Pitt sophomores Tyler Boyd and James Conner were added to the watch lists for the Maxwell and Hornung awards Monday.
For no particular reason — other than simple curiosity — I decided I wanted to know more about the awards’ namesakes — Robert ”Tiny” Maxwell and Paul Hornung.
They played college and professional football to great success 50 years apart, but they also are indirectly linked through — of all things – gambling. One man did gamble; the other refused.
Hornung played halfback, safety and kicked for Notre Dame, winning the 1956 Heisman Trophy by 72 points over runner-up Johnny Majors. Hornung also played basketball for the Irish.
The Hornung award, which is only four years old, goes to the college football player judged to be the most versatile. Conner is expected to play running back and defensive end when Pitt opens training camp Aug. 3; Boyd is one of the nation’s top pass catchers and a threat in the return game.
Hornung, who played on the great Green Bay Packers teams of the 1960s, was suspended in 1963, along with Alex Karras, by NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle for betting on games and associating with undesirable characters.
Maxwell, who played for Swarthmore College (near Philadelphia), also played professionally for two Ohio teams, the Massillon Tigers and Canton Bulldogs, and an outfit known as the Pittsburgh Lyceums.
Just as an aside, the Lyceums, according to some accounts, was the city’s last championship football team until the 1970s. Later, in 1924, Art Rooney Sr. played for the Lyceums, according to a photo from the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
That has nothing to do with Tiny, but I thought it was a cool anecdote.
Anyway, when Maxwell played for Massillon in 1906, he was approached by a teammate to throw a game against Canton in what became known as the first major scandal in pro football.
Maxwell, a man of great character (after all, he later became a game official and a sports writer), reported the perpetrator and the scandal died.
Maxwell also is tied to an incident that enraged President Teddy Roosevelt.
In 1905, Maxwell played guard for Swarthmore – he was its best player — in a game against Penn. Maxwell left the game with a broken nose, eyes swollen shut and his face resembling steak tartare, according to a 1984 Sports Illustrated story.
When Roosevelt saw a photo of Maxwell’s bloodied face, he wanted to ban football from the U.S. landscape.
Eventually, he relented – Roosevelt was said to have been a fan – but subsequent regulations were aimed at making the game safer. Those included doubling the first-down yardage to 10, reducing the game from 70 to 6o minutes, tougher penalties against roughing, the establishment of a neutral zone on the line of scrimmage the length of the football and the legalization of the forward pass.
In other words, shaping the game much as we know it today.