A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
Tim Tebow Is No Chuck Ealey
“Sometimes — especially when you’re Black — you’ve gotta work harder.
– University of Toledo quarterback Chuck Ealey, the only undefeated quarterback in amateur football history.PHILADELPHIA — Over the years, the media cranks out adjectives at light speed as college football’s top Division I-A teams are thrown into an automatic shuffle.
For one weekend in 2008, at least a half dozen Division I-A heavyweights fell like dominoes and fueled further speculation winning every game in a college season has become more difficult than ever.
While reasons for the carnage ranged from reduced numbers of scholarships to looking ahead to a more formidable opponent (“trap game”), the effort to remain unbeaten and the pressure to sustain it is magnified with each scroll and update.
Places like Toledo, Ohio never receive much light from the glare of mainstream media — even when they were once the center of the college football universe.
But today, the University of Toledo’s orbit comes to full revolution around its brightest star.
Quarterback Chuck Ealey, who won every game in Division I as he led the Toledo Rockets to a 35-0 record over the course of his college career (1969-1971), returns to a very special kind of homecoming.
Two fellow UT alums, Rick Longenecker and Matt Armstead, are taking school spirit to the extreme in showing their love for Ealey by helping him get into the College Football Hall of Fame.
“You would think a player who compiled a record like that would already be in the Hall of Fame,” declares Longenecker, whose website, InductChuck.com, was created to redress this oversight. “But we digress.
What we’re looking to do is point out a major flaw in the process which we hope will spur the Hall and the National Football Foundation (NFF) to action and reexamine said process.”
Well, one would have to consider how an undefeated quarterback didn’t win college football’s most coveted award.
The tally for the Heisman award in 1971 had Auburn University quarterback Pat Sullivan winning narrowly over Cornell running back Ed Marinaro. Ealey finished eighth in the voting, with two other quarterbacks, Oklahoma wishbone trigger man Jack Mildren and Nebraska’s Jerry Tagge ahead of him.
Longenecker says this is the root of the problem. “In short we want to have the powers that be amend the criteria so those players — not just Chuck — that finished in the top 10 of Heisman voting each year be eligible for consideration.”
“As it stands right now you are only eligible for consideration if you were on an All-America team of an accredited organization like United Press International or the Associated Press.”
Ealey says it was no big deal at the time. “Hey — graduating was the big deal. I knew we had won all our games, and I did feel it would count for something. The votes came out, and I moved on.”
Ealey did make the first team selection on the Football News’ 1971 team, but FN did not receive full accreditation until a generation later. Longenecker says this represents the other side of the equation.
“Now that Football News is recognized, we would also hope NFF takes this into consideration and grandfathers all previous teams, which include Chuck and all the other great college players that are in limbo,” Longenecker said.
So one would figure the natural progression would carry Ealey to the pros via the draft. “Well, scouts were coming to campus a lot, and after speaking to me, they had me running 40-yard dashes.”
“I’m wondering what’s going on because back then quarterbacks didn’t run forties. Later, I’m being told they want me to play at defensive back.”
“So in an effort to discourage further attempts at this, I wrote a letter to the National Football League, stating I would not play any other position than quarterback.”
The NFL draft did not include Chuck Ealey in 1972. When asked if that bothered him, Ealey said no. “Hey — if 35-0 couldn’t convince them I might be able to play quarterback, I didn’t know what else I could tell them,” laughs Ealey.
But Chuck — didn’t you get the impression they thought you were being ‘uppity’? “Yeah, probably — they’re likely thinking, ‘who is this cat?’ but it wasn’t about thinking smarter.”
“Sometimes — especially when you’re Black — you’ve gotta work a little harder.”
Induct Chuck!Of the pivots voted ahead of him for the Heisman, Sullivan, Mildren and Tagge had very brief careers in the NFL. Ealey, just like the bebop musicians who left the States for Europe to play, took his gridiron music across the border — to Canada.
Ealey would go on to be the 1972 CFL Rookie of the Year, leading the Hamilton Tiger-Cats to the Canadian Football League championship and the Grey Cup.
Longenecker says what Ealey has done off the field far eclipses anything accomplished on the gridiron. “If there is anything we hope to accomplish in this endeavor, it is that this great man be acknowledged for how he carried himself and made it in spite of all the barriers in front of him.”
“That he succeeds is a natural thing for him. Chuck is the ultimate competitor. He’s never lost. Not because he’s lucky, or skillful. He’s always outworked his opponent — no matter what or who that opponent may be.”
Ealey came to Toledo after winning the 1967 Ohio State championship for Notre Dame High School, capping an 18-0 career.
In spite of a perfect college record, Toledo University’s highest ranking was No. 12 on the AP poll in 1971.
An ESPN site posted the 100 Greatest Moments in College Football, going back as far as 1935. While his career as an amateur was an astounding 53-0, Ealey’s exploits at Toledo was ranked No. 89 on the list.
Ranked above Ealey’s career on the list were such items as Northwestern’s Rose Bowl run in 1995; the Woody Hayes punch of Clemson’s Charlie Bauman in 1978; the Notre Dame-Michigan State 10-10 tie in 1966; Kordell Stewart’s pass over Michigan; and the five-lateral kickoff return between Cal and Stanford.
Doug Flutie’s desperation bomb that beat Miami was rated number one.
Now settled and living in Hamilton, Canada, Ealey works as a financial planner for Investors Group. Although she has never played much football, Ealey’s assistant, Barbara Silano, understands why he is a great leader.
“He’s jovial, and he listens”, Silano added. “But when it’s time to work, he goes to it. And when he speaks, he compels people to listen just as intently.”
When Ealey and his UT alums huddle today, they will once again drive to do what Ealey has done all his life — strive to win.
NOTE: For further information on the Chuck Ealey foundation, go to www.InductChuck.com.