The 1951 Big Ten Conference football season was the 56th season of college football played by the member schools of the Big Ten Conference (also known as the Western Conference and the Big Nine Conference) and was a part of the 1951 college football season.
The 1951 Illinois Fighting Illini football team, under head coach Ray Eliot, compiled a 9–0–1 record, won the Big Ten championship, was ranked No. 4 in the final AP poll, and defeated Stanford 40–7 in the 1952 Rose Bowl. The lone setback was a scoreless tie with Ohio State. Halfback Johnny Karras was the Big Ten's only consensus first-team All-American. Linebacker Chuck Boerio was selected as the team's most valuable player.
The 1951 Wisconsin Badgers football team, under head coach Ivy Williamson, compiled a 7–1–1 record, led the conference in scoring defense (5.9 points allowed per game), and was ranked No. 8 in the final AP poll. Quarterback John Coatta was the first-team All-Big Ten quarterback. Defensive end Pat O'Donahue was selected as a first-team All-American by multiple selectors.
Albert Daniel (Bert) Rechichar (born July 16, 1930) is a former American football defensive back and kicker who played with the National Football League's Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Colts, and Pittsburgh Steelers from 1952 to 1960. He also played for the American Football League's New York Titans in 1961. Rechichar was the tenth overall pick of the 1952 NFL Draft, selected by the Browns out of Tennessee.
Rechichar held the NFL record for the longest field goal (56 yards) for over seventeen years; while with the Colts in 1953, he broke the previous unofficial record of 55 yards (set by drop kick by Paddy Driscoll in 1924) in a game against the Chicago Bears on September 27. It stood until Tom Dempsey booted a 63-yarder in 1970; since then, at least 12 others have kicked field goals of 60 yards or more, and many others have kicked field goals of 56 yards or longer. His record-setting kick was his first field goal attempt as a professional.
Rechichar also played as an outfielder in the farm system of the Cleveland Indians, reaching as high as Reading in the Class A Eastern League.
William Andrew "Bill" Robinson (September 29, 1928 – March 31, 2016) was a halfback in the National Football League. He was drafted in the twenty-fifth round of the 1952 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers and played that season with the Green Bay Packers. Later he was a member of the New York Titans during the 1960 American Football League season. He died in 2016.
Blaine Allen Earon (born January 15, 1927) is a former professional American football defensive lineman in the National Football League (NFL). After playing college football at Duke University, Earon was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 19th round (226th overall) of the 1952 NFL Draft. He played for the Detroit Lions in 1952 and 1953, both championship winning seasons.
Robert Marguesse Miller (December 11, 1929 - August 7, 2006) was an American football offensive/defensive tackle with the Detroit Lions of the National Football League from 1952 to 1958.
Born in Norwalk, Connecticut, he attended the University of Virginia, which finished 8-1 and ranked 13th in the Associated Press poll in his final year in 1951.
After being selected by Detroit in the 1952 NFL Draft, he was on the teams which won NFL championships in 1952, 1953 and 1957, and also the team which lost the title game in 1954. He was selected an all-conference defensive tackle in 1956 by The Sporting News. After retiring from football, he was the president and owner of Cavalier Manufacturing. In the 1970s he became a licensed horse trainer, breeder and owner of thoroughbred racing stable Del-Rob Farm along with his wife Delphine (the Del in Del-Rob). Delphine recently passed on August 4, 2018 at the age of 89 of natural causes.
He died of cancer at age 76 in Clarkston, Michigan.He was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.
Robert Toneff (June 23, 1930 – March 15, 2015) was a National Football League defensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers and the Washington Redskins. He went to four Pro Bowls during his 13-year career. Toneff played college football at the University of Notre Dame and was drafted in the second round of the 1952 NFL Draft.
Chester Casmir Ostrowski (April 8, 1930 – October 10, 2001) was an American football defensive end in the National Football League (NFL) for the Washington Redskins. He played college football at the University of Notre Dame, where he received BA in history, and was drafted in the tenth round of the 1952 NFL Draft.
Richard Guy Hightower (August 3, 1930 – December 5, 2007) was an American football player. He played college football at the center position for the SMU Mustangs from 1949 to 1951. He was a consensus first-teamselection on the 1951 College Football All-America Team. He also received All-Southwest Conference honors in both 1950 and 1951.Hightower was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the fourth round (43rd overall pick) of the 1952 NFL Draft, but he did not appear in any regular season games in the National Football League.
He was inducted into the Southern Methodist University Hall of Fame in 1982.Hightower died in 2007 at Ozona, Texas, while on a hunting trip with friends.
Fred Williams (February 8, 1929 – October 9, 2000) was an American football defensive lineman in the National Football League (NFL) for the Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins. He went to four Pro Bowls during his 14-year career. Williams played college football at the University of Arkansas and was drafted in the fifth round of the 1952 NFL Draft.
James Preston Weatherall (October 26, 1929 – August 2, 1992) was an American football defensive tackle in the National Football League (NFL) for the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, and the Detroit Lions. He also played in the Western Interprovincial Football Union (WIFU) for the Edmonton Eskimos. Weatherall played college football at the University of Oklahoma and was drafted in the second round of the 1952 NFL Draft. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1992.
John J. Karras (January 29, 1928 – November 6, 2008) was an American football halfback who played one season with the Chicago Cardinals of the National Football League. He was drafted by the Chicago Cardinals in the second round of the 1952 NFL Draft. Karras played college football at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign and attended Argo Community High School in Summit, Illinois. He was a Consensus All-American in 1951.
Keith Duane Flowers (April 24, 1930 – November 12, 1993) was an American football player who played one season in the National Football League with the Detroit Lions and Dallas Texans. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the eleventh round of the 1952 NFL Draft. He played college football at Texas Christian University and attended Perryton High School in Perryton, Texas.
Lester Wheeler (born c. 1931) is a former American football coach and sports figure in the United States. A guard from Abilene Christian, he was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 21st round of the 1952 NFL Draft. Wheeler was the ninth head football coach at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas and he held that position for six seasons, from 1962 until 1967.His coaching record at Abilene Christian was 29–28.
Ralph Peter Goldston (February 25, 1929 – July 9, 2011) was a running back and defensive back in the Canadian Football League who played nine seasons for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. He helped the Tiger-Cats to two Grey Cup wins in 1957 and 1963. He was a 4 time all-star with the Ti-Cats, intercepting 32 passes and returning them for 416 yards. Goldston finished his career with the Montreal Alouettes in 1965. He was selected in the 1952 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles and he played four seasons for the Eagles. After retiring as an active player, Goldston spent 30 years as a college coach (Harvard and Colorado) and finally a scout for the Seattle Seahawks.
Sherwin Kenneth "Sonny" Gandee, Sr. (February 27, 1929 – July 21, 2013) was a professional American football linebacker and defensive lineman. After playing college football for Ohio State, Gandee was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1952 NFL Draft. He played for five seasons in the National Football League (NFL) for the Dallas Texans in two games during the 1952 season and for the Detroit Lions in 51 games from 1952 to 1957. He was a member of the Lions' 1952, 1953 and 1957 teams that won NFL championships.
Thomas Mike McCormick (May 16, 1930 – September 20, 2012) was an American football player and coach. He played professionally as a halfback in the National Football League (NFL) for the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers. He played college football at the University of Pacific.
McCormick was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the eighth round (97th overall) of the 1952 NFL Draft. He played three seasons for the Rams from 1953 to 1955. He then played for the San Francisco 49ers in 1956.
During his four-year career he played in 32 games and gained 272 yards rushing on 86 carries. He had one career touchdown. As a kick return man he gained 10 yards on 9 punt returns and 243 yards on 11 kickoff returns for the Rams and 49ers. He recovered four fumbles during his professional career.
McCormick was as an assistant coach under Norm Van Brocklin with the Minnesota Vikings and under Vince Lombardi for the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers.
Victor Felix "Vic" Janowicz (February 26, 1930 – February 27, 1996) was an American football halfback in the National Football League for the Washington Redskins. He played college football at Ohio State University and was drafted in the seventh round of the 1952 NFL Draft. Janowicz was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1976.
Wayne Lavern Robinson (January 14, 1930 – December 20, 2015) was a professional American football linebacker in the National Football League for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1952 through 1956. He played college football at the University of Minnesota and was drafted by the Eagles in the eighth round of the 1952 NFL Draft. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1954 and 1955.
After his playing career, he coached in the Canadian Football League for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the British Columbia Lions. He also coached at the University of Iowa, for the Houston Oilers, Green Bay Packers and the Atlanta Falcons before finally retiring in 1976.
He was named to the Philadelphia Eagles Top 75 players in franchise history in 2007 celebrating the team's 75th anniversary. He ranked at number 44. He died on December 20, 2015 in San Diego at the age of 85.
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