Cover for CARROLL: Red Grange and the Rise of Modern Football. Click for larger image

Red Grange and the Rise of Modern Football

Awards and Recognition:

Winner of the North American Society for Sport History Book Award, 1999.

To understand the forces that helped create the modern superstar athlete, begin with Red Grange

Before the Super Bowl, before "Monday Night Football," even before the NFL, there was Red Grange. Catapulted into the public eye in 1924 by scoring four touchdowns in twelve minutes for the University of Illinois, the "Galloping Ghost" went on to a trailblazing career as a professional player, Hollywood football idol, and broadcaster. He ranked with Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey in the 1920s as the most heralded figures in America's "golden age of sport," and when Sports Illustrated did a special issue in 1991 on the greatest moments in sports, Grange was selected for the cover.

Grange's star rose in tandem with that of the sport itself. His spectacular performance as a college player coincided with football's evolution into a rallying point of university life, undergirded by post-World War I money, cars, roads, stadiums, and mass media. With a natural talent and down-home image that helped legitimize professional football, Grange became one of the first athlete-heroes and the first major sports figure to serve as a play-by-play broadcast commentator.

John Carroll depicts the career of this softspoken pioneer who helped lift pro football above its reputation as "a dirty little business run by rogues and bargain-basement entrepreneurs." A reluctant celebrity and folk hero, Red Grange stood throughout his life as a symbol of older, rural American values: an unpretentious self-made individual making a mark in a society increasingly controlled by machines, vast corporations, and stifling bureaucracies. His story is an essential element in understanding football's central place in American culture.

"Sport historians should find this biography a welcome addition to the body of work emerging on the careers of specific athletic figures. Carroll sets the record straight: the record, that is, until now concocted of journalists' anecdotes and Grange's typically sanitized 'as-told-to' autobiography."--Michael Oriard, Oregon State University

"Carroll deals with the many myths surrounding Grange while maintaining his 'larger than life' athletic experiences. After all, Grange will probably be remembered as the most significant collegiate football player of the twentieth century."--Ronald Smith, author of Big-Time Football at Harvard, 1905


John M. Carroll is Regentsí Professor of History at Lamar University and the author of Fritz Pollard: Pioneer in Racial Advancement.

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