The American Tale of Three Athletes Who Inspire Us Today

Glenn the football coach, didn’t notice the 16-year-old kid named Jim when he first tried to enroll at Carisle Industrial School in Carlisle Pennsylvania. That was in 1904.

It wasn’t until three years later that when out of the blue, Jim, in his street clothes, walked past the track and asked if he could try the high jump for grins. As a joke the boys placed the bar at 5-ft. 9-in, the school record. Jim was only 5-ft 8-in tall but on the first try hurled over the mark.

Coach Glenn paid attention and recognized his athletic ability after that jump.

“This boy needs to play football,” he said and proceeded to recruit and coach the talented athlete.

Coach learned that when Jim’s twin brother died from pneumonia at age eight, he was sent off to boarding school.

Soon after arriving, he learned that his father was hurt in a hunting accident and Jim decided to return home, but he took the train 270 miles in the wrong direction. Seeing only one option, Jim, who was only 10-years-old, decided to walk home. It took him two weeks.

Carlisle’s 1912 record included a 27–6 victory over Army. In that game, Thorpe’s 92-yard touchdown was nullified by a teammate’s penalty, but on the next play Jim rushed for a 97-yard touchdown.

One player on the opposing team remembers playing  against Jim that season, and said, “Here and there, there are some people who are supremely endowed…He never practiced in his life, and he could do anything better than any other football player I ever saw.”

Look closely at the photo below. You can see that he’s wearing different socks and shoes. This wasn’t a fashion statement. It was the 1912 Olympics, and Jim, an American Indian originally from Oklahoma represented the U.S. in track and field.

On the morning of his competitions, his shoes were stolen. Luckily, Jim ended up finding two shoes in a garbage can. That’s the pair that he’s wearing in the photo. But one of the shoes was too big, so he had to wear an extra sock.

Wearing these shoes, Jim won two gold medals that day and became the first Native American to win a gold medal for the United States.

In 1929, a new factory in Northeast Philadelphia with huge ground-to-floor windows were constantly being shattered – 100 broken windows in just one month – by teenagers hurling stones from a nearby vacant lot.

Since the other factories in the area were also being plagued by the young vandals, Joe Tomlin, an athletic friend of the factory owner  suggested that the building owners get together to fund an athletic program for the kids.

The owners agreed, and asked Joe to set up a program. Commuting from his job as a stockbroker in New York City, he returned to his home in Philadelphia each weekend.

Fall was approaching, so football seemed a logical choice to begin the new project. He set up a schedule for a four-team Junior Football Conference in time for the 1929 season.

Then October came, and with it the collapse of the stock market. He left New York and returned to Philadelphia to concentrate on youth work.

By 1933, the Junior Football Conference (JFC) had expanded to 16 teams. That year Glenn arrived in Philadelphia to coach the Temple Owls.

Joe met Glenn at a winter banquet and asked him to lecture at a spring clinic he was planning for his JFC teams.

Coach Glenn

On the evening of April 19, 1934, the temperature dropped to an unseasonable low, with high winds and torrential rain mixed with sleet.

Of the dozen area college football coaches scheduled to speak at the clinic, only Glenn showed up. The 800 excited young football players kept him talking and answering questions for two hours. By the end of the evening, by popular acclaim, the fledging youth program was renamed the after Glenn.

Now back to Jim. From 1920 to 1921, he was the apparently the first president of the American Professional Football Association

He is a perfect reminder that you don’t have to resign to the excuses that have held you back. So what if life hasn’t been fair? What are you going to do about it today?

Whatever you woke up with this morning; stolen shoes, ill health, failed relationships, failed business, don’t let it stop you from running your race.

You can experience more in life if you’ll get over the excuses and get on with living. You can have reasons or you can have results…but you can’t have both.

Today, millions of men, women, girls and boys recognize Coach Glenn’s full name, but probably don’t know who he was.

He went by Pop. He was Glenn Scobey Warner, and that football conference that was named after him was the Pop Warner Conference.

Today, there are over 400,000 boys and girls, ages 5-16, participating in Pop Warner football, cheer and dance programs in the United States.

Teams in Mexico, Japan and other countries have also joined the “Pop Warner family.” There are now over 5,000 football teams, playing in eight different age/weight classifications.

And Jim? He went on to play professional sports until age 41. And his APFA became what is now known as the NFL…or National Football League. His name? Jim Thorpe.

Oh, let’s not forget about that guy who talked about playing against Thorpe in 1912. You know, the player whose team lost to 27-6. He became President of the United States. His name?

Dwight David Eisenhower.  

Despite Dwight Eisenhower’s kick, it wasn’t enough to beat Jim’s team in 1912.

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