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Charley Trippi, Versatile Football Hall of Famer, Dies at 100


Charley Trippi, who became one among college football’s most celebrated players on the University of Georgia after which propelled the long-downtrodden Chicago Cardinals to the 1947 N.F.L. championship on his strategy to a Hall of Fame profession, died on Wednesday at home in Athens, Ga. He was 100.

The death was confirmed by his grandson Clint Watson.

Although he was a football star at a time when many players appeared on each offense and defense, Trippi was especially renowned for doing nearly the whole lot but kicking field goals and additional points and snapping the ball.

In his nine years with the Cardinals, he ran for 3,506 yards, threw for two,547 yards and amassed 1,321 yards in pass receptions — the one player within the Pro Football Hall of Fame to have exceeded 1,000 yards in each category. He played at left halfback and quarterback, punted and returned punts and kickoffs, and finished out his profession at defensive back.

Trippi took Georgia to an unbeaten 1946 season when he was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy behind Army’s Glenn Davis. He received the Maxwell Award, which also honors college football’s leading player.

Chosen by the Cardinals because the No. 1 pick within the N.F.L.’s 1945 draft, when he had two years of faculty eligibility left, Trippi signed a four-year, $100,000 contract with the Cards in January 1947 — a shocking payout for its time — after they outbid the Latest York Yankees of the fledgling All-America Football Conference.

The Cardinals had mostly been losers since they captured the 1925 N.F.L. championship, an accomplishment that got here under a cloud. At a time before there was a championship game, the Cardinals finished with the league’s best record. However the Pottsville Maroons of Pennsylvania, who were vying with them for the title, saw their franchise suspended by the league late within the season for infringing on one other team’s territorial rights in a scheduling matter.

Twenty-two years later, in Trippi’s rookie season, the Cardinals emerged from the shadow of the crosstown Chicago Bears, renowned because the Monsters of the Midway.

Listed at six feet and 180 kilos or so, Trippi played at halfback within the championship game against the Philadelphia Eagles. He wore tennis shoes on the icy field at Comiskey Park in Chicago, scoring a touchdown on a 44-yard run from the road of scrimmage and running a punt back 75 yards for one more because the Cardinals won, 28-21.

But there was no victory parade. The players celebrated at a South Side bar, after which management threw a banquet for them.

The Cardinals met the Eagles again within the 1948 championship game, but were defeated, 7-0, in a snowstorm at Shibe Park in Philadelphia.

“It was a disgrace,” Trippi told The Augusta Chronicle of Georgia in 2012. “The commissioner must have postponed the sport. You couldn’t see the lines on the sphere. You couldn’t see the protection. It wasn’t football. It was only a bunch of pushing.”

Trippi teamed with Paul Christman at quarterback, and at the opposite halfback spot was Elmer Angsman, who had two 70-yard touchdown runs within the ’47 championship game. Along with Pat Harder at fullback, they became often known as the Dream Backfield.

He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1959 and to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968 and was named to the N.F.L.’s all-decade team for the Nineteen Forties. He was the oldest living member of each halls of fame.

Charles Louis Trippi was born on Dec. 14, 1921, in Pittston, Pa., the son of a coal miner, and have become a football star in highschool. Harold Ketron, a star center for the Bulldogs within the early 1900s, owned a Wilkes-Barre, Pa., bottling franchise for Atlanta-based Coca-Cola. He gave Trippi a summer job driving his trucks and arranged for him to get a tryout at Georgia that led to an athletic scholarship.

“I desired to get out of the realm,” Trippi told The Athens Banner-Herald long afterward. “I couldn’t visualize mining coal eight hours a day for the remainder of my life.”

As a sophomore with the Bulldogs, playing at tailback in a single wing offense, Trippi starred within the 1943 Rose Bowl game. He ran for greater than 100 yards in a 9-0 victory over U.C.L.A. His backfield teammate, Frank Sinkwich, the winner of the 1942 Heisman Trophy, saw only spot motion due to ankle injuries, though he scored the sport’s only touchdown.

In an oral history interview with the University of Georgia in 2006, Trippi recalled that he played 58 of the 60 minutes that day because Wally Butts, the pinnacle coach, “had a philosophy: For those who can’t play defense, you may’t play offense.” He called that game “probably the best thrill I ever got out of football.”

Trippi played football for a stateside Army Air Forces team during World War II. He returned to Georgia midway through the 1945 season and, playing in a T formation, set a college record by gaining 239 yards against Florida. The mark is now held by Herschel Walker, who gained 283 yards against Vanderbilt in 1980.

Trippi led the Bulldogs to an 11-0 season in 1946, then threw a protracted touchdown pass of their 20-10 Sugar Bowl victory over North Carolina, outplaying its all-American tailback Charlie Justice, often known as Choo Choo.

At Georgia, he ran for twenty-four touchdowns and caught 4 touchdown passes and was a two-time all-American.

Trippi was also an impressive baseball player at Georgia and played the outfield for the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association in 1947. He was considered a significant league prospect but quit baseball to pursue football full time.

He retired after the 1955 N.F.L. season, having played at halfback, quarterback after which mostly at defensive back late in his profession. He ran for 23 profession touchdowns, passed for 16, caught 11 touchdown passes and scored twice on punt returns and once on an interception.

Trippi was later an assistant coach with Georgia and the Cardinals, in Chicago and in St. Louis, their first stop before moving to Arizona. He had lucrative investments in industrial real estate in Athens after leaving football full time.

His first wife, Virginia (Davis) Trippi, died in 1971. Trippi is survived by his second wife, Peggy (McNiven) Trippi; his son, Charles Jr., and his daughter Brenda Fleeman, each from his first marriage; three stepchildren, Rob Bell, Kim Gunnin and Terry Bell; 15 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren. One other daughter from his first marriage, Joann Trippi Johns, died in 2019.

Long after Trippi’s exploits at Georgia, the football program held an annual Charley Trippi Day before the intrasquad spring game, and the Bulldogs present an annual Trippi Award to their most versatile player.

Jim Thorpe, considered one among America’s best all-around athletes, called Trippi “the best football player I’ve ever seen.”

“Trippi is a superb runner, punter and passer,” Thorpe told The Associated Press in 1949. “He blocks well and is a sure tackler. Guess that covers the sphere.”

Alex Traub contributed reporting.

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