While Jimmy Conzelman was a success at most of his endeavors, which included stints as a newspaper publisher, playwright, author, orator, and actor, it was primarily as a football player and coach that he excelled.
A halfback at Washington University in St. Louis, he began his post-college career as a member of the Great Lakes Navy team that won the 1919 Rose Bowl. One of his Great Lakes teammates was George Halas, who recruited him for his 1920 Decatur Staleys team in the newly formed American Professional Football Association, which later changed its name to the National Football League.
After one season with the Staleys, Conzelman moved on to the Rock Island Independents where he began his career as a player-coach. He stayed with the Independents through seven games of the 1922 season before jumping to the Milwaukee Badgers for the remainder of the season and the 1923 season. Offered an NFL franchise in Detroit in 1925 for a reported $100 investment, Conzelman became an NFL owner. Although the team was fairly successful on the field (8-2-2 in 1925 and 4-6-2 in 1926) the team received little support from the Motor City fans.
Eventually he returned the franchise back to the league and in 1927 joined the Providence Steam Roller as the player-coach. Quarterback Conzelman suffered a knee injury in 1928, but coach Conzelman led the team to an 8-1-2 record and the NFL title. Conzelman left Providence in 1930 wanting to try his hand at other careers. But, in 1940, the popular Irishman was lured back into the NFL with the Chicago Cardinals. He helped the team stay strong during the challenging World War II years before leaving to work in major league baseball. In 1946, Conzelman returned to the Cardinals. The following year his Cards won the NFL title and in 1948 a second straight division title.
Full Name: James Gleason Conzelman
Birthdate: March 6, 1898
Birthplace: St. Louis, Missouri
Died: July 31, 1970
High School: McKinley (St. Louis, MO)
Enshrined into Pro Football Hall of Fame: Sept. 6, 1964
Presenter: Justice Williams O. Douglas, United States Supreme Court
Other Members of Class of 1964: Ed Healey, Clarke Hinkle, Link Lyman, Mike Michalske, Art Rooney, George Trafton
Pro Career: 10 seasons, 102 games
Drafted: Conzelman played prior to the NFL Draft being implemented.
Uniform Number: 1