with all the backs as interference. On this play Crudup reached the 10 yard line. Thus encouraged we made the touchdown and kicked a goal with one minute left.

As I look back today my happiest memories of good times center around wonderful friends and people like Dr. Charley Brewer and Dr. W.L. Poteat with their kindness, my fine boarding house lady, Mrs. Dickson with her friendly interest, in my four years roommate, E.B. Lattimore and that favorite citizen of all the boys, our druggist and baseball player Mr. T.E. Holding. My days at Wake Forest meant a great deal to me and it is a joy to recall them.

Read the complete letter here.

 
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