• Phil Houk

Knute Rockne is 133 Years Old Today

Updated: Mar 6

By Phil Houk of Fighting Irish Preview

Born in Voss, Norway on March 4, in 1888, Knute Kenneth Rockne was not only a great football coach but he was a promoter with a flair for hyperbole who possessed multiple talents.

There was a time when he would stand on street corners in downtown South Bend selling season tickets and promoting his team. He was always looking for an angle to publicize his team and easily befriended sports writers across the Country who wrote glowingly of his program.

As a research assistant in the chemistry department while a student, Rockne worked with the Rev. Julius A. Nieuwland the chemist-priest who discovered synthetic rubber. He excelled at Latin, graduated Cum Laude, played the flute and acted in school plays. He designed Notre Dame stadium.

As an athlete he set the school record in the pole vault, was a boxer and he excelled at blocking and catching passes as a 5-8, 145-pound receiver.

Sportswriter, Grantland Rice, who immortalized the Four Horseman in 1924 said of Rockne that he possessed, “a certain indescribable flame. He had a physical and mental vitality that few men possessed.”

One of his early players, Chet Grant, who was a George Gipp teammate said that Rockne, “was effervescent, a harlequin, a practical joker, a quipper, a man of many parts.”

Oh, and he also could coach the game of football. Strategic innovation, formations, attention to detail and the passing game were all in his intellectual wheelhouse.

Rockne compiled a 105-12-5 record, won three national titles and had 5 undefeated seasons in the 13 years he coached. His .881 winning percentage stands to this day as the best in all of college football.

When his life was cut short at the age of just 43 years, he was at the peak of his fame and skills. It is said that the two most recognizable sports figures in America at that time were Babe Ruth and.......Rockne.

100,000 lined the streets of South Bend for his funeral procession and President Hoover called the death a "national loss.” The King of Norway, where he had been born, posthumously knighted him.

Undoubtedly, Rockne would have won many more games and championships had he lived, but what he accomplished during his short life turned into a billion-dollar brand and the passion of many millions of football fans throughout the world.

Happy birthday Coach Rockne, and thank you for the gift of Notre Dame football.

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