Chase Goodbread, contributing writer at NFL.com, assembled a list of the top 11 all-time NFL players who attended the service academies in order to commemorate the United States military through Memorial Day Weekend. The New York Giants are well represented, with four of the 11 players listed. The holiday is specifically reserved to honor military members that perished in the line of duty.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention two Giants ring of honor inductees who were killed in World War II - Jack Lummus and Al Blozis. Lummus was an officer in the United States Marine Corps who was killed at the battle of Iwo Jima. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor - the highest distinction in the United States Military. After losing both his legs at Iwo Jima, right before he passed away, Lummus famously stated “Well, doc, the New York Giants lost a mighty good end today.”
Blozis’ No. 32 is retired by theGiants. He was an officer in the Army who was killed in Eastern France; two of his men failed to return from a patrol and Blozis ventured to find the missing soldiers, but never returned. According to Fort Benning records, Blozis threw a grenade 97 yards, 2 feet, and 6.5 inches - the furthest ever at that time.
This list will not include Pat Tillman, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2004, after forgoing an NFL career to pursue a calling in the military, because he attended Arizona State and not a specific service academy. Tillman was awarded the Silver Star as an enlisted soldier, and a Ranger, in the United States Army.
Here’s Goodbread’s list of top service academy players in NFL history:
- Roger Staubach, QB, Navy
- Ed Sprinkle, DE, Navy
- Bob Hoernschemeyer, RB, Navy
- DeWitt “Tex” Coulter, C/OT, Army
- Mike Wahle, OG, Navy
- Chad Hennings, DT, Air Force
- Bob Mischak, OG, Army
- Alejandro Villanueva, OL, Army
- Glenn Davis, RB, Army
- Chris “Red” Cagle, RB/DB, Army
- Phil McConkey, WR, Navy
There are 11 players on this list and FOUR of them were Giants. Coulter, Mischak, Cagle, and McConkey were all members of Big Blue.
DeWitt “Tex” Coulter was with the Giants from 1946-1953, with a break in football during the 1950 season where he was working as a cartoon illustrator, as well as a painter. Coulter returned to football and made two consecutive Pro Bowls as a dominating force on the offensive line.
Mischak only spent the 1958 season with the Giants before he went to the AFL’s New York Titans. After being selected by the Browns in 1954, Cleveland traded Mischak to the Giants where he had a solid season; unluckily for the Giants, he went across town to a team that would become the Jets, and he was one of the better guards in the AFL at the time.
Cagle is different from the rest of the Giants’ players on the list; firstly, he goes back a little further to the 1930s where he was a Giant for three seasons (1930-1932). He was a dominant player at West Point - he was a three time All-American. Secondly, yes, Cagle was a talented and versatile football player for the time period, but he failed to graduate from West Point; he was removed from the program because he was secretly married, which was forbidden for cadets at that time, so there was no military service other than him attending West Point.
The most known player on this list is McConkey, who played a role in the Giants 39-20 Super Bowl XXI victory over the Denver Broncos. Steve Belichick, Bill’s father, was a longtime scout for the Navy Midshipmen, and he was the one to tell coach Bill Parcells about this 27-year-old rookie wide receiver. McConkey was with the Giants in 1984-1985 and 1986-1988 (spent part of 1986 with the Packers).
McConkey was a good punt returner who came up big as a receiver (2 catches for 50 yards, and a touchdown...other catch was on a 44-yard flea flicker) in the Giants first Super Bowl victory, analogous to David Tyree in Super Bowl XLII who was more of a special teams acce.
The Giants are an illustrious NFL franchise that prides itself on core values that lead to phrases like “once a Giant, always a Giant.” Wellington Mara, the father of current partial owner of the Giants John Mara, was an officer in the Navy during World War II. Mr. John Mara has often revered his father’s military service. That’s always been something that I admired about the history of the franchise.
It’s nice to see four Giants on the list of eleven. However, for this specific weekend, names like Keith Birlem, Mike Basca, Alex Ketzko, Walter Young, Don Wemple, Charlie Behan, Young Bussey, Edwin Kahn, Howard Johnson, Dave Schreiner, Don Steinbrunner, Bob Kalsu, Len Supulski, Chet Wetterlund, Pat Tillman, Jack Lummus, and Al Blozis deserve recognition over any of the 11 players mentioned above - and those 11 would be the first to acknowledge that fact.