Walter Flanigan
No. None     
Personal information
Date of birth: 1892
Date of death: 1972
Height: 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m) Weight: 175 lb (79 kg)
Career information
College: None
Debuted in 1913 for the Rock Island Independents
Last played in 1923 for the Rock Island Independents
Career history
Career highlights and awards
NFL Co-Founder

Walter H. Flanigan was a professional football player, and later the owner, for the Rock Island Independents. He was also one of the co-founders of the National Football League.

Player turned ownerEdit

Flanigan joined the Independents as a backup end in 1913. He then became the owner of the team in 1915. During his tenure, Flanigan promoted the Independents by scheduling two games in 1917 against the Minneapolis Marines, who were considered one of the toughest teams in the midwest. This contest would help the Independents gain national attention. Rock Island lost to the Marines by close score of 7-3. However they were defeated by a wider margin, 33-7, at the second game in Minneapolis.

Flanigan then brought in players from outside the Rock Island area to build on the team. In 1919, he hired Rube Ursella of the Marines to serve as a player-coach. Rube brought several other Minneapolis players with him. These new players would later help get the team an invitation to join the NFL. The Independents lost only to the Hammond Pros, led by George Halas in 1919. Flanigan then challenged the Canton Bulldogs to a "championship" game, offering a $5,000 guarantee if they would come to Rock Island for the game. But Canton, which had already won the Ohio League championship by defeating their arch-rivals, the Massillon Tigers, turned down the offer. It's likely that Canton's Jim Thorpe and Ralph Hay learned that Rock Island's game against the Akron Indians had drawn only 1,700 spectators and felt that Flanigan could not deliver on his $5,000 guarantee, that was money that came primariliy from the gate. However the Independents still had defeated the Columbus Panhandles 49-0 and the Indians 17-0 that season.

NFL foundingEdit

In 1920 though, Flanigan eagerly join the new American Professional Football Association (renamed the NFL in 1922). He was present at the September 17, 1920 meeting at Ralph Hay's Hupmobile dealership which established the league. Flanigan made his team a card-carrying charter member of the league and he was named to a committee charged with framing the league's constitution.

The Independents posted 4-2-1 records in each of the league's first three years. Five of their six losses were to George Halas and the Decatur Staleys/Chicago Staleys/Chicago Bears.


In 1923, Flanigan left the team to concentrate on his real estate and insurance businesses. He died in 1962 at the age of 70.


Preceded by
Joseph Smith
Owner of the Rock Island Independents
Succeeded by
Dale Johnson

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