Jimmy Conzelman
Jimmy Conzelman
No. 1
Position:Halfback, quarterback
Personal information
Born:(1898-03-06)March 6, 1898
St. Louis, Missouri
Died:July 31, 1970(1970-07-31) (aged 72)
St. Louis, Missouri
Career information
High school:St. Louis (MO) McKinley
College:Washington (MO)
Career history
As player:
* Decatur Staleys (1920)
As coach:
* Rock Island Independents (1921–1922)
  • Milwaukee Badgers (1922–1924)
  • Detroit Panthers (1925–1926)
  • Providence Steam Roller (1927–1929)
  • St. Louis Gunners (1931)
  • Washington University (1932–1939)
  • Chicago Cardinals (1940–1942)
  • Chicago Cardinals (1946–1948)
  • Career highlights and awards
    * 2× NFL champion (1928, 1947)
    Career NFL statistics
    Coaching record:87–63–18
    Rushing touchdowns:16
    Games played:104
    Player stats at

    James Gleason Dunn Conzelman (March 6, 1898 – July 31, 1970) was an American football player and coach, baseball executive, and advertising executive. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1964 and was selected in 1969 as a quarterback on the National Football League 1920s All-Decade Team.

    A native of St. Louis, Conzelman played college football for the 1918 Great Lakes Navy Bluejackets team that won the 1919 Rose Bowl. In 1919, he was an All-Missouri Valley Conference quarterback for the Washington University Pikers football team. He then played ten seasons as a quarterback, halfback, placekicker, and coach in the National Football League (NFL) for the Decatur Staleys (1920), Rock Island Independents (1921–1922), Milwaukee Badgers (1922–1924), Detroit Panthers (1925–1926), and Providence Steam Roller (1927–1929). He was also a team owner in Detroit and, as player-coach, led the 1928 Providence Steam Roller team to an NFL championship.

    From 1932 to 1939, Conzelman was the head football coach for the Washington University Bears football team, leading the program to Missouri Valley Conference championships in 1934, 1935, and 1939. He served as head coach of the NFL's Chicago Cardinals from 1940 to 1942 and again from 1946 to 1948. He led the Cardinals to an NFL championship in 1947 and Western Division championships in 1947 and 1948. He was also an executive with St. Louis Browns in Major League Baseball from 1943 to 1945.

    Early yearsEdit

    Conzelman was born James Gleason Ryan Dunn in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1898.[1][2] He was the son of James Dunn and Marguerite Ryan, though his father died when he was still a baby. In 1902, his mother married a dentist, Oscar Conzelman, who adopted him.[2][3][4]

    Conzelman attended Loyola Academy and later Central High School in St. Louis. He began playing football as a halfback at Central High in 1914. After a realignment of high school districts in 1915, Conzelman attended McKinley High School.[5] At McKinley, Conzelman was the quarterback of the football team, competed on the basketball and track teams, was president of the boys' athletic association, and served as sergeant-at-arms of the Class of 1916.[6] He led the 1915 McKinley football team to a league championship.[5]

    College and military serviceEdit

    Conzelman enrolled at Washington University in St. Louis in 1916. He played freshman football that year but enlisted in the United States Navy when the United States entered World War I in 1917. He was stationed at the Great Lakes Naval Station north of Chicago. During two years of service, he played for the Naval Station's football, baseball, and basketball teams. He also took up boxing while in the Navy and won a championship in the middleweight division.[5] He was the quarterback of the 1918 Great Lakes Navy Bluejackets football team that defeated previously undefeated Navy and then defeated the Mare Island Marines by a 17–0 score in the 1919 Rose Bowl. Conzelman's teammates on the 1918 Great Lakes team included George Halas and Paddy Driscoll, all three of whom were later inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.[7]

    After the war, Conzelman turned down offers to become a professional boxer and returned to Washington University in February 1919. He played for the 1919 Washington Pikers football team that compiled a 5–2 record and outscored opponents 127 to 30. Conzelman was selected as the All-Missouri Valley Conference quarterback for 1919.[5][8] He also was the catcher for the 1920 Washington University baseball team and organized an orchestra, played banjo, and wrote songs while attending Washington University.[5]

    During the spring semester of 1920, Conzelman lost his eligibility to play football due to academic deficiencies.[9] His father had also died in May 1919,[10] and he withdrew from school to help support his mother and younger siblings.[5] In June 1920, Conzelman announced that he would not return to Washington University in the fall. He spent the summer leading an orchestra in Arkansas.[9]

    Professional football playerEdit

    Decatur StaleysEdit

    In mid-October 1920, Conzelman joined the Decatur Staleys (later renamed the Chicago Bears) of the newly formed American Professional Football Association (later renamed the NFL). He planned to relocate permanently to Decatur and also play for the Staleys baseball and basketball teams.[11] Conzelman was reunited at Decatur with player-coach George Halas, with whom Conzelman had played on the 1918 Great Lakes team. In Conzelman's first game with the Staleys, he scored the game's only touchdown on a 43-yard run.[12] Playing at the halfback position, Conzelman handled punting, placekicking and passing for the Staleys in the important games and was selected as a second-team player on the 1920 All-Pro team.[13] The 1920 Staleys compiled a 10–1–2 record and finished in second place in the league.

    Rock Island IndependentsEdit

    In October 1921, Conzelman joined the Rock Island Independents as the team's captain and coach.[14] At age 23, he was one of the youngest coaches in NFL history.[3] He led Rock Island to a 4–1 record during the 1921 season.[15]

    Milwaukee BadgersEdit

    After starting the season with Rock Island, Conzelman signed with the Milwaukee Badgers in the middle of their 1922 season.[16] He was the Badgers' coach and a player for the final three games of the 1922 season during which the team went 0–3.[17]

    During the 1923 season, Conzelman, as player and coach, led the Badgers to a 7–2–3 record and a third-place finish out of 20 teams in the NFL. Conzelman was also the team's second highest scorer with four touchdowns and two extra points.[18] During the 1924 season, Conzelman remained with the Badgers as a player only. The team's record fell to 5–8 and 12th place in the NFL.[19]

    Detroit PanthersEdit

    In 1925, Conzelman organized and became the owner of a new NFL franchise in Detroit, which he named the Detroit Panthers.[20][21] He reportedly paid a franchise fee of only $50 to the NFL to acquire the Detroit franchise.[22] In addition to being the owner, Conzelman was also the team's coach and a player during the 1925 and 1926 NFL seasons. During the 1925 season, Conzelman's Detroit club compiled an 8–2–2 record, played at Navin Field, and outscored opponents by a combined total of 129 to 39.[23]

    During the 1926 season, the Panthers dropped to 4–6–2 and compiled a record of 0–3–2 in the month of November.[24] The team's attendance in Detroit was approximately 3,000 persons per game, not enough for Conzelman to make a profit. Accordingly, in August 1927, Conzelman sold the Detroit franchise back to the NFL for $1,200.[3][25] Conzelman later recalled: "We simply were ahead of our time in Detroit. The town wasn't quite ready for pro football."[26]

    Providence Steam RollerEdit

    In August 1927, following his decision to sell the Detroit franchise back to the league, Conzelman signed as a player, manager and coach for the Providence Steam Roller. Conzelman brought players Gus Sonnenberg and Eddie Lynch with him from Detroit.[27] Conzelman and Wildcat Wilson were the leading scorers on the 1927 Providence team, each with four touchdowns. The Steam Roller finished the 1927 season an 8–5–1 record and a fifth-place finish in the NFL.[28]

    Conzelman led the 1928 Providence team to an 8–1–2 record and the club's first NFL championship.[29][30] The team's passing combination of Wildcat Wilson to Conzelman was the most effective in the league and accounted for most of the club's yardage until Conzelman twisted knee ligaments on a reception against the Yankees. Despite being unable to play in the second half of the season due to the injury, Conzelman was unanimously voted by his teammates as the team's most valuable player.[30][31]

    In his final season as an NFL player-coach, Conzelman led the 1929 Providence team to a 4–6–2 record.[32]

    Coaching careerEdit

    St. Louis GunnersEdit

    In the fall of 1931, Conzelman served as the head coach of the St. Louis Gunners, an independent professional football team sponsored by a local field artillery unit of the National Guard.[33][34] The Gunners posted a 5–2–1 record in 1931. After a game against the NFL's Chicago Cardinals, Chicago captain Ernie Nevers called the Gunners the "best independent club we have ever faced."[33]

    Washington UniversityEdit

    In January 1932, Conzelman returned to Washington University in St. Louis as the school's head football coach. He became the school's first alumnus to lead the football team.[35] Over the next eight years, Conzelman led Washington University Bears football team to Missouri Valley Conference championships in 1934, 1935, and 1939, and compiled an overall record of 40–35–2.[36]

    In January 1940, Conzelman tendered his resignation as head coach of the Washington University football team, but the resignation was not accepted by the athletic board. The university chancellor directed Conzelman to attend an alumni rally in his support. Conzelman appeared and announced that he would not withdraw his resignation, though he would continue to support the program from the outside.[36] Newspaper accounts indicate that he may have been fired under pressure from a powerful "anti-Conzelman" group of alumni in downtown St. Louis.[37]

    Chicago Cardinals (first stint)Edit

    In April 1940, Conzelman was hired as the head coach of the NFL's Chicago Cardinals. He replaced Ernie Nevers in the position.[38] In his first stint as head coach of the Cardinals, Conzelmean served three years with the Cardinals from 1940 to 1942, leading the club to a combined three-year record of 8–22.[15]

    St. Louis BrownsEdit

    Conzelman's tenure as head coach of the Cardinals was interrupted by a two-years stint as an administrator in Major League Baseball for the St. Louis Browns. In June 1943, he resigned his job as head coach of the Cardinals and was hired as director of public relations and assistant to Donald Lee Barnes, president and owner of the Browns.[39][40] He remained with the Browns for two years and was said to be the "secret weapon" of the 1944 St. Louis Browns team that won the American League pennant. Conzelman resigned his post with the club in August 1945.[41]

    Chicago Cardinals (second stint)Edit

    In late November 1945, Conzelman was hired for a second time to serve as head coach of the Chicago Cardinals starting with the 1946 NFL season.[42] During the 1947 Chicago Cardinals season, the Cardinals with their "Million Dollar Backfield" compiled a 9–3 record and defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1947 NFL Championship Game.[43] Conzelman's 1948 Cardinals team compiled an 11–1 record during the regular season, led the NFL in offense with an average of 32.9 points per game, and lost to the Eagles in the 1948 NFL Championship Game.[44] In their second stint under Conzelman, the Cardinals compiled a 26–9 record from 1946 to 1948.[15]

    On January 7, 1949, three weeks after the loss in the 1948 Championship Game, Conzelman resigned as the Cardinals' head coach. He had been working for D'Arcy Advertising Co. for the prior two years during the off-season and stated that he was resigning his coaching position to devote his full efforts to the advertising firm. The Cardinals' management said at the time that Conzelman's resignation was unexpected and "came like a bolt from the blue."[45][46]

    Family, later years, and honorsEdit

    Conzelman was married three times. He was married to Peggy Udell, a Ziegfeld Follies performer, in October 1923.[47][48] In July 1924, Udell sued for divorce seeking support for an unborn child.[49] The trial of the divorce action was postponed in July 1925 following the birth of the child.[50] Conzelman and Udell were ultimately divorced in 1930.[47] Conzelman's second marriage to Lilian Adele Conzelman ended in divorce in October 1935.[51] He married his third wife, Anna Forrestal, in December 1936.[52][53] Conzelman and his third wife had a son, James D. Conzelman, Jr. They remained married at the time of Conzelman's death.[54]

    After resigning as coach of the Cardinals in 1949, Conzelman continued working as an advertising executive. He also made occasional appearances in stage and opera productions.[55]

    During his retirement and posthumously, Conzelman received numerous honors for his contributions to the sport of football. These honors include the following:

    • In February 1964, Conzelman was chosen by a committee on which he served to be part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's second induction class. Conzelman objected to his selection, but the committee selected him by acclamation in a voice vote that prevented Conzelman from raising a dissent.[56]
    • Conzelman was nominated for the College Football Hall of Fame in 1967, but did not received sufficient votes for induction.[57]
    • In September 1968, a plaque honoring Conzelman was dedicated at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis.[58]
    • In August 1969, Conzelman was selected by the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a quarterback on the NFL 1920s All-Decade Team.[59]
    • In June 1992, Conzelman was posthumously selected for the Washington University Athletic Hall of Fame as one the 14 inaugural inductees.[60]
    • In August 2006, Conzelman was one of the eight charter members of the Arizona Cardinals Ring of Honor.[61]

    Conzelman died in July 1970 at age 72 at Missouri Baptist Hospital.[3][54] He was buried at Calvary Cemetery and Mausoleum in St. Louis.[3][62]

    Head coaching recordEdit


    Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
    Washington University Bears (Missouri Valley Conference) (1932–1939)
    1932 Washington University 4–4 1–2 4th
    1933 Washington University 4–5 1–2 4th
    1934 Washington University 7–3 1–0 1st
    1935 Washington University 6–4 3–0 T–1st
    1936 Washington University 3–7 1–1 4th
    1937 Washington University 4–6 2–2 T–3rd
    1938 Washington University 6–3–1 2–1–1 4th
    1939 Washington University 6–3–1 4–1 1st
    Washington University: 40–35–2 15–9–1
    Total: 40–35–2
          National championship         Conference title         Conference division title
    Indicates BCS bowl, Bowl Alliance or Bowl Coalition game.


    1. "Jimmy Conzelman". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
    2. 2.0 2.1 Bob Broeg (2000). The 100 Greatest Moments in St. Louis Sports. Missouri History Museum. p. 43. ISBN 1883982316.
    3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Bill Schubert (1997). "Jimmy Conzelman". The Coffin Corner. Pro Football Researchers.
    4. Walter Barlow Stevens (1909). St. Louis, the Fourth City, 1764-1909, Volume 2. S. J. Clarke Publishing Company. p. 775.
    5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 "New Coach Star at Football, Baseball, Basketball; Is Musician and Songwriter". St. Louis Post-Dispatch: p. 2B. January 22, 1932. open access
    6. Carnation (McKinley High School yearbook). June 1916. p. 81.
    7. David Condon (January 22, 1932). "Sports World Mourning for Jimmy Conzelman". Chicago Tribune: pp. 2–2. open access
    8. "1919 Washington (MO) Bears Schedule and Results". SR/College Football. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
    9. 9.0 9.1 "Conzelman Says He Will Not Be Back". The Des Moines Register: p. 4. June 28, 1920.
    10. "Died". Dental Health: p. 31. June 1919.
    11. "Jimmy Conzelman Joins Staley Football Team". St. Louis Post-Dispatch: p. 24. October 13, 1920. open access
    12. "Conzelman's 43-Yard Run Nets A Touchdown and Wins for Staley Eleven". St. Louis Post-Dispatch: p. 19. October 18, 1920. open access
    13. "Jim Conzelman Gets Position on Second All-Star "Pro" Eleven". St. Louis Post-Dispatch: p. 12. December 12, 1920. open access
    14. "Conzelman Is Made Manager: Former Staley Player To Handle Rock Island Football Team". The Decatur Herald: p. 4. October 21, 1921. open access
    15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 "Jimmy Conzelman Coaching Record". SR/College Football. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
    16. "Lauer and Lyle, Pair of Rock Island Stars, Play With Green Bay Sunday". Green Bay Press-Gazette: p. 11. November 24, 1922.
    17. "1922 Milwaukee Badgers Statistics & Players". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved December 4, 2016.
    18. "1923 Milwaukee Badgers Statistics & Players". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved December 4, 2016.
    19. "1924 Milwaukee Badgers Statistics & Players". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved December 4, 2016.
    20. "Pro Grid Loop Dates Named: Conzelman Has Local Franchise". Detroit Free Press: p. 12. August 3, 1925.
    21. "Conzelman Is Versatile Stars In Athletics, Music". Detroit Free Press: p. 23. August 23, 1925.
    22. Richard Bak (1998). A Place for Summer: A Narrative History of Tiger Stadium. Wayne State University Press. p. 252. ISBN 0814325122.
    23. "1925 Detroit Panthers Statistics & Players". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved December 4, 2016.
    24. "1926 Detroit Panthers Statistics & Players". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved December 4, 2016.
    25. Richard Bak, A Place for Summer, pp. 252–253.
    26. Richard Bak, A Place for Summer, p. 248.
    27. "Detroit Surrenders Its National Wheel Football Franchise: Conzelman To Manage Providence; Takes Sonnenberg and Lynch With Him". Green Bay Press-Gazette: p. 14. August 22, 1927. open access
    28. "1927 Providence Steam Roller Statistics & Players". SR/College Football. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
    29. "1928 Providence Steam Roller Statistics & Players". SR/College Football. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
    30. 30.0 30.1 "Jimmy Conzelman "Most Valuable Man" On Greatest Team in "Pro" Football". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. December 9, 1928. open access
    31. "Conzelman Still at It". St. Louis Post-Dispatch: p. 44. October 18, 1929. open access
    32. "1929 Providence Steam Roller Statistics & Players". SR/College Football. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
    33. 33.0 33.1 Carroll, Bob (1983). "The St. Louis Gunners". Coffin Corner (Professional Football Researchers Association) 4 (Annual): 1–2, 10.
    34. "Jim Conzelman Will Coach Pro Battery Eleven". St. Louis Post-Dispatch: p. 7C. October 21, 1931. open access
    35. "Jim Conzelman Named Head Football Coach at Washington". St. Louis Post-Dispatch: p. 2B. January 22, 1932. open access
    36. 36.0 36.1 W. Vernon Tietjen (January 17, 1940). "Conzelman Definitely Resigns As Bears' Grid Coach: Accepts Post on Athletic Council, Cheered by Grads". St. Louis Star-Times: p. 18. open access
    37. "Washington Alumni To Probe Firing of Conzelman: Indignant Group to Determine if Coach Was Treated Fairly". St. Louis Star-Times: p. 22. January 18, 1940. open access
    38. "Conzelman Is New Cardinal Football Boss: Former Star Will Take Charge at Once". Chicago Daily Tribune: p. 30. April 11, 1940. open access
    39. Jack Hemstock (June 3, 1943). "Browns Sign Conzelman As Assistant To Barnes". St. Louis Star-Times: p. 22. open access
    40. Wilfrid Smith (June 4, 1943). "Baseball Calls Conzelman To Job In St. Louis". St. Louis Post-Dispatch: p. 23. open access
    41. "Conzelman Quits As Browns Aide". Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, NY): p. 11. August 25, 1945. open access
    42. "Conzelman Will Resume Coaching Chicago Cards". St. Louis Post-Dispatch: p. 2B. November 28, 1945. open access
    43. "1947 Chicago Cardinals Statistics & Players". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
    44. "1948 Chicago Cardinals Statistics & Players". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved December 3, 2016.
    45. "Conzelman, Cardinal Grid Coach, Resigns Post With NFL Titlists". Portland Press Herald: p. 7. January 8, 1949. open access
    46. "Jimmy Conzelman Quits As Coach of Grid Cards For Ad Firm Job Here". St. Louis Post-Dispatch: p. 6A. January 8, 1949. open access
    47. 47.0 47.1 "Sues Jimmy Conzelman". The St. Louis Star: p. 1. January 17, 1930. open access
    48. "Peggy Udell Again Wears Wedding Ring: Mother Announces Former Follies Girl's Marriage to Professional Ball Player". The Philadelphia Inquirer: p. 9. April 15, 1924. open access
    49. "Peggy Udell Seeks Divorce". The Great Falls Tribune: p. 9. July 10, 1924. open access
    50. "Stork Holds Up Former Follies Girl's Divorce Suit". The Gazette Times (Pittsburgh): p. 1. July 5, 1925. open access
    51. "Coach Conzelman To Wed Miss Anna Forrestal Soon". St. Louis Star-Times: p. 28. December 3, 1936. open access
    52. "Football Coach Conzelman To Wed Miss Anna Forrestal: Wedding to Take Place at Seminary in Florissant; Third for Athlete". St. Louis Post-Dispatch: p. 6C. December 2, 1936. open access
    53. Marriage License for James Conzelman and Ann Forrestal, both of St. Louis, issued November 27, 1936, ceremony December 5, 1936. Missouri, Marriage Records, 1805–2002 [database on-line].
    54. 54.0 54.1 "Jimmy Conzelman Dies". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. July 31, 1970. Retrieved July 23, 2016. open access
    55. "Conzelman Signs Up For Park Opera Role". St. Louis Post-Dispatch: p. 4G. April 14, 1957. open access
    56. "Conzelman, Hinkle Gain Hall of Fame". St. Louis Post-Dispatch: p. 1E. February 28, 1964. open access
    57. "Conzelman Nominated To Hall". St. Louis Post-Dispatch: p. 1E. December 7, 1967. open access
    58. "Conzelman Plaque To Be Dedicated". St. Louis Post-Dispatch: p. 2E. September 11, 1968. open access
    59. Bob Broeg (August 27, 1969). "'Nice Things' Surprise Modest Jim Conzelman". St. Louis Post-Dispatch: p. 2E. open access
    60. "Maxvill, Devine In First Class To Enter Washington U. Hall". St. Louis Post-Dispatch: p. 8D. June 24, 1992. open access
    61. "Honors scheduled". The Arizona Republic. July 31, 2000.
    62. "Jimmy Conzelman". Retrieved December 3, 2016.

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