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Football in 1912

Now that it is football season again, here is a little story about a great team…

It was the fall of 1912 and the Wabash team was back on the field after a longer than usual break from football. The tragic death of a Wabash football player the year before had forced the cancellation of the remainder of the 1911 season. Ralph Lee Wilson’s story continues to inspire Wabash men yet today. As you might imagine, it was quite a blow to the school and yet the team was ready to get back to playing football.

The team of 1912 was coached by Jesse Harper, in the picture below far left, back row. Harper left Wabash later for Notre Dame where he created a football dynasty with his use of the innovative forward pass. Two books have recently been published about Harper that pull extensively from Wabash archival sources.

Here is a picture of the 1912 team…

Seated in the front row and holding the ball is team captain Morris “Doc” Elliott [W1913]. Doc was voted All-State first team for football. An article from the Indianapolis paper says of his place on the All-State team, “Elliott, the fighting Wabash Captain, is the smallest and probably the best in the bunch.”

Doc served as the class president, was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity and, as the oldest of eight sons, worked his way through college doing odd jobs. Upon graduation, Doc attended Pharmacy School and became a pharmacist and drug store owner like his father. For 20 years Doc was a Class Agent keeping his classmates in touch with Wabash. In a letter to the College, his daughter said that next to his wife, Doc loved Wabash best.

Beth Swift
Archivist
Wabash College

  1. There is an error in the above entry…Tom Bambrey brought to my attention in this paragraph…
    It was the fall of 1912 and the Wabash team was back on the field after a longer than usual break from football. The tragic death of a Wabash football player the year before had forced the cancellation of the remainder of the 1911 season. Ralph Lee Wilson’s story continues to inspire Wabash men yet today. As you might imagine, it was quite a blow to the school and yet the team was ready to get back to playing football.
    The photo is of the team of 1912, but the death of Ralph Lee Wilson was in 1910. Sorry for the error and thanks to Tom for catching it.
    Humbly,
    Beth

  2. Gretchen Elliott Cocuzza

    That’s my grandfather! wow…so exciting to see this. I am his youngest grandchild and my sons (and daughter) are now playing pop warner tackle football…Maybe we can talk our kids into Wabash ….Dockie (our name for grandfather) was wonderful…I miss him.
    love!
    Gretchen Elliott Cocuzza
    I am so glad to hear that this entry brought you some joy!
    Many thanks for your lovely comments.
    Beth

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