October 31, 1897|
February 7, 1952 (aged 54)|
|Height:||5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)|
|Weight:||245 lb (111 kg)|
|High school:||Mansfield (OH)|
|College:||Washington & Jefferson|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Head coaching record|
|Regular season:||3–17–3 (.196)|
|Player stats at PFR|
|Coaching stats at PFR|
Wilbur Francis "Pete" Henry (October 31, 1897 – February 7, 1952) was an American football player, coach, and athletic administrator. He was a charter inductee into both the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963.
A native of Mansfield, Ohio, Henry attended Washington & Jefferson College where he played at the tackle position from 1915 to 1919. He was selected as a consensus All-American in 1918 and again in 1919.
He next played professional football in the National Football League (NFL) for the Canton Bulldogs (1920–1923, 1925–1926), New York Giants (1927), and Pottsville Maroons (1927–1928). He helped lead Canton to consecutive NFL championships in 1922 and 1923 and was selected as a first-team All-Pro four consecutive years from 1920 to 1923. He also served as head coach with Canton in 1926 and with Pottsville in 1928.
In 1929, Henry returned to Washington & Jefferson as an assistant football coach. He became athletic director in 1932 and held that position until his death in 1952. He was also the head coach of the Washington & Jefferson football team in 1942 and 1945.
Henry was born in 1897 in Mansfield, Ohio. He was the only child of Ulysses Sherman Henry (1865-1938), an Ohio native who worked for 32 years as a guard in a reformatory, and Bertha Frank Henry, an immigrant from Germany.
Henry attended Mansfield Senior High School where he played football both as a lineman and fullback from 1911 to 1914. As the team captain and starting fullback in 1914, Henry was effective as a lead blocker and passer out of a single-wing offense and led the team to an 8-1 record. That year, he also returned a fumble 50 yards for a touchdown and scored three touchdowns in one game.
In 1915, Henry enrolled at Washington & Jefferson College located approximately 30 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. He played football for the Washington & Jefferson Presidents football team for five years from 1915 to 1919 (the 1918 season was not counted against Henry's four years of eligibility due to his military service). During Henry's time with Washington & Jefferson, the football team compiled a 31–10–1 record.
Washington & Jefferson head coach Bob Folwell switched Henry in 1915 from a fullback to a tackle, the position he played for his entire college and professional career. The 1915 Washington & Jefferson football team compiled an 8–1–1 record, defeated Yale (which had won the national championship as recently as 1909) by a 17–0 score, and outscored all opponents, 219 to 45.
Henry became known as one of the best punt blockers in the game while playing for Washington & Jefferson. Years later, he cited a blocked punt in 1916 as his greatest thrill as a player. Taking the ball off the punter's toe and running it back 40 yards for a touchdown, Henry recalled: "The ball plopped right against my stomach and never bounced as I threw my arms around it."
In 1919, Pitt argued that Henry was ineligible to play a fifth year. A gentleman's agreement among all college teams generally allowed players whose 1918 seasons were cut short to play. In fact, Pitt played several other teams with similarly situated players without complaint. Henry agreed to sit out the game, and Pitt won, 7–6. Washington & Jefferson fans circulated flyers at the game that said, "Who Scared Pitt?" on the front with a mug shot and one word, "Henry", on the back. In his later years, Henry was not one to keep souvenirs, but he did keep the program from that game.
In 1920, Pop Warner, who had coached against Henry at Pitt, selected Henry as one of the two tackles on his greatest collegiate eleven of all time and said: "Henry was the fastest and most aggressive big man I ever saw."
Henry also played basketball for W&J and competed in weights events for the Washington & Jefferson track team. He also later played professional basketball for the Warren Trumbull Steels, Canton Sinclair Oils, and Dover All-Stars.
Canton Bulldogs (1920–1923)
Upon graduating from college in 1920, Henry was 5 feet, 11 inches and weighed 235 pounds, but was "considered a fast man, able to do the hundred in close to 11 seconds." He received offers to play professional football for the Canton Bulldogs, Cleveland Tigers, Akron Pros, Hammond Pros, and Rock Island Independents. He signed with Canton in September 1920, saying he wished to play with Jim Thorpe.
As a rookie, Henry participated in the first season of the new professional association that became the NFL. He played all 13 games for the 1920 Bulldogs team that compiled a 7–4–2 record. At the end of the 1920 season, Henry was selected as a first-team tackle on the All-Pro team selected by sportswriters Bruce Copeland (Rock Island Argus).
In 1922, Guy Chamberlin joined the Canton team as player, coach, and part owner and built the Bulldogs into one of the NFL's first powerhouse teams. The 1922 Bulldogs team included Pro Football Hall of Famers (Henry, Chamberlin, and Link Lyman), compiled a 10–0–2 record, shut out nine of twelve opponents, outscored all opponents 184 to 15, and won the 1922 NFL championship.
The following year, the 1923 Canton Bulldogs with Henry and Chamberlin compiled another undefeated season (11–0–1), shut out eight of twelve opponents, outscored all opponents by a combined total of 246 to 19, and won its second consecutive NFL championship. Henry led the 1923 team with 58 points on nine field goals, 25 extra points, and a touchdown reception. On October 23, 1923, he set an NFL record with a 94-yard punt; his record stood until 1969. On November 11, 1923, with the Bulldogs trailing to Buffalo by a 3–0 score and a half minute left in the game, Henry blocked a Tommy Hughitt punt and then drop-kicked a field goal to preserve Canton's undefeated season. At the end of the 1923 season, Henry was selected by Collyer's Eye magazine, the Green Bay Press-Gazette, and the Canton Daily News as a first-team player on the 1923 All-Pro Team.
Pottsville Maroons (1924)
In August 1924, Cleveland jeweler Samuel Deutsch bought the Canton Bulldogs and moved the team to Cleveland where they became the Cleveland Bulldogs during the 1924 NFL season. Henry did not join the Bulldogs in Cleveland, instead playing for the 1924 Pottsville Maroons of the Anthracite League. (Pottsville in the 1920s was a city with a population of approximately 22,000 located 100 miles northwest of Philadelphia.) Henry led Pottsville to a 12–1–1 record and the Anthracite League championship and was named to the All-Anthracite team at the end of the 1924 season.
Canton Bulldogs (1925–1926)
In January 1925, Henry was reinstated to good standing with the NFL, having been subjected to sanctions the previous year when he refused to join the Bulldogs when the team moved to Cleveland. In the summer of 1925, Henry and four other Canton alumni (Link Lyman, Rudy Comstock, Ben Jones, and Harry Robb) bought the Cleveland Bulldogs for $3,500 and moved the team back to Canton. Henry appeared in only six games for the 1925 Canton team, missing much of the season due to injury. The following year, he appeared in all 13 games and served as co-head coach with Harry Robb of the 1926 Canton team that compiled a 1–9–3 record.
New York and Pottsville (1927–1928)
Before the 1927 season, the NFL dropped 12 teams, including Canton. In September 1927, Henry signed to play with the New York Giants. He appeared in only four games for the Giants. In mid-October 1927, he was acquired by the Pottsville Maroons (for whom he had played in 1924) in a transaction with the Giants. He remained with Pottsville through the 1928 season. He also served as head coach of the 1928 Pottsville team that compiled a 2–8 record against NFL opponents.
Honors and awards
Henry received multiple honors and awards arising out of his accomplishments as a football player, including the following:
- In November 1928, John Heisman selected Henry for "Heisman's Hundred in Hall of Football Fame". Heisman cited Henry's "extraordinary" speed and called Henry "[b]eyond all question . . . the greatest punt blocker the game has ever known."
- In November 1931, a jury consisting of many of football's leading figures, including Pop Warner, Robert Zuppke, Gil Dobie, Hugo Bezdek, and Bill Roper, was tasked with selecting "Football's Greatest Player." Henry finished 16th in the voting.
- In November 1939, Grantland Rice included Henry as one of two tackles and eleven players on the All-Time All-America team he selected for Collier's magazine.
- In October 1951, Henry was inducted into the Helms Athletic Foundation's Professional Football Hall of Fame. He had previously been inducted into the Helms College Football Hall of Fame in 1949 and was the eighth player to be inducted into both the pro and college football hall of fames established by the Helms Foundation.
- In November 1951, Henry was one of 52 inaugural inductees into the National Football Foundation's Football Hall of Fame (later renamed the College Football Hall of Fame).
- In January 1963, Henry was selected as one of the 17 inaugural inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
- In August 1969, Henry was named to the NFL 1930s All-Decade Team.
- In February 1971, Washington & Jefferson College dedicated its new multipurpose sports complex as the Henry Physical Education Center (later renamed Henry Memorial Center) in his honor.
Coaching and administrative career
In June 1929, Henry was hired by his alma mater W&J as an advisory coach to the football team and head coach of the basketball and track teams. In the fall of 1929, Henry also coached W&J's freshman football team. He was promoted in July 1930 to assistant coach for W&J's varsity football team.
Henry became the school's athletic director in April 1932 while retaining his duties as line coach for the football team.
When Stu Holcomb resigned as W&J's head football coach in early 1942, Henry added the responsibility to his duties as athletic director. W&J President Ralph Cooper Hutchinson said at the time: "At this time, when football, along with other college activities, faces a crisis due to war conditions, the college has turned to Director Henry to serve in the emergency." W&J withdrew from intercollegiate for the 1943 and 1944 seasons due to wartime conditions. When football resumed in 1945, Henry again served as the team's head coach. In January 1946, Henry stepped down as head coach with the hiring of Henry Leucht to take over those responsibilities.
Henry continued to serve as W&J's athletic director until his death in 1952.
Family and death
In his later years, Henry developed diabetes which limited his circulation. In January 1949, he had his right leg amputated to treat a gangrenous infection that developed in a toe. He died in 1952 at age 54 at his home in Washington, Pennsylvania. The cause of death was septicemia due to gangrene in his left foot and diabetes mellitus. He was buried at Mansfield Cemetery in Mansfield, Ohio.
- "Pete Henry". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved October 19, 2017.
- "'Pete' Henry's Father, 72, Dies". The Mansfield News-Journal. January 31, 1938. p. 7 – via Newspapers.com.
- 1910 U.S. Census entry for Ulyses S. Henry and family. Son Wilbur F., age 12, born in Ohio. Census Place: Mansfield Ward 3, Richland, Ohio; Roll: T624_1225; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 0184; FHL microfilm: 1375238. Source Information: Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line].
- "Larger than football: Henry's size and speed made him a superstar in early years". Mansfield News Journal. August 31, 1999. pp. 1B, 4B – via Newspapers.com.
- Chris Willis (2005). "The Perfect Tackle: The Career of Hall of Famer Pete Henry" (PDF). The Coffin Corner. Pro Football Researchers. Retrieved October 20, 2017.
- "Wilbur "Fats" Henry". National Football Foundation. Retrieved October 20, 2017.
- "Washington & Jefferson Presidents School History". SR/College Football. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved October 20, 2017.
- "1915 Washington & Jefferson Presidents Schedule and Results". SR/College Football. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved October 20, 2017.
- John Heisman (November 29, 1928). "Heisman's Hundred in Hall of Football Fame". The Philadelphia Inquirer. p. 14 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Selected By Camp In 1917, 19: Pete Henry Was First W-J Athlete Honored; Four-Letter Winner". The Mansfield News-Journal. December 10, 1937. pp. 22, 23 – via Newspapers.com.
- Spalding's Football Guide
- "Football Award Winners" (PDF). National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). 2016. p. 6. Retrieved October 21, 2017.
- E. Lee, North (1991). "Chapter 6: Who Scared Pitt?". Battling the Indians, Panthers, and Nittany Lions: The Story of Washington & Jefferson College's First Century of Football, 1890-1990. Daring Books. pp. 75–83. ISBN 978-1-878302-03-8. OCLC 24174022.
- "Warner Ranks Two Pitt, One W. & J. Men on "Greatest" Team". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. November 2, 1920. p. 9 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Canton Bulldogs Get Wilbur Henry". Mansfield News-Journal. September 19, 1920. p. 2B – via Newspapers.com.
- "Recalls Toledo Battle". The Mansfield News-Journal. December 9, 1937. p. 20 – via Newspapers.com.
- Hogrogian, John (1984). "1920 All-Pros" (PDF). The Coffin Corner. Professional Football Researchers Association. 6 (1).
- "1921 APFA All-Pros". pro-football-reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
- "1922 Canton Bulldogs Statistics & Players". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved October 20, 2017.
- "1923 Canton Bulldogs Schedule & Game Results". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved April 9, 2017.
- "All-Americans and Canton in 3-3 Tie Game: Blocked Punt and field goal by Henry in Final Minute of Play Saves Bulldog Eleven From Defeat". The Buffalo Commercial. November 12, 1923. p. 8 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Henry Again Saves Canton Pro Eleven". The Mansfield News. November 12, 1923. p. 9 – via Newspapers.com.
- "1923 NFL All-Pros". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved April 9, 2017.
- "Collyer's All-Star Pro Elevens". The Davenport Democrat and Leader. December 21, 1923. p. 25 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Champion Bulldogs Sold To Cleveland". Akron Beacon-Journal. August 4, 1924. p. 12 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Copley Names Chapman On His All-Star Anth. Football Aggregation". Mount Carmel (PA) Item. December 15, 1924. p. 5.
- "Pete Henry In National League Again". The Mansfield News. January 19, 1925. p. 8 – via Newspapers.com.
- Old Leather, p. 59.
- "Canton Bulldogs to Return in Fall". The Gazette Times. Pittsburgh. July 19, 1925. p. 31 – via Newspapers.com.
- "1925 Canton Bulldogs Statistics & Players". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved October 22, 2017.
- "Akron Is Next On Bulldog Program". The Daily Times (New Philadelphia, Ohio). November 12, 1925. p. 7 – via Newspapers.com.
- "1926 Canton Bulldogs Statistics & Players". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved October 22, 2017.
- "Here's Your Hat" (PDF). Pro Football Researchers Association. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 18, 2010. Retrieved February 24, 2012.
- "Pete Henry Signs To Play With Giants". Chester (PA) Times. September 22, 1927. p. 15 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Pete Henry Comes Back To Pottsville". Mount Carmel (PA) Item. October 20, 1927. p. 2 – via Newspapers.com.
- "1928 Pottsville Maroons Statistics & Players". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved October 21, 2017.
- "Who's Football's Greatest Player?". The Courier-Journal. November 22, 1931. p. 54 – via Newspapers.com.
- "'Pete' Henry Named on Collier's Eternal All-America By Rice". The Mansfield News-Journal. December 2, 1939. p. 6 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Pete Henry Named To Pro Hall of Fame". The Daily Republican. October 18, 1951. p. 2 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Hall of Fame Now Has 31 Players and 21 Coaches". Wisconsin Rapids (Wis.) Daily Tribune. November 5, 1951. p. 7 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Election of Late Pete Henry to Hall of Fame Will Be Honored Saturday". The Daily Notes (Canonsburg, PA). October 20, 1953. p. 8.
- "Pittsburgh Touch Given Pro Football's 'Hall' In Canton: 17, Including Bert Bell, Pete Henry And Cal Hubbard, Charter Members". The Pittsburgh Press. September 6, 1963. p. 32 – via Newspapers.com.
- "All-1930's NFL Team Selected". The Baltimore Sun. August 27, 1969. p. C5.
- "W&J To Honor Former Athlete At Dedication". The Daily Notes (Canonsburg, PA). February 2, 1971. p. 5 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Wilbur Henry To Coach At W. & J". The Mansfield News. June 22, 1929. p. 19 – via Newspapers.com.
- "W. & J. Frosh To Meet Kiski". The Daily Republican. October 2, 1929. p. 3 – via Newspapers.com.
- "W. & J. Elevates Henry As Coach". The Evening Independent (Massillon, Ohio). July 10, 1930. p. 11 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Henry Directs W-J Athletics". The Daily Times (Philadelphia, Ohio). April 22, 1932. p. 6 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Henry Is Named Football Coach At Wash-Jeff". The Daily Notes. April 24, 1942. p. 8 – via Newspapers.com.
- "The Sportseer". The Indiana (PA) Gazette. October 25, 1956. p. 10 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Coach Chosen To Lead W. & J. To Glory Road". The Daily Notes. January 15, 1946. p. 6 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Joins Professionals". The News-Messenger (Fremont, Ohio). September 19, 1927. p. 8 – via Newspapers.com.
- Rex Hess (November 11, 1942). "Sports Podge". Mansfield News-Journal. p. 10 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Pete Henry's Leg Amputated". The Daily Notes. January 20, 1949. p. 6 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Sports World Pays Tribute To Henry". The Daily Notes (Canonsburg, Pennsylvania). February 8, 1952. p. 6 – via Newspapers.com.
- Death certificate for Wilbur Frank Henry, dated February 9, 1952. Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, US; Certificate Number Range: 017401-019950. Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1964 [database on-line].
- Scarborough, David Knowles (1979). "Intercollegiate Athletics at Washington and Jefferson College: the Building of a Tradition". Ph.D Dissertation. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: University of Pittsburgh: 73.