Mayes McLain
McLain from The Hawkeye (1930)
Date of birth: April 16, 1905
Place of birth: Pryor, Oklahoma
Date of death: March 6, 1983 (age 77)
Place of death: Marietta, Georgia
Career information
Position(s): Fullback
College: Haskell, Iowa
Career highlights and awards
Honors: All-American, 1928
38 touchdowns in 1926 was college football record until 1988
Playing stats at

Mayes Watt McLain (April 16, 1905 – March 6, 1983), also known as Watt Mayes McLain, was an American football player and professional wrestler. He played college football for the Haskell Institute from 1925 to 1926 and for the University of Iowa in 1928. In 1926, he set college football's single-season scoring record with 253 points on 38 touchdowns, 19 extra point kicks, and two field goals. His record of 38 touchdowns in a season stood for more than 60 years until 1988.

McLain later played in the National Football League, under the name Chief McLain, for the Portsmouth Spartans (1930-1931) and Staten Island Stapletons (1931). After retiring from football, McLain worked as a professional wrestler, sometimes under the name the "Masked Manager", from 1933 to 1953.[1]

Early yearsEdit

Mayes was born in Pryor, Oklahoma in 1905 as the youngest of six children. A brother and sister died in infancy.[2][3] Both his parents were of Cherokee and Scotch-Irish ancestry and were born in Texas; they married in Pryor.[2] Along with other members of his family, Mayes was registered in 1906 at the age of one year on the Dawes Rolls as "Cherokee by blood" (1/8).[4][5] Both parents were registered as Cherokee: his father Pleas L. McLain was a farmer.[6] His mother was Martha McLain.[2][7][8]

Football careerEdit


McLain attended the Haskell Institute in Lawrence, Kansas,[9] a college founded for Native Americans of various tribes. He played football for Dick Hanley's Haskell Indians in 1925 and 1926. During the 1926 season, McLain set the all-time college football scoring record with 253 points on 38 touchdowns, 19 extra point kicks, and two field goals. McLain was considered a triple-threat man who excelled at running, passing and kicking. He also played on defense as well as offense.[10]

McLain opened the 1926 season with two touchdowns in a 65-0 victory over Drury College and followed the next week with eight touchdowns and seven extra point kicks in a 57-0 rout of Wichita. After scoring 55 points against Wichita, The Wichita Eagle wrote, "McLain put up the most astonishing exhibition of football ever seen in Wichita."[10]

On October 2, 1926, McLain scored six touchdowns in a 55-0 victory over Still College. The Lawrence Journal-World reported, "The Husky Cherokee fullback thrilled the fans by his broken field running and his vicious tackling."[11]

In the fourth game of the 1926 season, McLain scored four rushing touchdowns in a 38-0 victory over Morningside College.[10]

For their fifth game, Haskell traveled to Ohio to play the undefeated Dayton Triangles professional football team. The attendance at the game set a Dayton record. Haskell won by a 30-14 score, as McLain rushed for four touchdowns and kicked a field goal. One newspaper account noted, "it was the terrific line smashing of McLain which provided the balance of power ... McLain, a modern Goliath of strength, proved almost unstoppable against a fierce defense massed against him on every play."[10]

The following week, McLain settled for four touchdowns in a 95-0 victory over Jackson College.[10]

In the seventh game of the season, McLain rushed for 129 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries in a 36-0 victory over Bucknell. One account noted that McLain was "on the rampage, tearing crazily thru the Bucknell line."[10]

McLain sustained a knee injury against Loyola University Chicago and saw limited action. McLain also missed the following weeks' game against Boston College and Michigan State College due to the injury.[10]

McLain returned to the lineup in a 27-0 victory over an undefeated Xavier College team on Thanksgiving Day in Cincinnati. McLain scored three touchdowns in the game.[10]

On December 4, 1926, McLain scored one touchdown in a 27-7 victory over the University of Tulsa.[10]

Haskell concluded the 1926 season on December 18 with a 40-7 victory over the Hawaii All-Stars. McLain scored three touchdowns in the game.[10]

McLain finished the season as college football's scoring leader with 253 points on 38 touchdowns, 19 extra point kicks, and two field goals. McLain's total of 38 touchdowns set a new single-season scoring record in college football.[12] His record of 38 touchdowns stood for more than 60 years until 1988.[13]


McLain enrolled at the University of Iowa and played for the Iowa Hawkeyes football team during the 1928 season. In the preceding two seasons, Iowa had compiled a combined record of 7-9. With the arrival of McLain, the Hawkeyes improved to 6-2 in 1928.[14] McLain was credited with the improvement in Iowa's fortunes in 1928.[15] At the end of the 1929 season, McLain was named to Pan-American Bank's All-American team.[16]

At the start of the 1928 season, the United Press ran a feature story describing Mayes as the "Big Hope of Hawkeye Gridders."[17] The story described the excitement on the Iowa campus:

"'Watch the Big Chief', is the cry of the tall corn fans who are prepared to name Mayes McLain as 1928 All-American fullback before he has ever appeared in Big Ten conference competition. McLain, a 210 pound, fair haired young giant who stands six feet two inches in his stocking feet and crashed the line in a manner which brings back memories of Gordon Locke, Iowa's All-American fullback of championship days, is the big hope of the Hawkeyes."[17]

When the Iowa team played at Chicago's Soldier Field in October 1928, The New York Times wrote:

"Not since the days of Red Grange has Chicago and the Big Ten been as intensely interested in a single gridiron luminary as they are in that giant Indian line smasher, Mayes McLain of Iowa. . . . Weighing more than 215 pounds and standing six feet two inches, McLain, who led in individual scoring while at Haskell two years ago by burning up 253 points in thirteen games, is a terrific driver."[18]

The Hawkeyes defeated the Chicago Maroons, 13 to 0, as Mayes ran for 100 yards.[19] The New York Times reported: "Mayes McLain, giant Indian fullback, swept the lighter Chicago team off its feet."[20]

On November 10, 1928, McLain scored both of Iowa's touchdowns in a 14-7 victory over Ohio State.[21]

In early December 1928, a Big Ten faculty eligibility committee declared McLain ineligible to play another year of Big Ten football. The committee ruled that his two years of play at Haskell counted toward his three years of eligibility under Big Ten rules.[22]

In January 1929, McLain announced that he was working with Iowa's baseball coach "in an attempt to master the art of pitching."[23]

That spring, allegations circulated that Iowa was paying athletes in violation of conference rules. An investigation revealed that a group of alumni had created a "Labor Fund" for the purpose of promoting work for Iowa athletes in local businesses. While most of the athletes were found to have performed actual work, McLain was singled out as an exception. McLain had been paid $60 per month during the 1928-29 academic year "for allegedly taking a 'real estate census' of Iowa City."[24]

Professional footballEdit

In August 1930, McLain signed a contract to play for the Portsmouth Spartans (later known as the Detroit Lions).[25] During the 1930 NFL season, McLain, sometimes referred to as "Chief" McLain, scored four rushing touchdowns and three receiving touchdowns.[3] His total of 42 points tied for the lead on the Spartans in their first NFL season.[26]

In August 1931, the Spartans announced that McLain had been sent a contract to return to the team for the 1931 season. The Portsmouth Times reported at the time: "McLain is located at Pryor, Oklahoma and is in shape to play football on a moment's notice as he has been herding cattle and writes friends that he is hard as nails."[27]

McLain appeared in only one game for Portsmouth in 1931.[3] He also played for the Staten Island Stapletons. He appeared in nine games for a Stapletons team that finished in seventh place in the NFL. McLain was the Stapletons' second-leading scorer (behind Ken Strong) with two touchdowns and 12 points.[28]

McLain also played for the St. Louis Gunners at the end of the 1931 season. In December 1931, he scored all of the Gunners' points in a 10-0 victory over the Des Moines Hawkeyes.[29]

Professional wrestling careerEdit

After his professional football career ended, McLain became a professional wrestler. He was active in professional wrestling from March 1933 to May 1942. His wrestling career was interrupted during World War II, but he resumed his participation in professional wrestling from April 1947 to July 1953.[30][31]

During his wrestling career, he was often a featured attraction at venues such as Madison Square Garden (New York), the New York Hippodrome, the Boston Garden, Maple Leaf Gardens (Toronto), Sydney Stadium (Australia), and the Olympic Auditorium (Los Angeles). He was matched up against many of the most famous wrestlers of the day, including Strangler Lewis, Ed Don George, Ray Steele, and Wee Willie Davis. In September 1938, McLain became the world heavyweight champion in Toronto and held the title for six weeks. He was inducted into the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1983.[13]

Mayes' notable matches include the following:

Mayes also worked as a stunt man in the motion picture business.[13] He appeared as a wrestler in the 1936 motion picture, Magnificent Brute.[58]

Later yearsEdit

McLain died in 1983 at age 77 in Marietta, Georgia.[3] In 1987, he was posthumously inducted into the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame at Lawrence, Kansas.[59][60]


  1. "Mayes McLain".
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Emmet Starr (1922). History of the Cherokee Indians and Their Legends and Folk Lore. The Warden Company. p. 573.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Chief McLain". Sports Reference.
  4. Final Rolls of Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory (as Approved by the Secretary of the Interior on or before Mar. 4, 1907, with Supplements Dated Sept. 25, 1914). Microfilm publication T529, 3 rolls. ARC ID: 608958. Records of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior, Record Group 48. National Archives
  5. "Irish – Indian". The Evening Independent (St. Petersburg, FL). October 28, 1926.,397030&dq=mayes+mclain&hl=en.
  6. "Pleas L. McClain", U.S., Native American Applications for Enrollment in Five Civilized Tribes, 1898-1914 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2013.
  7. Census entry for Pleas McLain and family. Watt M. McLain, age five, born in Oklahoma. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Place: Hogan, Mayes, Oklahoma; Roll: T624_1262; Page: 62A; Enumeration District: 0086; ; FHL microfilm: 1375275. See section: Special Inquiries related to Indians, addressing tribe and blood quantum.
  8. Census entry for P. L. McLain and family. Mayes McLain, age 14, born in Oklahoma. 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Year: 1920; Census Place: Newark, Wise, Texas; Roll: T625_1860; Page: 17A; Enumeration District: 158; Image: 350.
  9. "NFL Players who attended Haskell Indian Nations University". Retrieved January 30, 2014.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 10.7 10.8 10.9 Ray Schmidt. "Prince of the Prairies". College Football Historical Society Newsletter.
  11. "Still Loses To Indians 55 to 0: Mayes McLain Scores Six of the Redskin Touchdowns in Game". Lawrence Journal-World. October 2, 1926.,245078&dq=mayes-mclain&hl=en.
  12. George B. Kirsch; Othello Harris; Claire Elaine Nolte (2000). Encyclopedia of Ethnicity and Sports in the United States. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 164. ISBN 0313299110.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Edward J. Rielly (2009). Football: An Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. Univ. of Nebraska Press. p. 19. ISBN 0803290128.
  14. "Iowa Yearly Results". College Football Data Warehouse. Archived from the original on 2012-11-02.
  15. Raymond Schmidt (Fall 2007). "The 1929 Iowa Football Scandal: Paying Tribute to the Carnegie Report?". Journal of Sports History. p. 346.
  16. "All-America Addendum". College Football Historical Society Newsletter. November 2008.
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Mayes McClain, 210-Lb. Fullback, Big Hope of Hawkeye Gridders: Iowa Grid Followers Expect Hawks to Finish Without Defeat". The Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal. September 16, 1928.,862803&dq=mayes+mcclain&hl=en.
  18. "Indian Fullback Star Makes Iowa Favorite: Chicago Will Try to Stop McLain Tomorrow – 50,000 Expected at Stagg Field". The New York Times. October 12, 1928.
  19. Mike Finn; Chad Leistikow (1998). Hawkeye Legends, Lists & Lore. Sports Publishing LLC. p. 48.
  20. "Iowa Team Topples Chicago by 13 to 0: McLain, Indian Star, Plays Major Role in Big Ten Game Before 35,000". The New York Times. October 14, 1928.
  21. "Iowans Knock Ohio State From Western Grid Race". the Evening Independent (AP story). November 12, 1928.,4077861&dq=mayes-mclain&hl=en.
  22. "Hawkeye Star Barred From Big Ten Play". The Milwaukee Journal (AP story). December 8, 1928.,1032981&dq=mayes-mclain&hl=en.
  23. "Mayes McLain Would Be a Pitcher". Rochester Evening Journal and The Post Express (AP story). January 19, 1929.,4579177&dq=mayes-mclain&hl=en.
  24. Raymond Schmidt, The 1929 Iowa Football Scandal: Paying Tribute to the Carnegie Report?, pp. 347-348.
  25. "Mayes McClain, Former Iowa Fullback, Signs Contract With Spartan: Indian Player Will Make Big Bid For Berth; McClain Makes Fourth Fullback Signed by Griffin Aggregation". Portsmouth Times. August 3, 1930.
  26. "1930 Portsmouth Spartans". Sports Reference. Retrieved January 27, 2013.
  27. "Mayes McLain Gets Contract: One Forwarded To Former Spartan, Who Is Located In Oklahoma". The Portsmouth Times. August 2, 1931.,6114263&dq=mayes-mclain&hl=en.
  28. "1931 Staten Island Stapletons". Sports Reference.
  29. Appleton Post Crescent: p. 14. December 17, 1931.
  30. "From Fabled Grid Era: Wrestler Mayes McLain Was With Haskell". St. Joseph News-Press. May 17, 1950.,160963&dq=mayes-mclain+wrestl&hl=en.
  31. "Mayes McLain Matches".
  32. "McLain Defeats Speers in New York Mat Bout". Daily Boston Globe. March 21, 1933.
  33. "Jack Washburn Wins From Mayes McLain". The Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal (AP story). April 18, 1933.,1551036&dq=mayes+mclain&hl=en.
  34. "Boesch Throws McLain: Pins Rival in 23:10 In Feature Match at Colisum". The New York Times. May 24, 1933.
  35. "McLain Pins Getzwich". Daily Boston Globe. August 18, 1933.
  36. "Savoldi Is Winner Over Mayes McLain". Ottawa Citizen. September 15, 1933.,4594612&dq=mayes+mclain&hl=en.
  37. "McLain Goes Out Fast to Browning". The Vancouver Sun. September 22, 1933.,2234156&dq=mayes+mclain&hl=en.
  38. "'Strangler' Lewis Beats Mayes McLain". The Telegraph-Herald (INS story). December 14, 1933.,2531249&dq=mayes+mclain&hl=en.
  39. "Browning Retains Title at Garden". The New York Times. March 20, 1934.
  40. Bill Reedy (March 21, 1934). "Savoldi Uses New Dropkick to Win Match: Finishes Mayes McLain At Armory in Half Hour With Odd Weapon". Reading Eagle.,4142188&dq=mayes+mclain&hl=en.
  41. "Joe Savoldi Wins Over Grid Rival". The Milwaukee Journal. May 26, 1934.,6229527&dq=mayes+mclain&hl=en.
  42. "Elbow Punch Beats Mayes McLain on Mat". The Telegraph-Herald and Times-Journal. October 21, 1934.,614291&dq=mayes+mclain&hl=en.
  43. "Wrestler Goes To Hospital: Cantonwine Is Too Rough For Mayes McLain". The Windsor Daily Star. August 23, 1935.,4786264&dq=mayes+mclain&hl=en.
  44. "Tigerman Pounces On Mayes". The Vancouver Sun. January 17, 1936.,1678816&dq=mayes+mclain&hl=en.
  45. "The Vancouver Sun". February 17, 1936.,1742591&dq=mayes+mclain&hl=en.
  46. "McLain Beats Davis in Fiesta of Fouls". Spokane Daily Chronicle. March 11, 1936.,2842225&dq=mayes+mclain&hl=en.
  47. "Ernie Dusek Mat Victor". The New York Times. September 21, 1937.
  48. "Nagurski Victor on Mat". The New York Times. November 4, 1937.
  49. "Gus Sonnenberg Has Little Trouble Pinning Mayes McLain, Haskell Brave, in Garden Mat Brawl". Daily Boston Globe. April 28, 1939.
  50. "Don George Pins Mayes McLain In Foot Guard Ring: Wins Two of Three Falls; Pat Kelly Butts Out Joe Maynard". The Hartford Courant: p. 18. May 12, 1939.
  51. "Strangler Lewis Wins Olympic Mat Feature". Los Angeles Times. May 28, 1942.
  52. Jack Munro (June 12, 1937). "Little Wolf Disqualified". The Sydney Morning Herald.,1562194&dq=mayes+mclain&hl=en.
  53. Jack Munro (June 26, 1947). "McLain Upset Female Fans". The Sydney Morning Herald.,3482043&dq=mayes+mclain&hl=en.
  54. Jack Munro (August 7, 1947). "'Bad Man' Has Wrestle Win". The Sydney Morning Herald.,1201023&dq=mayes+mclain&hl=en.
  55. "Win For Szabo". The Sydney Morning Herald. September 11, 1937.,1482494&dq=mayes+mclain&hl=en.
  56. "Wrestling Teams Battle To Draw". Lodi News-Sentinel. April 15, 1949.,1144775&dq=mayes+mclain+wrestl&hl=en.
  57. Bob Abra (July 21, 1950). "Referee McConnell Busy Man As Yukon Erick Takes Victory". Ottawa Citizen.,1782573&dq=mayes+mclain&hl=en.
  58. "Mayes McLain". IMDb.
  59. "Mayes McLain". American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame.
  60. Steve Wilmsen (March 22, 1987). "Hall of fame inducts two Haskell athletes". Lawrence Journal-World.,4877553&dq=mayes-mclain&hl=en.
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