No. 12 - The Galloping Ghost
Long before Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn were breaking ankles at Memorial Stadium, Harold "Red" Grange was making defenders fall like fools. A native of Wheaton, IL, Grange matriculated to his home state university, and led the Illini to an undefeated 1923 season and a claim to the national title. The following year, Illinois opened their brand new Memorial Stadium and hosted Michigan in the first game. This was a Michigan squad that was riding a 20 game unbeaten streak. Take it away, Red..
He returned the opening kickoff for a 95-yard touchdown, and scored three more touchdowns on runs of 67, 56 and 44 yards in the first twelve minutes. This four-touchdown first quarter outburst equaled the number of touchdowns allowed by Michigan in the previous two seasons. After sitting out the second quarter, Grange returned in the second half to run 11 yards for a fifth touchdown and passed 20 yards for a sixth score as Illinois won 39-14 to end Michigan's 20-game unbeaten streak. He totaled 402 yards - 212 rushing, 64 passing and 126 on kickoff returns.
The game inspired famed scribe Grantland Rice to pen the following:
A streak of fire, a breath of flame
Eluding all who reach and clutch;
A gray ghost thrown into the game
That rival hands may never touch;
A rubber bounding, blasting soul
Whose destination is the goal — Red Grange of Illinois!
Chicago sportswriter Warren Brown dubbed Grange "The Galloping Ghost." In his 20-game college career, he ran for 3,362 yards, caught 14 passes for 253 yards and completed 40-of-82 passes for 575 yards. Of his 31 touchdowns, 16 were from at least 20 yards, with nine from more than 50 yards. He scored at least one touchdown in every game he played but one, a 1925 loss to Nebraska. He earned All-America recognition three consecutive years, and appeared on the October 5, 1925, cover of Time.
Then he went and legitimized the NFL. But that's a story for another blog...
[EDIT: TR,E has just learned that Grange has eligibility left and may suit up for the Illini again]