College football had never seen anyone like Red Grange. A sport that was generally dominated by the “three yards and a cloud of dust” offense suddenly had an exciting breakaway running back who was capable of bringing a crowd to its feet at any moment.
A phenomenal high school athlete who gained strength by toting ice blocks around the Chicago area as a part-time job, Grange didn’t set out to play football at the University of Illinois but changed his mind.
He then changed the game.
Now, an original news photo documenting his historic 1925 arrival in pro football is on the auction block. It’s among the featured items in RMY Auctions’ March catalog.
The game’s first superstar would help pro football gain the traction it needed. The photo shows Grange dressed in his new Chicago Bears uniform, posing with a former Chicago mayor four days after ending his sensational career with the Illini.
The Galloping Ghost scored nine touchdowns of 50 yards or more during his three-year stint at Illinois, one that saw him rush for 3,363 yards and complete 40 passes. In 1924, Grange opened the new Memorial Stadium by returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown and scored four times in the span of 12 minutes as Illinois upset a powerhouse Michigan team. The four touchdowns were as many as Michigan had allowed in 1922 and ’23 combined. By October of 1925, he was on the cover of TIME Magazine and by season’s end, Illinois had retired his number 77. In 2008, ESPN named Grange the greatest player in college football history.
The National Football League had been born just a few years earlier and teams were in hot pursuit of Grange. With no college draft in place at the time, he stayed in his home state, signing with the Chicago Bears for a salary and a share of the gate receipts that helped push his income toward six figures, an astronomical sum considering most players earned only about $100 per game. Grange immediately set out on a barnstorming tour with the Bears. A big crowd turned out in New York on December 6, 1925, an event that’s credited with saving the New York Giants franchise. He played pro ball until 1934.
The photo at auction carries the original November 25, 1925 caption on the back.
It’s part of the RMY Auctions Premier catalog with bidding set to continue through Saturday.