Wilbur "Pete” Henry signed with the Canton Bulldogs the same day – September 17, 1920 – that the National Football League (first known as the American Professional Football Association) was being organized in Canton, Ohio. In the Canton Repository the next day, the Henry acquisition was banner-headline news while the birth of the new pro football league was relegated to page three.
It’s understandable that the newspaper editor could not have grasped the significance of the league meeting. Under any circumstance, Henry was an established superstar, a valuable addition to the Canton team and worthy of headline attention. At first glance, however, Henry did not look like a football player.
Seemingly both short and pudgy, he looked soft and fat at 5-11 in and weighing 245. But his looks were truly deceiving. Henry had the swift reflexes of a man-eating tiger. Good-natured, easy-going and prone to laughter off the field, he was an uncompromising competitor on the gridiron. For the Bulldogs, who won NFL championships in both 1922 and 1923, Henry was a major contributor. Among his game heroics was a 40-yard field goal that tied Akron, 3-3, and preserved Canton's unbeaten season in 1922.
Henry did much more than just block and tackle with monotonous efficiency. Versatile, he was even used occasionally on a "tackle over tackle" play. "Fats," as he was also known, was a superior punter, placekicker and dropkicker and, for many years held a spot in the NFL record book for his kicking exploits.
The multi-talented tackle reportedly once dropkicked a 45-yard field goal and boomed a 94-yard punt. “Fats” might even have been more devastating on defense. One opposing coach thought that running right at Henry would be an effective way to neutralize the big man. After Henry flattened the entire side of the line, the coach abandoned his foolish game plan.
Wilbur Francis Henry
October 31, 1897
February 7, 1952
Enshrined into Pro Football Hall of Fame:
September 7, 1963 (represented by former Canton teammate Harry Robb)
E.E. "Rip" Miller, U.S. Naval Academy
Other Members of Class of 1963: Sammy Baugh
, Bert Bell, Joe Carr
, Earl "Dutch" Clark
, Harold "Red" Grange
, George Halas
, Mel Hein
, Cal Hubbard
, Don Hutson
, Earl "Curly" Lambeau
, Tim Mara
, George Preston Marshall
, John "Blood" McNally
, Bronko Nagurski
, Ernie Nevers
, Jim Thorpe
8 seasons, 86 games
Henry played prior to the NFL Draft being implemented.
13 (0, 18, 20)