NFL at Gustavus

Posted on December 6th, 2019 by

One would not usually associate Gustavus Adolphus College with the National Football League (NFL), but surprisingly, the campus hosted the New York Giants football team not once but twice during 1952 and 1953. Gustavus was selected from a large pool in Minnesota as the location for the Giants’ training camp. Attractive attributes were the college’s facilities and ease of transportation. During 1952, the team stayed on campus from 1-12 August.  They ended their time with an intra-squad game that was advertised as the Green Giant Bowl. Head coach Steve Owen lead the New York Giants half of the team while Bernie Bierman, former head coach of the University of Minnesota, lead the “Green Giants” half. This was the first NFL game played in southern Minnesota. Bierman’s Green Giants were victorious with a final score of 20-7.

In 1953, the Giants returned. This time the legendary player Red Grange, the “Babe Ruth” of football, would coach the Green Giants contingent. Both Steve Owen and sports writers had positive things to say about their time at Gustavus, with Gene Ward of the New York Daily news saying, “Among other things, [Gustavus] has a down-to-earth athletic policy which is like a whiff of pure, fresh air in a sports-writers’ world of proselyting, undercover cash payments to star players and other subterfuges widely practiced in this day of ultra higher education.” This little-known part of Gustavus’ history forms an interesting chapter in the long story of the school’s athletics.

Blog post created in part by Robert Schreck, student worker.
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