For Pete's Sake

By: Pete Fierle

Pete Fierle, Manager - Digital Media/Communications
Pete's familiarity with the game's history is a result of spending two decades surrounded by the world's largest collection of pro football information. His many duties include overseeing the Hall's website as well as the day-to-day operation of the Ralph Wilson, Jr. Pro Football Research and Preservation Center.

It’s all in the name


Apr 14, 2011

A new "For Pete's Sake" blog appears each Thursday.

Despite the countless months of scouting in preparation for the annual college draft, the picking of future pros is not an exact science.

The fact of the matter is that the draft has never been black-and-white. Sometimes it's a crap shoot. It always amazes me how we spend so much time glued to the debate on the top picks of the draft when prospects from lower rounds often times end making it further into the pros.

Last week I asked Hall of Famer Steve Largent why some of the top picks end up not making it while some like him taken in the fourth round end up in Canton. Here's his response.

The draft began in 1936 as a method to make the NFL a more competitively balanced league. Obviously, this was long before organized scouting, convenient travel, and technology. The top college players were fairly well-known and teams gained much of their knowledge of a player from newspapers or magazines. Then, there's the case of how George Halas drafted future Hall of Famer Dan Fortmann.

"I like that name. I'll take him!"

That's how "Papa Bear" Halas grabbed the 19-year-old guard from Colgate in the ninth and final round of the first NFL draft. Personally, I think Halas had some options here. You be the judge on what are better names. Here are the remaining picks of the 9th round after the Bears picked Fortmann with the 78th overall selection.

• J.C. Wetsel, G, SMU (Packers)
• Bob "Choo-Choo" Train, E, Yale (Lions)
• Phil Flanagan, G, Holy Cross (Giants)

Lucky for Halas, Fortmann made him look brilliant in his choice. Neither Wetsel, Train, or Flanagan went on to play in the NFL. Meanwhile, Fortmann balanced his medical school studies with his commitment to the Bears. He was an integral part of Chicago's famed "Monsters of the Midway" teams that dominated the NFL during that era. Fortmann earned All-NFL honors six straight seasons from 1938 to 1943 while helping the Bears to five division crowns and three NFL titles before embarking a career in medicine. He was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965.

For the record, Fortmann is one of five Hall of Famers taken in the 9th round of the draft.

Year Ensrhinee Position College Team No. of Draft Rounds Pick Overall
1936 Dan Fortmann G Colgate Chicago Bears 9 78
1941 Tony Canadeo HB Gonzaga Green Bay Packers 22 77
1955 Johnny Unitas QB Louisville Pittsburgh Steelers 30 102
1957 Don Maynard WR Texas Western New York Giants 30 109
1967 Ken Houston S Prairie View A&M Houston Oilers 17 214