Alex Wojciechowicz

Alexander Francis "Wojie" Wojciechowicz (/woʊdʒɪˈhoʊwɪts/; August 12, 1915 – July 13, 1992) was an American football player from 1935 to 1950. He was a two-way player who played at center on offense and at linebacker on defense. He has been inducted into both the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame, was a founder and the first president of the NFL Alumni Association, and was the third player to receive the Order of the Leather Helmet.

Wojciechowicz played college football for the Fordham Rams from 1935 to 1937 and was a member of the line that became known as the Seven Blocks of Granite. He was selected as the consensus first-team All-American center in both 1936 and 1937.

Wojciechowicz was selected by the Detroit Lions in the first round of the 1938 NFL Draft and played for the Lions from 1938 to 1946. He was selected as a first-team All-NFL player in 1939 and 1944. In 1946, he was released by the Lions and then sold to the Philadelphia Eagles, for whom he played from 1946 to 1950. He won two NFL championships with the Eagles, in 1948 and 1949.

Alex Wojciechowicz
refer to caption
Wojciechowicz (bottom) in 1946
No. 35, 53
Position:Center, linebacker
Personal information
Born:August 12, 1915
South River, New Jersey
Died:July 13, 1992 (aged 76)
Forked River, New Jersey
Career information
High school:South River (NJ)
College:Fordham
NFL Draft:1938 / Round: 1 / Pick: 6
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Games played:134
Games started:75
Interceptions:19
Player stats at NFL.com

Early years

Wojciechowicz was born in 1915 in South River, New Jersey, and attended South River High School.[1] His father, Andrew Wojciechowicz (1890–1974), was a Polish immigrant and tailor.[2]

College football

Wojciechowicz enrolled at Fordham University in 1935 and played college football as the center for the Fordham Rams football team from 1935 to 1937. He was a member of the Fordham line, alongside Vince Lombardi, that became known as the Seven Blocks of Granite.[3][4] The undefeated 1937 Fordham team, with Wojciechowicz at center, compiled a 7–0–1 record, was ranked #3 in the final AP Poll, and gave up only 16 points all season. He was selected as the consensus first-team All-American center in both 1936 and 1937.[5]

Fordham coach Jim Crowley called Wojciechowicz "one of the great defensive centers" and noted that he "seldom made a bad pass from center."[6] He made a name for himself in the annual rivalry games with Pittsburgh, resulting in three consecutive scoreless ties. The final tie was the only blemish on the record of the 1937 Pitt team that won the national championship in the AP Poll. Wojciechowicz later cited the Pitt games as his three biggest thrills in football,[7] saying, "Pitt had the dream backfield, with all-America Marshall Goldberg, and we had the dream line. It was a stalemate for three years. Those three games proved what football is all about."[4]

Professional football

Detroit Lions

Wojciechowicz was selected by the Detroit Lions in the first round, sixth overall pick, of the 1938 NFL Draft.[1] He signed with the Lions in July 1938.[6] For nine years, Wojciechowicz was a fixture in the Lions' lineup, a 60-minute player who played at center on offense and linebacker on defense. He was selected as a first-team All-NFL player in 1939 and 1944 and had seven interceptions in 1944, a Lions single-season record at the time.[8] Between 1938 and 1946, he appeared in 86 games for the Lions, 61 of them as a starter.[1] The Pro Football Hall of Fame, in its biography of Wojciechowicz, states: "On the field, . . . he was all business, one of the last of the 'iron men' of football, a center on offense and a sure-tackling linebacker with unusually good range, on defense."[8] In October 1946, after the Lions lost their season opener, Detroit coach Gus Dorais released four linemen, including Wojciechowicz. Wojciechowicz announced at the time that he would return to his business in New Jersey and added, "This day had to come, and I can't say I'm disappointed that it happened now."[9]

Philadelphia Eagles

Two days after the Lions announced his release, the Eagles purchased the Lions' rights to Wojciechowicz for an undisclosed sum.[10] He appeared in seven games for the Eagles, only one as a starter, during the 1946 season.[1]

In 1947, he became the Eagles' starting center, appearing in all 12 games for the club, 11 as a starter.[1] The 1947 Eagles compiled an 8–4 record, finished in first place in the NFL East, but lost to the Cardinals in the 1947 NFL Championship Game.[11]

In 1948, Wojciechowicz lost the starting center job to Vic Lindskog, but appeared in 10 games, mostly on defense, for the 1948 Eagles team that shut out the Cardinals in the 1948 NFL Championship Game.[12] In 1949, he appeared in all 12 games, but only one as a starter, as Chuck Bednarik was the starting center for the Eagles team. That year, the Eagles won their second consecutive NFL championship, shutting out the Rams in the 1949 NFL Championship Game.[13]

He was considered past his prime when he joined the Eagles, but head coach Greasy Neale used him principally as a linebacker, and he responded with quality defensive play.[14] Teammate Jack Hinkle called Wojciechowicz the "toughest guy" on the Eagles' championship teams and added, "He looked like a big, shaggy dog. A sad-eyed St. Bernard. But he'd rip your head off."[14]

In his final NFL season, Wojciechowicz appeared in nine games, none as a starter, and saw only limited action.[1][15] In December 1950, he announced that he was retiring as a player.[15]

Family, honors and later years

Wojciechowicz was married to Katherine Mallen, and they had three sons and a daughter.[3][16][17] For many years after retiring from the NFL, he lived in Wanamassa, New Jersey, and worked as a real estate appraiser and broker.[7][18]

Wojciechowicz was also one of the founders of the NFL Alumni Association, established to negotiate with the owners for the creation of a pension plan to benefit the game's early players, and was elected as its president in 1968.[19] His son recalled: "He worked hard to establish the indigent players' fund and establish pensions."[18]

After retiring from football, Wojciechowicz received numerous honors including the following:

Wojciechowicz died in 1992 at his home in the Forked River section of Lacey Township, New Jersey, at age 76.[1][14]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Alex Wojciechowicz". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
  2. ^ "Ex-Lion Wojie Still Solid at 265". Detroit Free Press. February 5, 1977. p. 11.
  3. ^ a b "Alex Wojciechowicz, Football Player, 76". The New York Times. July 14, 1992.
  4. ^ a b "Wojciechowicz: A name chiseled in granite". The Independent (Long Beach, CA). November 23, 1976. p. 20.
  5. ^ "2014 NCAA Football Records: Consensus All-America Selections" (PDF). National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). 2014. p. 5. Retrieved August 16, 2014.
  6. ^ a b "Wojie Signed for Lion Post". Detroit Free Press. July 17, 1938. p. 37.
  7. ^ a b Larry Favinger (September 22, 1976). "Sport City". The Portsmouth Herald. p. 10.
  8. ^ a b "Alex Wojciechowicz". Pro Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
  9. ^ "Wojie, Forte Get Gate After Cardinal Debacle in Home Opener". Detroit Free Press. October 15, 1946. p. 12.
  10. ^ "Wojie Will Be Eagle on Sunday". Detroit Free Press. October 17, 1946. p. 19.
  11. ^ "1947 Philadelphia Eagles". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
  12. ^ "1948 Philadelphia Eagles". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
  13. ^ "1949 Philadelphia Eagles". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
  14. ^ a b c Didinger, Ray. "Eagles' Wojciechowicz was club's 'toughest guy'", Asbury Park Press, July 15, 1992. Accessed May 10, 2017. "Alex Wojciechowicz , one of 12 Philadelphia Eagles in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, died Monday at his home in Forked River, N.J."
  15. ^ a b "A Block of Granite: Wojciechowicz Will End 13 Years in Pro Sport". The Daily Courier. December 21, 1950. p. 6.
  16. ^ "Star Guard on Fordham Eleven Becomes Father". The Evening News. August 22, 1938. p. 8.
  17. ^ "Asbury Park to Get 3 Wojies". Asbury Park Evening Press. July 31, 1947. p. 17.
  18. ^ a b "A. F. Wojciechowicz, 76, football Hall of Famer". Asbury Park Press. July 14, 1992. p. 7.
  19. ^ "Negotiations Underway for Alumni". The Argus. August 29, 1968. p. 12.
  20. ^ "Wojciechowicz One of Sixteen Named to Football Hall of Fame". Asbury Park Press. July 25, 1955. p. 16.
  21. ^ "Alex "Wojie" Wojciechowicz". College Football Hall of Fame. Football Foundation. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
  22. ^ "'Wojie' Among 7 Members Picked". Asbury Park Press. February 20, 1968. p. 22.
  23. ^ Arthur Daley (February 21, 1968). "Sports of The Times; Immortals With Muscles". The New York Times.
  24. ^ "Wojciechowicz Selected On NFL 1940s Squad". Asbury Park Press. August 29, 1969. p. 13.
  25. ^ "Fordham Slates Five Inductees". The Tennessean. April 26, 1970. p. 35.
  26. ^ "'Wojie' Remembers His High School Coach". Asbury Park Press. November 18, 1971. p. 46.
  27. ^ "Alex Wojciechowicz". National Polish American Sports Hall of Fame. Retrieved February 19, 2016.
  28. ^ Charlie Vincent (January 20, 1982). "Former Lion Hall of Famer Wojciechowicz joins elite group in Leather Helmet group". Detroit Free Press. p. 3H.
  29. ^ "Eagles Hall of Fame Inductees" (PDF). Philadelphia Eagles. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 25, 2016. Retrieved February 19, 2016.

External links

1936 College Football All-America Team

The 1936 College Football All-America team is composed of college football players who were selected as All-Americans by various organizations and writers that chose College Football All-America Teams in 1936. The nine selectors recognized by the NCAA as "official" for the 1936 season are (1) Collier's Weekly, as selected by Grantland Rice, (2) the Associated Press (AP), (3) the United Press (UP), (4) the All-America Board (AAB), (5) the International News Service (INS), (6) Liberty magazine, (7) the Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA), (8) the North American Newspaper Alliance (NANA), and (9) the Sporting News (SN).

1937 College Football All-America Team

The 1937 College Football All-America team is composed of college football players who were selected as All-Americans by various organizations and writers that chose College Football All-America Teams in 1937. The ten selectors recognized by the NCAA as "official" for the 1937 season are (1) Collier's Weekly, as selected by Grantland Rice, (2) the Associated Press (AP), (3) the United Press (UP), (4) the All-America Board (AAB), (5) the International News Service (INS), (6) Liberty magazine, (7) the Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA), (8) Newsweek, (9) the North American Newspaper Alliance (NANA), and (10) the Sporting News (SN).

1938 NFL Draft

The 1938 National Football League Draft was held on December 12, 1937, at the Hotel Sherman in Chicago, Illinois. The draft consisted of 12 rounds and 110 player selections. It began with the Cleveland Rams, taking Corbett Davis.

1939 All-Pro Team

The 1939 All-Pro Team consisted of American football players chosen by various selectors for the All-Pro team of the National Football League (NFL) for the 1939 NFL season. Teams were selected by, among others, the NFL coaches (NFL), Professional Football Writers Association (PFW), the United Press (UP), the International News Service (INS), Collyer's Eye (CE), and the New York Daily News (NYDN).Players displayed in bold were consensus first-team selections. Four players were selected for the first team by all six selectors: Chicago Bears fullback Bill Osmanski; Green Bay Packers end Don Hutson; Chicago Bears tackle Joe Stydahar; and Chicago Bears guard Dan Fortmann.

1944 All-Pro Team

The 1944 All-Pro Team consisted of American football players who were chosen by various selectors for the All-Pro team for the 1944 football season. Teams were selected by, among others, the Associated Press (AP), the United Press (UP), the International News Service (INS), Pro Football Illustrated, and the New York Daily News (NYDN).

1946 Philadelphia Eagles season

The 1946 Philadelphia Eagles season was their 14th in the league. The team failed to improve on their previous output of 7–3, winning only six games. The team failed to qualify for the playoffs for the 14th consecutive season.

1947 Philadelphia Eagles season

The 1947 Philadelphia Eagles season was their 15th in the league. The team improved on their previous output of 6–5, winning eight games. The team qualified for the playoffs for the first time in fifteen seasons.

1948 Philadelphia Eagles season

The 1948 Philadelphia Eagles season was the franchise's 16th season in the National Football League (NFL). The Eagles repeated as Eastern Division champions and returned to the NFL Championship game, this time defeating the Chicago Cardinals to win their first NFL title.

1949 Philadelphia Eagles season

The 1949 Philadelphia Eagles season was the franchise's 17th season in the National Football League. The Eagles won their second-consecutive NFL championship.

1950 Philadelphia Eagles season

The 1950 Philadelphia Eagles season was their 18th in the league. The team failed to improve on their previous output of 11–1, winning only six games. The team failed to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in four seasons.

Dave Rimington

David Brian Rimington (born May 22, 1960) is a former American college and professional football player who was a center in the National Football League (NFL) for seven seasons during the 1980s. Rimington played college football for the University of Nebraska, where he was two-time consensus All-American and received several awards recognizing him as the best college lineman in the country. He was selected in the first round of the 1983 NFL Draft and played professionally for the Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL. Rimington is the namesake of the Rimington Trophy, which is awarded annually to the nation's top collegiate center. Rimington was announced as the interim athletic director of Nebraska on September 26, 2017.

John F. Druze

John Francis Druze (July 3, 1914 – December 27, 2005) was an American football player and coach.

List of Detroit Lions first-round draft picks

The Detroit Lions are a professional American football team based in Detroit, Michigan. They are members of the North Division of the National Football Conference (NFC) in the National Football League (NFL), and play their home games at Ford Field in Downtown Detroit.

Originally based in Portsmouth, Ohio and called the Portsmouth Spartans, the team began play in 1929 as an independent professional team, one of many such teams in the Ohio and Scioto River valleys. For the 1930 season, the Spartans formally joined the NFL as the other area independents folded because of the Great Depression. Despite success within the NFL, they could not survive in Portsmouth, then the NFL's smallest city. The team was purchased and moved to Detroit for the 1934 season.

The Lions have won four NFL Championships, tied for 9th overall in total championships amongst all 32 NFL franchises; although the last was in 1957, which gives the club the second-longest NFL championship drought behind the Arizona Cardinals. They are one of four current teams to have never played in the Super Bowl.

List of Fordham Rams in the NFL Draft

This is a list of Fordham Rams in the NFL Draft. In total the Rams have had 30 players in the NFL Draft.

National Football League 1940s All-Decade Team

This is a list of all NFL players who had outstanding performances throughout the 1940s and have been compiled together into this fantasy group. The team was selected by voters of the Pro Football Hall of Fame retroactively in 1969 to mark the league's 50th anniversary.

Notes:

1 Team belonged to both the National Football Conference and the All-America Football Conference at different times

2 The Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers were merged into one team for the 1943 season due to World War II

3 Three-time finalist to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Seven Blocks of Granite

The Seven Blocks of Granite were the Fordham University football team's offensive line under head coach "Sleepy" Jim Crowley and line coach Frank Leahy. The most famous Seven Blocks of Granite were Leo Paquin, Johnny Druze, Alex Wojciechowicz, Ed Franco, Al Babartsky, Natty Pierce and Vince Lombardi. The nickname was also commonly used to referred to the Fordham lines of the 1929, 1930, and 1937 teams, but it is the 1936 line which is today the best known of these lines.

In the 1930s, Fordham University was a college football power, as they were consistently a nationally ranked team. In 1936, school publicist Timothy Cohane needed a nickname to spur recognition of his Fordham Rams, who were undefeated halfway through the season and on the verge of possibly their best season ever. The strength of the Fordham team was its offensive line of seven men: one center, two guards, two tackles and two ends. In his columns, American sportswriter Grantland Rice had already written "The Fordham Wall Still Stands" in honor of the team and its early season success, but a catchy nickname was still needed—something to rival Notre Dame's famous Four Horsemen. The year before Cohane tried using the "Seven Samsons" to highlight the squad's offensive linemen, but it never caught on. Cohane then tried the "Seven Blocks of Granite".

In its final two games the 1936 team was tied by an inferior University of Georgia team and beaten by a lowly NYU team—ending their hopes of a Rose Bowl appearance. The line was not as good as some of the previous lines at Fordham, or the 1937 team which went 7-0-1. However, the 1936 team and the Seven Blocks of Granite became college football immortals.

Associated with the name, the Rotary Club's Lombardi Award is awarded annually to the best college football lineman or linebacker. The main part of the trophy, awarded to a down lineman on either side of the ball or a linebacker who lines up no further than five yards deep from the ball, is a block of granite, giving homage to Lombardi's college days as a lineman.

Sloko Gill

Sloko Gill (March 8, 1918 – December 22, 1995) was a standout center at Youngstown State University under coach Dwight "Dike" Beede in the late 1930s and early 1940s. He went on to play for the 1942 Detroit Lions, but his professional football career was interrupted by World War II.

South River High School (New Jersey)

South River High School is a four-year comprehensive community public high school that serves students in ninth through twelfth grades from South River in Middlesex County, New Jersey, United States, operating as the lone secondary school of the South River Public Schools. South River High School is overseen by the New Jersey Department of Education.

As of the 2015-16 school year, the school had an enrollment of 615 students and 53.7 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 11.5:1. There were 69 students (11.2% of enrollment) eligible for free lunch and none eligible for reduced-cost lunch.

Sports Hall of Fame of New Jersey

The Sports Hall of Fame of New Jersey was established in 1988 to honor athletes, teams, events and contributors associated with the state of New Jersey. There is currently no physical site or structure for the hall, but its members are honored with plaques that are displayed at Meadowlands Arena — in the Meadowlands Sports Complex — in East Rutherford.The first group of members was inducted in May 1993. Inductees are honored in a public ceremony that takes place during New York Giants football games.

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