Jack Grinold/Eastern Massachusetts Chapter
National Football Foundation
We owe our founding to the Oldsmobile Corporation of America.
In 1974, the company transferred Bill Owen from Missouri and made him the head of Oldsmobile of New England. Owen had played football at Bowdoin College under coach Adam Walsh. Walsh, a football icon, had been the captain and All-America center on the most legendary team of all time, the Four Horsemen and Seven Mules of Notre Dame.
While Owen worked in Missouri he had been involved in starting a National Football Foundation Chapter in that state. He became a good friend of Dan Devine, then the coach at the University of Missouri, soon to be the coach at Notre Dame.
Owen was astonished when he landed in Boston that there was no NFF Chapter in the area: Western Massachusetts, yes, Eastern Massachusetts, no. Hell, we were the true home of football. History tells us that the first football ever played was contested on the Boston Common from 1862 - 1865 by the Oneida Football Club, a team comprised of students from Dixwell Latin, Boston English and Boston Latin. They played against all challengers and their goal-line was never crossed. We in Boston were way ahead of Princeton vs. Rutgers in 1869 or Harvard vs. McGill in 1874. If you doubt this there is a monument on the Boston Common commemorating their feats and Historic New England has their initial football.
A reason for the lack of an NFF Chapter was the huge presence of the Gridiron Club of Greater Boston established in 1932 which was an outgrowth of the New England Football Writers Association which started in1928.
Owen got to work, contacting the irrepressible NFF Director Jimmy McDowell. On an early December day in 1975, a meeting was convened at the Parker House in Boston. The meeting led by Owen and McDowell included luminaries Bill Flynn, Swede Nelson, Bill Ohrenberger, Jack Daly, Joe McKenney, Joe Zabiliski, Scotty Whitelaw, Ed Schluntz and two youngish sports information directors, Eddie Miller of Boston College and Jack Grinold of Northeastern University. It was quite a group. Flynn was the legendary athletic director at Boston College. Nelson a prominent cotton broker and public speaker had starred on Harvard’s 1919 Rose Bowl team. McKenney had both captained Boston College to an undefeated football season in 1926 and had coached them to an undefeated season in 1928. Ohrenberger, another B.C. great, had risen to become the Superintendent of the Boston School system. Daly, an outstanding player at Williams College, was a noted raconteur and football official. Zabilski was “Mr. Football” at Northeastern and coached the Huskies for 24 years. Whitelaw was the long-time commissioner of the Eastern College Athletic Conference and long-time treasurer of the Chapter. Schluntz, the only high school coach present could either be termed “Mr. Brookline” or “Mr. Tufts”. He has done yeoman labors for the Chapter and our annual Contributions to Amateur Football Award is now in his name. The two youngish attendees Miller and Grinold, listened quietly but volunteered quickly.
Under the energy and influence of the group over 200 members were enrolled and the Eastern Mass Chapter was incorporated in 1976. It was a huge chapter, extending all the way to Worcester. In 1982, the Foundation thought it judicious to start the Central Massachusetts Chapter.
The first major event held by the Eastern Mass Chapter was in May of 1976 at the Florian Hall in Dorchester. Eleven scholar-athletes were selected by a committee chaired by Schluntz. He would repeat this chore for 38 years. The two adult honorees were Swede Nelson with the Distinguished American Award and Joe McKenney with the Contribution to Amateur Football Award. The Chapter was officially up and running.
Just a mention of a few people who have contributed to the Chapter that I have not mentioned:
· Our introducers of inductees over the years, Heisman Trophy winner Joe Bellino, Boston Patriots star Ron Burton (for whom we have named our Distinguished American Award), and Boston Globe High School Sports Editor, Bob Holmes.
· Our banquets were managed for many decades by George Makris, and our treasury by Walter Lyons.
· Jack Daly’s devotion to the Chapter and the many hours he entertained us with his State of Maine stories. We’ve honored him by naming our Collegiate Academics, Citizenship and Football Award in his name.
One last note, our 25th anniversary banquet was a classic. The dais featured three Heisman Trophy winners in the late Dick Kazmaier, Bellino and Doug Flutie.
By Jack Grinold
Editor’s note: the name of the Chapter was officially changed to the Jack Grinold Eastern Massachusetts Chapter in 2005.