Johnny Blood

John Victor McNally (November 27, 1903 – November 28, 1985), nicknamed Johnny Blood, was an American football player and coach. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a player in 1963.

John McNally
John McNally
Born:November 27, 1903
New Richmond, Wisconsin
Died:November 28, 1985 (aged 82)
Palm Springs, California
Career information
CollegeSaint John's (MN), Notre Dame[1]
Career history
As coach
1937–1939Pittsburgh Pirates
1940–1941Kenosha Cardinals
1950–1952Saint John's (MN)
As player
1925–1926Milwaukee Badgers
1926–1927Duluth Eskimos
1928Pottsville Maroons
1929–1933Green Bay Packers
1934Pittsburgh Pirates
1935–1936Green Bay Packers
1937–1938Pittsburgh Pirates
1941Buffalo Tigers
Career highlights and awards
Military career
Allegiance United States
Service/branchUnited States Army Air Corp seal U.S. Army Air Corps
Years of service1941–1945
Battles/warsWorld War II
India Theater


Early life

John Victory McNally Jr. was born as the fourth of six surviving children to parents, Mary and John McNally Sr.[2] A native of New Richmond, Wisconsin, McNally graduated from high school at age 14. He never played high school sports, but earned letters in football, baseball, basketball, and track at Saint John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota. McNally transferred to Notre Dame in 1926, but left school to play semi-professional football. He did not earn his degree until 1946 after retiring from the game.

Professional career

In 1922, while working for a newspaper in Minneapolis and still answering to the name John McNally, he and a friend, Ralph Hanson, heard they could make extra money by playing football for a semipro football team in the city. They decided to try out under fake names, which would protect McNally's amateur standing in case Notre Dame agreed to take McNally back someday after having been kicked out. They headed over to the team's practice field on McNally's motorcycle. "On the way there", McNally said, "we passed a theater on Hennepin Avenue, and up on the marquee I saw the name of the movie that was playing, Blood and Sand with Rudolph Valentino. Ralph was behind me on the motorcycle, and I turned my head and shouted, 'That's it. I'll be Blood and you be Sand.'" McNally made the team, but it was a few years before he made football history while playing with the Green Bay Packers and five other NFL teams.[3]

Starting in 1925, McNally made a tour of pro football franchises—the Milwaukee Badgers (1925–26), Duluth Eskimos (1926–27), Pottsville Maroons (1928), Green Bay Packers (1929–33), Pittsburgh Pirates (1934), the Packers again (1935–36), and the Pirates again as player-coach (1937–39).[4]

McNally played in the National Football League for 14 seasons, with five different teams. In his prime, McNally was 6'1" and 188 lbs., known for his speed, agility, and pass-catching ability. He got his professional start in 1925 with the Milwaukee Badgers, where he became famous as the "Vagabond Halfback" for his off-the-field behavior and spontaneity. In 1926 and 1927 he played for the Duluth Eskimos,with fellow Pro Football Hall of Famer, Ernie Nevers, and in 1928 he played with the Pottsville Maroons.

In 1928 McNally switched teams and came to Pottsville along with Walt Kiesling, another Pro Football Hall of Famer-to-be.

On November 25, 1928, the NFL's Pottsville Maroons played the visiting Green Bay Packers at Minersville Park in a driving snow storm. In a 26-0 lopsided win over the Packers, McNally scored the last two touchdowns of the game; his second coming on a 65-yard run after an interception. Although no one at Minersville Park knew it at the time, that touchdown would be the last Pottsville would ever score in the NFL.[5]

After the Maroons folded in 1928, McNally went to the team against which he scored Pottsville's last NFL touchdowns: the Green Bay Packers. Between 1929–1933, 1935–1936, he played with the Packers where he helped them win four championships. He helped lead the Packers to three Championships in a row: 1929–1931, as well as in 1936.

In 1937, McNally moved on to the Pittsburgh Steelers (then called the Pirates), where on his first play he ran back a kick 92 yards for a touchdown. He ended his NFL career in 1939 as the head coach of the Pirates. One day in 1941, McNally took a day off from his coaching duties for the Kenosha Cardinals minor league football team and played one game with the Buffalo Tigers of the third American Football League.

Green Bay Packers

When coach Curly Lambeau first negotiated a contract with McNally to play for the Green Bay Packers he offered him a $110 a week if he wouldn't drink after Wednesday and $100 a week if he did. McNally allegedly took the $100, although a later story said Lambeau said he would give him the $110 and let him drink on Wednesday for being so honest about it.[6]

McNally wore several different uniform numbers during his Packers career, including 14 (1933–34), 20 (1931–32), 24 (1929–30), 26 (1935), and 55 (1936).[7]

Coaching career

The Pittsburgh's President Art Rooney hired McNally for the 1937 season to be both a player and a coach for the NFL's Pirates. In his first season as coach, McNally's team was able to muster only a 4–7 record, which was still good enough for 3rd place in the NFL Eastern conference. McNally and his squad fared worse in 1938, however, posting only a 2–9 record. They finished 5th out of six teams in the NFL Eastern conference.

During the 1938 season, which would be McNally's last full season as coach, the Pirates were set to play the rival Philadelphia Eagles at Laidley Field in Charleston, West Virginia on November 20, but McNally was nowhere to be seen. As the story is often told, McNally was instead attending a football game at the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles. Friends in the press box questioned McNally as to why he was on the West Coast and he replied that the Pirates had an open date. The scoreboard, however, proved otherwise. Pittsburgh was on the road playing without its boss present.[8] "I was going to fire him", Rooney later said, "But the players loved him. So I told him, 'John, you have to make the games.'"

McNally began the Pirates' 1939 season as head coach, but following a 32–0 loss to the Chicago Bears at Forbes Field, and the third consecutive loss to start the season, McNally tendered his resignation to Rooney.[9] The Pirates went 7–25–1 (.318) in his three seasons before being replaced by Walt Kiesling in 1939.

Rooney later called McNally the most memorable character he knew during his career. "Nobody would even believe some of the things he did", said Rooney. "As one of our veterans once said, 'This is the only team I've been on where the players worry about the coach instead of the other way around.'"

For the 1940 and 1941 seasons, McNally took over the coaching position with the Kenosha Cardinals, an independent pro team that had formerly played in the American Professional Football Association of 1939. For two games, he and two of his players loaned themselves to the Buffalo Tigers of the American Football League (1940), with McNally playing in one of the games. (By doing so, McNally became the only alumnus of the 1940 AFL to eventually reach the Hall of Fame.)

McNally coached football again at St. John's University (Minnesota) from 1950 to 1952 where he amassed 13–9 record during his three-year stint. When leaving Saint John's he told incoming head coach John Gagliardi that "nobody can win at Saint John's." Gagliardi went on to become the winningest head coach in college football regardless of division and coached at St. John's from 1953 until his retirement after the 2012 season.

Legendary antics

McNally earned a reputation for extracurricular exploits both on and off the football field that contributed to the legend of the man; it is generally accepted that some of McNally's exploits were tall tales. The exploits of McNally that can be substantiated include:

• Jumping across a narrow ledge six stories from the ground to gain access to a Los Angeles hotel room.

• Fleeing a towel fight with Packers end Lavvie Dilweg by climbing on top of a fast-moving train and crawling across car tops. After clinching the 1931 league championship, the Packers celebrated on the train ride back to Green Bay from New York with a party, which included an impromptu towel fight. During the towel fight, McNally angered the towering Dilweg, who chased McNally through the railroad cars and trapped him on the rear platform. McNally then hoisted himself on top of the car and made his way across the top of the moving train until he reached the engine compartment, where he spent the remainder of the trip.[8]

• Playing almost an entire game with a collapsed kidney.

• Having to be rescued by teammates while attempting chin-ups on the stern's flagpole of the ocean liner SS Mariposa while traveling across the Pacific Ocean for a barnstorming game in Hawaii.

• Riding the blinds between trains on the way to training camp to avoid having to pay a fare, which earned him the nickname "the Vagabond Halfback."

• Once ran 50 yards for a touchdown on a lateral from quarterback Red Dunn. When Dunn called the same play later in the game, McNally simply smiled and lateraled the ball back to him.

• Climbing down the face of a hotel in downtown Chicago to avoid curfew and recite poetry to the swooning women below.

• McNally was famous for perching on hotel ledges and the tops of bar tables as he sang the song Galway Bay.[10]

• He once passed up an opportunity to purchase a NFL franchise for $1200.[11]

• Alan Robinson of the Associated Press recalled that McNally "once pulled his car directly into the path of the team train that he'd missed during a late night of wine, women and song. He wasn't even fined, or suspended—after all, he was the coach."[12]

• Augie Ratner, a perfectly healthy ex-featherweight boxer, advertised his own funeral in a Minneapolis paper in 1971, to which McNally wrote, "I'll be sad when you are dead." McNally then offered a bet on which of them would live longest; he wrote, "The one who goes first loses a grand to the one who survives. The loser won't miss the money, and it will console the winner for the loss of a friend. May I live a long time and you forever." Ratner accepted the proposal; both men had the $1,000 bequest put into their wills.[13] McNally, who survived six years after Ratner's death,[14] won the bet.

Later in life

The day after Pearl Harbor was attacked in the Second World War, McNally enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps and served in India as a cryptographer. After the war McNally attempted to rejoin the Packers in 1945 but was injured by two tacklers while returning a punt in an exhibition game and retired permanently from professional football.

Returning to St. John's, McNally earned a degree in 1946 and stayed a few years as a teacher and a coach for several different sports. Later he would return to his hometown of New Richmond, Wisconsin to run an employment agency. In 1958 McNally was an unsuccessful candidate for county sheriff running on a platform promising "honest wrestling."

McNally also entered the University of Minnesota at the age of 50, where he later earned his master's degree in economics.[15]

When the Pro Football Hall of Fame was founded in 1963, McNally was among the 17-member inaugural class, which included Curly Lambeau, Jim Thorpe, Sammy Baugh, and Bronko Nagurski. Then in 1970, when the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame was founded, McNally was among its first eight inductees.

After football

McNally was married twice; first to Marguerite Streater, whom he married in the 1940s, and then to Catherine Kopp, whom he married in 1966.

On November 28, 1985, McNally died from the complications of a stroke in Palm Springs, California.[16] He was 82.[6] Though McNally was gone, his legacy was not. George Clooney's character—Dodge Connolly—in the 2008 film Leatherheads was based (in part) on McNally. Some said his life was made for Hollywood, but his wife Marguerite probably said it best when she said, "Even when Johnny does the expected, he does it in an unexpected way."[17]

A marker for McNally is placed at Immaculate Conception Cemetery in New Richmond, Wisconsin.[18]

Head coaching record


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Saint John's Johnnies (Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) (1950–1952)
1950 Saint John's 4–3 3–3 T–5th
1951 Saint John's 4–3 4–1 4th
1952 Saint John's 5–3 3–3 T–4th
Saint John's: 13–9 10–7
Total: 13–9


  1. ^
  2. ^ Gullickson, Denis J. (2006). Vagabond Halfback: The Life and Times of Johnny Blood McNally. Trails Books, A Division of Big Earth Publishing.
  3. ^ Tax, Jeremiah (December 17, 1984). "A Passel Of Pro Football Immortals Recall The Early Days Of The Game". Sports Illustrated.
  4. ^ "The Miami News?". Where is he now? Blood McNally is a legend among NFL's early players. November 26, 1983.
  5. ^ Costello, Doug (1986). "Johnny Blood: He Scored Pottsville Last Touchdown (From Pottsville Republican Dec. 18, 1985)" (PDF). The Coffin Corner, Vol. 8, No. 4.
  6. ^ a b "Johnny Blood lived as hard as he ran". Dubuqe Telegraph Herald. December 1, 1985.
  7. ^ "Johnny (Blood) McNally – Class of 1963". Green Bay Packers. Retrieved July 24, 2012.
  8. ^ a b Henry, Jack (1979). "Johnny Blood: The Vagabond Halfback (From Pittsburgh Steelers Weekly" (PDF). The Coffin Corner, Vol. 1, No. 7. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 18, 2010.
  9. ^ "Johnny Blood Quits as Coach of Pirates After Third Defeat". Milwaukee Journal. October 3, 1939.
  10. ^ "Art Rooney: Gentle Man, Gentleman". Los Angeles Times. September 1, 1988.
  11. ^ "Alabama Has Meant A Lot to Packers, Says McNally". The Tuscaloosa News. September 21, 1965.
  12. ^ "He Should Realize Life Is Same Way". Los Angeles Times. October 6, 1993.
  13. ^ "People". Sports Illustrated. October 4, 1971.
  14. ^
  15. ^ Holland, Gerald (September 3, 1963). "Sports Illustrated". Is That You Up There, Johnny Blood?.
  16. ^ Jim Campbell (2002). "McNally, John Victor ('Johnny Blood')." Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Thematic Series: Sports Figures. Charles Scribner's Sons. Retrieved January 7, 2013 from HighBeam Research
  17. ^ "A shared star: Johnny "Blood" McNally". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. July 3, 2012.
  18. ^ Vagabond Halfback

External links

1929 Green Bay Packers season

The 1929 Green Bay Packers season was their 11th season overall and their ninth season in the National Football League. The club posted an undefeated 12–0–1 record under player/coach Curly Lambeau, earning them a first-place finish and the Packers' first National Football League Championship. A victory celebration of 20,000 fans greeted them upon their return to Green Bay from their final game in Chicago.Before the start of the season, the Packers signed three future Hall of Famers: Johnny "Blood" McNally, Cal Hubbard, and Mike Michalske, who along with Lambeau led the Packers to the top of the league. Green Bay's current throwback uniform is based on the ones worn in 1929 in respect of the season that the Packers won their first championship.

Bob Monnett

Robert C. Monnett (February 27, 1910 – August 2, 1978) was a professional American football player who played halfback for six seasons for the Green Bay Packers. He was inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1973.

Boob Darling

Bernard "Boob" Darling (November 18, 1903 – March 5, 1968) was an American football player. He played his entire five-year career with the Green Bay Packers and was inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1970. Bernard received his nickname from his younger sister who always called him 'booboo' which was eventually shortened to just 'boob'. Darling died at Milwaukee in March 1968, of cancer.

Buffalo Indians

The Buffalo Indians were a professional American football team that competed in the third American Football League in 1940 and in 1941. The team played its home games in Civic Stadium in Buffalo, New York. Owned by the Buffalo American Legion, the Indians were managed by Earl "Red" Seick, who was also player-coach for the team for the first five games in 1940 (he was replaced by Orlando Nesmith for the rest of the season). While most of the AFL membership focused on raiding the rosters of the local members of the National Football League teams, the Indians (which did not have a local NFL competitor) concentrated on signing local talent, castoffs from the NFL, and men who played in the defunct second American Football League.Featuring the running talents of halfback Carl Littlefield, the Indians struggled to a 2-8 record in 1940 (having been shut out four times and forfeited one game; they also won one game by forfeit) and finished in fifth place. The club was reorganized in early 1941, with a new name (Buffalo Tigers) and a new coach (Tiny Engebretsen). The changes yielded the same results once league play resumed that fall, Buffalo finishing with a 2-6 record and fourth place in the five team loop before the AFL suspended operations after the Pearl Harbor attack and the U.S. entry into World War II.By the time the war has ended, both the league and the Buffalo Tigers officially ceased to exist, but Buffalo's foray into major league football was not forgotten as the All-America Football Conference formed in 1946... with a new team, the Buffalo Bisons, being the new tenants in the newly renamed War Memorial Stadium.

Charley Brock

Charles Jacob "Charley" Brock (March 15, 1916 – May 25, 1987) was an American football center and linebacker.

Desperate Measures (musical)

Desperate Measures is a musical comedy with music by David Friedman and book and lyrics by Peter Kellogg which is currently playing at New World Stages for an open-ended engagement, directed by Bill Castellino. The show won acclaim with Drama Desk Awards for Best Music and Best Lyrics, and Outer Critics Circle and Off-Broadway Alliance Awards for Best Musical from its run at the York Theatre in 2017.

Gerry Ellis

Gerry Ellis (born November 12, 1957

in Columbia, Missouri) is a former professional American football player who played running back for seven seasons for the Green Bay Packers.

Hank Bruder

Henry George "Hank" Bruder Jr. (November 22, 1907 – June 29, 1970) was an American football player in the National Football League. He played nine years with the Green Bay Packers from 1931 to 1939 and was inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1972. Bruder attended Northwestern University, where he was a member of the Delta Upsilon Fraternity.He was part of the offensive line that blocked for Pro Football Hall of Fame back Johnny "Blood" McNally.

Hank Gremminger

Charles Henry "Hank" Gremminger (September 1, 1933 – November 2, 2001) was an American football player, a defensive back in the National Football League for eleven seasons. He played ten seasons for the Green Bay Packers (1956–1965) and one for the Los Angeles Rams in 1966.

Jesse Whittenton

Urshell James "Jesse" Whittenton (May 9, 1934 – May 21, 2012) was an American football player who played nine seasons in the NFL, mainly for the Green Bay Packers.

Whittenton also played on the Senior PGA Tour in the late 1980s. His best finish was T-21 at the 1989 Showdown Classic.

List of Green Bay Packers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame

The Green Bay Packers are a professional American football team based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. They are currently members of the North Division of the National Football Conference (NFC) in the National Football League (NFL), and are the third-oldest franchise in the NFL. Founded in 1919 by coach, player, and future Hall of Fame inductee Curly Lambeau and sports and telegraph editor George Whitney Calhoun, the Packers organization has become one of the most successful professional football teams, having won a total of 13 professional American football championships—nine NFL Championships and four Super Bowls—the most in the NFL. The franchise has recorded 18 NFL divisional titles, eight NFL conference championships, and the second most regular season and overall victories of any NFL franchise, behind the Chicago Bears. In 1963, the Pro Football Hall of Fame was created to honor the history of professional American football and the individuals who have greatly influenced it. Since the charter induction class of 1963, 31 individuals who have played or coached for the Packers have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.Of the 30 inductees, 25 made their primary contribution to football with the Packers, while five only contributed a minor portion of their career to the Packers and two were assistant coaches. Of the original 17 individuals inducted in 1963, four spent the major part of their career with the Green Bay Packers. This includes the founder Curly Lambeau, the NFL's all-time offensive tackle Cal Hubbard, the 1941 and 1942 Most Valuable Player Don Hutson, and 1931 All-NFL player Johnny (Blood) McNally. The first two decades of the Hall of Fame's existence saw 17 Packers enshrined, including one inductee who was not a player for the Packers, Vince Lombardi. Coaching the Packers from 1959 to 1967, Lombardi led the team to five NFL Championships, plus winning the first two Super Bowls against the American Football League, and an overall winning percentage of .754. The most recent Packer to be inducted was Jerry Kramer in 2018.

List of Green Bay Packers players

The following is a list of notable past or present players of the Green Bay Packers professional American football team.

Mike Tomlin

Michael Pettaway Tomlin (born March 15, 1972) is an American football coach who is the 16th head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League (NFL), having led the team since 2007. With the victory in Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 against the Arizona Cardinals, Tomlin became the youngest head coach in NFL history to lead his team to a Super Bowl championship.

Nate Barragar

Nathan Robert Barragar (June 3, 1907 – August 10, 1985) was an American collegiate and professional football player.

Packers Heritage Trail

The Packers Heritage Trail is a self-guided walking tour that traverses locations relating to the history of the Green Bay Packers. 22 of the sites have bronze commemorative plaques. 21 sites are located within a two-mile radius of downtown Green Bay.

Pottsville Maroons

The Pottsville Maroons were an American football team based in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, in the Northeastern part of the state. Founded in 1920, they played in the National Football League (NFL) from 1925 to 1928. In 1929 they relocated to Boston, where they played one season as the Boston Bulldogs.

The team was founded as the Pottsville Eleven, an independent team playing in the local eastern Pennsylvania circuit. Home games were played at Minersville Park, a high school stadium in nearby Minersville. They joined the local Anthracite League in 1924, the same year they adopted the "Maroons" nickname, and won the league title. The next season they joined the NFL under owner John G. Streigel. Though dominant on the field, a controversial suspension cost them the 1925 NFL Championship. They were reinstated the following year, but after two successive losing seasons in 1927 and 1928, Streigel sold the Maroons to a group in Boston, where they played one season before folding.1925 was their best season. The 1928 roster included three future Pro Football Hall of Fame members – Johnny "Blood" McNally, Walt Kiesling, and coach Wilbur "Pete" Henry – but posted the worst record in franchise history. Writer John O'Hara, who would go on to become a world-famous novelist with Appointment in Samarra, covered the team for the local newspaper.

Walt Kiesling

Walter Andrew Kiesling (May 27, 1903 – March 2, 1962) was an American football guard and tackle who spent 36 years as a player, coach, and aide with National Football League (NFL) teams. He was posthumously inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1966 and was named to the NFL 1920s All-Decade Team in 1969.

A native of Saint Paul, Minnesota, Kiesling played college football at the University of St. Thomas where he was selected as an all-state player in 1923, 1924, and 1925. He then played 13 years as a guard and tackle in the NFL with the Duluth Eskimos (1926–1927),

Pottsville Maroons (1928), Chicago Cardinals (1929–1933), Chicago Bears (1934), Green Bay Packers (1935–1936), and Pittsburgh Pirates (1937–1938). He was a first-team All-Pro in 1929, 1930, and 1932, a second-team All-Pro in 1931, and played for the Packers' 1936 NFL championship team.

Kiesling also spent 25 years as a coach or aide for NFL teams, including seven years as head coach of the Pittsburgh Pirates/Steelers from 1939 to 1942 and 1954 to 1956. He led the Steelers to their first winning season in 1942. He also served as co-coach of the wartime merger teams known as the Steagles in 1943 and Card-Pitt in 1944 and as line coach for the Pirates (1937–1938), Green Bay Packers (1945–1948), and Steelers (1949–1953). He retired from active coaching for health reasons in 1957 but remained an aide to the Steelers coaching staff from 1957 to 1961.

Whitey Woodin

Howard Lee "Whitey" Woodin (January 29, 1894 – February 7, 1974) was an American football player. He played with the Racine Legion and the Green Bay Packers and was inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1973. After retiring from football, Woodin remained in Green Bay and worked for many years at Falls Power and Paper Company.

John McNally—championships, awards, and honors

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