John Joseph "Bo" Molenda (February 20, 1905 – July 20, 1986) was an American football player, primarily a fullback, who played for the University of Michigan and nine seasons in the NFL. He played for two Big Ten Conference championship teams and four NFL championship teams (three with the Green Bay Packers and one with the New York Giants) and later became a football coach.
Molenda cropped from 1925 Michigan Wolverines team photograph
|Born||February 20, 1905|
|Died||July 20, 1986 (aged 81)|
|1927–1928||New York Yankees|
|1928–1932||Green Bay Packers|
|1932–1935||New York Giants|
|Position(s)||Fullback, quarterback, halfback|
|Coaching career (HC unless noted)|
|1936–1941||New York Giants (assistant)|
|1947–1948||Green Bay Packers (backfield)|
|1949||Chicago Hornets (backfield)|
Molenda was born in Illinois and attended school in Decatur. He helped the Durfee School in Decatur win the Major School league cup. He moved with his family to Detroit, where he attended Detroit Northeastern High School. At Northeastern High, he was considered one of the best athletes ever produced by the city's school system. When Molenda and Bennie Oosterbaan both enrolled at the University of Michigan in September 1924, a newspaper report called them "two of the greatest all round athletes ever turned out in Michigan prep school ranks." In high school, Molenda excelled in football, baseball, basketball and track. He was selected as an All-American center in basketball at the national basketball tournament as a senior in high school.
Molenda played fullback for the Michigan Wolverines teams that won Big Ten championships in 1925 and 1926. In 1925, Molenda made a name for himself with his defensive performance against the University of Illinois team led by Red Grange. In 1924, Grange had scored four touchdowns against Michigan in the span of ten minutes, and stopping Grange was the key to beating Illinois in 1925. Michigan won the game and stopped Grange, and the Associated Press credited Molenda's efforts: "Molenda was the principal reason why the Illini's aerial attack was unsuccessful. Time after time he got in the way to make the pass incomplete or to gather it in his arms." Molenda was reported to have intercepted five passes in the Illinois game. Molenda also scored three touchdowns in Michigan's 1925 victory over Navy. Molenda was picked as a second-team All-American in 1925. Michigan Coach Fielding Yost said the 1925 team with Benny Friedman, Bennie Oosterbaan, and Molenda was the best team he ever coached. The 1925 team outscored its opponents 225-3, but lost to Northwestern, 3-2, on a muddy Soldier Field in Chicago.
Sophomores Molenda and Oosterbaan also paired up on Michigan's basketball team in 1926, leading some to conclude they were "even better cagers than footballers, which, by the way, is saying quite a little." Molenda was a tough defensive player in basketball and was also the Wolverines' top scorer in 1926, until poor classroom performance resulted in his being placed on the "home list" in February 1926.
Molenda overcame his academic ineligibility in time for the 1926 football season. In a close victory over Illinois, Molenda scored Michigan's only touchdown.
After the football season ended, Molenda again returned to his place on the Michigan basketball team. However, the university announced in February 1927 that Molenda had been again placed on the "home list" due to low grades, making him ineligible to re-enter the university for one year.
In June 1927, he signed a contract to play professional football for the New York Yankees team organized by sports promoter, C. C. Pyle, and featuring Red Grange. He played for the Yankees through the complete 1927–1928 season. He scored the Yankees' only touchdown in a 7-0 win on Wrigley baseball field in Los Angeles in January 1928.
In December 1927, Molenda signed a contract to play professional baseball for the Waco team in Texas League starting in March 1928. He had been considered one of the top pitchers in the Detroit high school system. When he reported to Waco in March 1928, he brought his new bride with him, and the Associated Press reported that a number of major league clubs had been angling for his servics. In late June 1928, Molenda was sent to the Texarkana club in the Lone Star League.
As a fullback, Molenda became one of the stars of the early Packers teams that won NFL championships in 1929, 1930, and 1931.
In November 1928, the Green Bay Packers purchased Molenda's contracts from Charlie Pyle, and one Wisconsin newspaper wrote: "Packer football stock climbed a notch or two here Thursday when Bo Molenda, one of the best fullbacks in the National Football league, joined the Big Bay Blues. ... With Molenda in the fold, the Packer squad is beginning to figure on a national championship. A big powerful fullback like Molenda rounds out the Bay machine to a nicety."
After playing several games with the Packers, Molenda went to California in early 1929 where he pitched in the winter league. He reported to the Denver baseball team in the spring of 1929, but was able to secure his release when he learned of an industrial opening in Green Bay. In June 1929, Molenda returned to Green Bay to establish his residence there and signed a contract to play for Green Bay's professional baseball team, the Green Sox of the Bay Fox River Valley League. Molenda had success for the Green Sox, striking out 14 batters in six innings of relief pitching in one game, striking out 10 and 11 in other games, and pitching a three-hit shutout. Molenda pitched for the Green Sox again in the summer of 1931.
Even before the first game of the 1929 season, the Packers, with Molenda at fullback, were being touted as "the greatest team ever." The Packers won their first NFL championship in 1929 after a key 20-6 win over a New York Giants team led by Molenda's former Michigan teammate, Benny Friedman. Molenda scored a touchdown and kicked two extra points in the game as Molenda and Johnny Blood were credited with leading the Packers offense. The 1929 game against the Giants has gone down as one of the great games in Packers' history, in part due to the fact that only 12 Packers played in the game, with the 12th player coming into the game as a last minute substitute. Newspapers described Molenda as the "sparkplug" and the workhorse of the 1929 Packers: "Molenda was the workhorse. He played 60 minutes in nearly every game." The 1929 Packers were the first NFL team to finish the season undefeated with a 13-0 record as the undisputed NFL champions. After the 1929 season, Molenda worked for an engineering concern.
Molenda continued to play fullback for the Packers in 1930 and 1931, as the Packers won three consecutive NFL championships. Though Molenda's contributions as a blocker and defensive player do not show up in offensive statistics, he also ranked as the Packers' fourth-leading scorer in 1929 and 1930 and as the fifth-leading scorer in 1931.
In 1931, the Packers sold Molenda to the New York Giants, where he played until 1936. He was credited with "carrying the brunt of the Giants' victorious offense in the famous "gumshoe game" against the Chicago Bears in 1934.
In his football career, he blocked for Benny Friedman, Red Grange and Johnny Blood (McNally). He played in 111 NFL games and scored 108 points in NFL play, including 24 extra points, 12 rushing touchdowns, one receiving touchdown, and one interception returned for a touchdown.
In 1936, he was hired as an assistant coach for the New York Giants, a position he held until 1941. In December 1939, with Giants' head coach Steve Owen absent due to the death of his mother, Molenda led the Giants in the 1939 NFC Championship Game against the Packers. The Packers beat the Giants in Milwaukee, 27-0, to win the title.
In 1941, Molenda worked as a baseball umpire in the International League.
With the U.S. entry into World War II, Molenda enlisted in the Navy in early 1942 as a chief petty officer. After duty at Redlands University in charge of the Navy's physical education program, Molenda was promoted to a lieutenant and assigned in the September 1943 as the head coach of the football team at the naval training station in San Diego. His Navy team defeated both USC and UCLA. The defeat of USC, by a 10-7 score, drew attention as the Trojans had been undefeated front-ranking team that had not been scored on in the first six games of the season. In January 1944, Molenda was shipped overseas to active duty in the Pacific where he took part in the Hollandia and Leyte invasions. Molenda later recalled that he was in the Philippines "going on 28 months." He was supposed to have been rotated at 18 months, but the Navy lost his records and he was stuck. One day, George Halas visited and asked Molenda if he would like to return home. Molenda said yes, and two weeks later Molenda was back in the United States. He noted, "That's why I like George Halas."
In the spring of 1947, Molenda was living in Manhattan Beach, California and working as a baseball umpire. At that time, Curly Lambeau hired Molenda to return to Green Bay as the Packers' backfield coach. In March 1948, the Packers signed Molenda for a second season as the team's backfield coach. In 1948, the Packers had the worst season in club history, finishing with a 3-9 record. In February 1949, head coach Curly Lambeau announced a wholesale shakeup in the coaching staff, and Molenda was replaced after two years coaching the team's backs.
In March 1950, Molenda was hired as the athletic director and head football coach at Menlo College in Menlo Park, California. He remained at Menlo for nearly 20 years, retiring in 1969. Molenda's Menlo College team's won seven championships, but went into a winless streak in 1966 that lasted until 1968. Molenda won national attention when he noticed a soccer player go into convulsions after being knocked unconscious in a collision with another player. Molenda was credited with saving the unconscious player's life after he pried the player's mouth open with his pipe and pulled his tongue clear of his windpipe. During Molenda's final game as a coach was a November 1969, after which Molenda told a reporter: "I've played on nine championship teams during my career, and last Saturday was a helluva way to end it all. We lost 70-6." He was inducted into the Menlo College of Atherton Hall of Fame in 1999.
In 1975, 13 living members of the 1925 Michigan team, including Molenda, Benny Friedman, and Bennie Oosterbaan returned to Ann Arbor and were introduced to the homecoming crowd of 93,000 fans. Molenda died in July 1986 in Banning, California. After his death in 1986, the Pro Football Hall of Fame's veterans committee was reportedly considering Molenda as a possible inductee.
The 1925 All-Big Ten Conference football team consists of American football players selected to the All-Big Ten Conference teams chosen by various selectors for the 1925 Big Ten Conference football season.1925 College Football All-America Team
The 1925 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 1925.
Walter Camp died in March 1925, marking the end of his "official" All-American selections for Collier's Weekly. The wire services and others moved in to fill the void in 1925, with both the United Press and Associated Press offering their own All-American teams for the first time. The eight selectors recognized by the NCAA as "official" for the 1925 season are (1) the All-America Board (AAB), (2) the Associated Press (AP), (3) Collier's Weekly, with Grantland Rice replacing Camp as the selector, (4) Football World magazine, (5) the International News Service (INS), (6) Liberty magazine, (7) the Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA), and (8) the United Press (UP).
The only two unanimous All-Americans in 1925 were tackle Ed Weir of Nebraska and halfback Andy Oberlander of Dartmouth. Red Grange of Illinois and Bennie Oosterbaan of Michigan each received first-team designations from seven of the eight official selectors.1925 Michigan Wolverines football team
The 1925 Michigan Wolverines football team represented the University of Michigan in the 1925 Big Ten Conference football season. The 1925 season was Fielding H. Yost's 24th as the head football coach. Michigan compiled a 7–1 record and outscored opponents by a combined score of 227 to 3. The 1925 team won the Big Ten Conference championship and was ranked second in country (tied with Alabama) behind Dartmouth in the Dickinson System rankings.
The only points allowed by the team were in a 3 to 2 loss to Northwestern in a game played in a heavy rainstorm on a field covered in mud five or six inches deep in some places. Michigan shut out seven of its eight opponents and allowed only four first downs in the last three games of the season.
Quarterback Benny Friedman and left end Bennie Oosterbaan, sometimes referred to as "The Benny-to-Bennie Show," were both consensus All-Americans and became known as one of the greatest passing combinations in college football history. Friedman finished second in close voting for the 1925 Chicago Tribune Silver Football trophy, which is awarded to the Most Valuable Player in the Big Ten. Both Friedman and Oosterbaan were later inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Team captain and center Robert J. Brown and guard Tom Edwards also received first-team All-American honors from some selectors.
At the end of the season, Yost called the 1925 Michigan team "the greatest football team I ever coached" and "the greatest football team I ever saw in action." He continued to maintain that the 1925 squad was his greatest team even years later. The team was retroactively named as a 1925 co-national champion by MIT statistician Jeff Sagarin.1925 Minnesota Golden Gophers football team
The 1925 Minnesota Golden Gophers football team was an American football team that represented the University of Minnesota in the 1925 Big Ten Conference football season. In their first year under head coach Clarence Spears, the Golden Gophers compiled a 5–2–1 record and outscored their opponents by a combined score of 176 to 91.Guard Len Walsh was named All-Big Ten first team.Total attendance for the season was 193,707, which averaged out to 27,672 per game. The season high for attendance was against Notre Dame.1926 Michigan Wolverines football team
The 1926 Michigan Wolverines football team represented the University of Michigan in the 1926 Big Ten Conference football season. In the team's 25th and final season under head coach Fielding H. Yost, Michigan compiled a record of 7–1, outscored its opponents 191 to 38, and tied with Northwestern for the Big Ten Conference championship. Michigan's only loss was to an undefeated Navy team that was recognized as the national champion by several selectors. At the end of the season, Michigan ranked third in the country under the Dickinson System, trailing only Stanford and Navy. One selector, Jeff Sagarin, has retroactively named Michigan as a 1926 co-national champion.Quarterback Benny Friedman and end Bennie Oosterbaan were both selected as consensus All-Americans. Friedman was also Michigan's 1926 team captain and most valuable player.1927 Michigan Wolverines football team
The 1927 Michigan Wolverines football team represented the University of Michigan in the 1927 Big Ten Conference football season. The 1927 season was Michigan's first in its new stadium, Michigan Stadium. It was also the first under new head coach Elton Wieman following the retirement of Fielding H. Yost as head coach. Michigan shut out its first four opponents before losing to 1927 Big Ten Conference champion Illinois and later to Big Ten runner up Minnesota. Michigan compiled a record of 6–2 (3–2 Big Ten) and outscored its opponents by a combined score of 137 to 39.
Left end Bennie Oosterbaan was the team's captain and was selected as the team's most valuable player and as a consensus first-team All-American for the third consecutive year. Halfback Louis Gilbert was Michigan's leading scorer with 63 points in seven games. Three Michigan players—Oosterbaan, Gilbert and guard Ray Baer—were all selected as first-team All-Big Ten players. Baer was also selected as a second-team All-American.1931 All-Pro Team
The 1931 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 1931 NFL season. Teams were selected by, among others, the Green Bay Press-Gazette based on the returns of ballots sent to each club in the league as well as sports writers and officials, the United Press (UP), and Collyer's Eye (CE).Players displayed in bold were consensus first-team selections. Four players were unanimously selected for the first team by all three selectors: Portsmouth Spartans quarterback Dutch Clark; Chicago Bears halfback Red Grange; Chicago Cardinals fullback Ernie Nevers; and New York Giants guard Butch Gibson.1934 NFL Championship Game
The 1934 National Football League Championship Game, also known as the Sneakers Game, was the second scheduled National Football League (NFL) championship game. Played at the Polo Grounds in New York City on December 9, it was the first title game for the newly created Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy. With a remarkable fourth quarter, the New York Giants defeated the Chicago Bears 30–13.The defending champion Bears entered the game undefeated at 13–0, with an 18-game winning streak. The Giants (8–5) won consecutive division titles, but had lost their final regular season game at Philadelphia. The Bears were favored to repeat as champions.A freezing rain the night before the game froze the Polo Grounds field. After Giants end Ray Flaherty remarked to head coach Steve Owen that sneakers would provide better footing on the frozen playing surface, Owen sent his friend Abe Cohen, a tailor who assisted on the Giants sideline, to Manhattan College to get some sneakers. There, Brother Jasper, the athletic director (and the later namesake of the Manhattan Jaspers) emptied the lockers of the school's basketball team. Cohen arrived in the third quarter with nine pairs of basketball sneakers from the college.The Bears led 10–3 at the half when the Giants switched to the basketball sneakers. A Chicago field goal was the only score in the third quarter, extending the lead to ten points. Early in the fourth, Giants quarterback Ed Danowski threw a touchdown pass to Ike Frankian to close the score to 13–10. (The pass was initially intercepted at the Bears' 2-yard line, but Frankian then grabbed the ball out of the defender's hands.) On the next New York drive, running back Ken Strong scored on a 42-yard touchdown run. Later an 11-yard run by Strong was turned into another touchdown for the Giants, and they scored for a final time on Danowski's 9-yard run, a fourth unanswered touchdown. New York outscored the Bears 27–0 in the fourth quarter to win 30–13.Many of the participants have been interviewed since the game took place, most notably Bronko Nagurski of the Bears and Mel Hein of the Giants. Generally, players from both sides have attributed the Giants' second half dominance to their selection of footwear. As Nagurski put it, "We immediately said something was wrong, because they suddenly had good footing and we didn't...they just out-smarted us." A mini-documentary of the game, narrated by Pat Summerall, can be seen in the 1987 video "Giants Among Men." NFL Films named the game the #8 bad weather game of all time.Doug Cosbie
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