1953 Football Team Draft Nomination

After the Navy Game —- He ordered the door secured and as he turned to speak his eyes were misty.

“I have never coached a team that give me more than you did. I never have coached a team that has given me as much satisfaction. Considering all the conditions since 1951, you have done more for football at West Point than any other team in the history of the Academy.”

1. Bob Farris ’55 played the entire 2d half of the Navy Game totally blind in one eye. Although he was Captain of the ’54 Team he was never to play another down of Football.

2. Bob Mischak ’54 as a player and a coach, Bob participated in 3 Super Bowls, 8 AFC Championships and numerous playoff games. As the starting Offensive Tackle on the 1958 Giant Team he participated in “The Greatest Game Ever Played” – – yet he had this to say of the 1953 Duke Game:

“As many reports have stated, the 1953 team “Returned to Glory” with the defeat of the nationally ranked Duke Blue Devils at the Polo Grounds in New York City. From a player’s stand point, that was the epitome of any game, team, and student body support that I’ve been associated with – bar none.”

1950 Graduates stationed at Fort Bliss listening to every word on the radio heard Ted Husing say “- – – And, Smith is in the clear, he’s away for a touchdown.” there was a pause of 5 second or so of silence, and Husing then said, “No, no…he’s going to get caught from behind!”

For over 10 years the Academy’s Military Psychology and Leadership Department referred to Bob Mischak’s run down of Red Smith, and the team’s effort that day as an example of the power of motivation.

3. Coach Hugh Wyatt founder of the Black Lion Award provided the August 14, 2009 Bradenton Herald article by Roger Mooney. Excerpts of the interview with Jerry Hagan ’55 who quarterbacked the 1st Army drive in the Duke Game are below

It is the chanting that Jerry Hagan remembers most about that October afternoon in the fall of 1953.

Sure, Hagan remembers the touchdowns and the game-saving tackle by Bob Mischak in the game’s waning minutes. He remembers Earl Blaik, Army’s larger-than-life coach, calmly pacing the sidelines at the old Polo Grounds. Hagan remembers heading to the locker room at halftime holding a 7-0 lead. He remembers thinking during the days leading up to the game that he and his Army teammates were going to be trounced by Duke, at the time ranked seventh in the country.

Those memories are as clear as the brilliant blue October sky that Saturday afternoon nearly 56 years ago.

“Go! Go! Go! Go!”

“It was continuous,” said the 75-year-old Hagan, who played that afternoon. “Just deafening”

Army didn’t win a national championship that afternoon. No one clinched a Heisman Trophy. But Army won something more important. The Black Knights knocked off a top-10 team and began lifting the stain caused by the Honor Code scandal that had rocked the academy two years earlier.

Because of one game. Because of one win.
“Army was back,” Hagan said.

Go! Go! Go! Go!

Hagan Class of ’55 entered the Academy that summer of 1951 when the scandal broke. “The atmosphere was just so depressing for a while because nobody could believe this could happen,” Hagan said.”It kind of crushes you.”

The football team was devastated. Blaik’s teams had won three national titles and produced two Heisman Trophy winners in the six seasons prior to 1951. In 1951, Army went 2-7, including a season-ending loss to Navy. Hagan was a member of the varsity in 1952, playing defensive back.

The following year Hagan was moved to linebacker and quarterback since the NCAA imposed a rule returning the game to “Iron Man” football.

The ’53 Team opened the season with a win at Furman, but lost the following week to Northwestern. It was a loss, Hagan said, that shook the team’s confidence. But the Black Knights had an assistant coach who would not let his unit suffer a mental breakdown. His name was Vince Lombardi.

“He was a very cerebral coach,” Hagan said. “He was so intense, so intolerant of mental mistakes. We didn’t have many athletes, but we were probably the most mentally prepared team because of Coach Lombardi and Coach Blaik.”
Army football wasn’t much to rally around during the 1951 and ’52 seasons. The Corps of Cadets were use to us getting beat.

Then came Oct. 17, 1953, and the seventh-ranked Duke Blue Devils.
The cadets filed into the Polo Grounds silent as ever, but started screaming. Go! Go! Go! Go!

And go Army did.

It was 14-13 late in the fourth quarter when Duke’s Red Smith broke free headed for the winning touchdown. Mischak caught Smith at the 10 and brought him down at the 7.

It is the most famous tackle in Army history.

Army stopped Duke less than a foot from the goal line on fourth down.
Seconds later, players were riding on the shoulders of the cadets, who stormed the field. Army went 7-1-1 that year, beating Navy in the season finale. They were awarded the Lambert Trophy for being the best team in the East.

They restored the Academy’s pride. The glory was back.

Now there is a push to have the ’53 immortalized in the Academy’s Hall of Fame.

4. Lodge from guard to fullback, Sisson switched from end to back and then switched back to end; Lunn as Team Captain on the sidelines, as another was better able to meet the new requirements of playing both ways; the injuries to Chamberlin, Attaya, Zeigler, Ordway and Franklin; and the unrelenting demands and hours spent ensuring Vann mastered the details of the Royal 3 F’s -(Faking, Feeding and Fleeing) that Vann met Lombardi’s expectations, resulted in Jim Lee Howell, the New York Giants’ head coach who hired Lombardi after the 1953 season at Army to say – –

“If Lombardi can do that kind of job in three years at West Point – he could do a helluva job in the pros where he would have an experienced base to work with.”

The 3 years were the 2 difficult seasons of 1951 and 1952 followed by the success of the 1953 Season.

Years later after Vince Lombardi’s death his son was to write – “My personal interest lies in Peter Vann’s contribution to the success of the 1953 Army team which I consider a major factor in my father’s success.”

5. Ted Husing the CBS Sports announcer for the Duke Game — “These Boys have got me so excited I can’t even finish the Broadcast. Take over Walter”

If you do not know who Ted Husing was – – wikipedia provides this “Husing’s personally could be arrogant, coarse and opinionated. He was the first to bring a candid, editorial style to sports play- by- play. He was barred for two years by Harvard University for covering its home football games after he called All American quarterback Barry Wood’s performance “putrid”. After criticzing World Series umpires in 1934, Husing was banned from doing play-by-play of the Fall Classic by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis”

6.Col Blaik “When I come to describe the team of 1953, what they meant to me and, far more important, what they meant to West Point, I cannot praise them enough.”

7. Grantland Rice wrote with eloquent simplicity, “They came up the hard way and there probably has never been a squad with a finer spirit.”

8. Winners of the Lambert Trophy.

9. Rated No. 14 Nationally.

10. Col Blaik was named Coach of the Year by the Washington Touchdown Club.

11. Col Blaik After the Duke Game — The emotionally-controlled Blaik who, with tears in his eyes, handing the Army-Duke game ball to Bob Mischak with the words – “Don’t ever give up.” He was later to refer to the it as “The Game never to be forgotten.”

12. The Silence imposed upon the Corps The Corps’ preparation for the game had been more than unusual, including a “silence” imposed by the cheerleaders at the meal following Blaik’s talk. The “silence” which began after the traditional pregame sendoff of the team – proved potent. The cheerleaders had put a cork in the bottle of more than two years of pent up frustration. When the Corps completed its subdued, strangely silent, pregame march-on at the Polo Grounds, and the last man double-timed onto the first step of the stands, the men in gray exploded. They shook that old stadium almost non-stop in the sunshine and shadows of that Indian summer afternoon.

13.Duke ball players reaction — Worth Lutz, Dukes quarterback said after the Game, “The savage cheering of Go!GO!GO! from the West Point stands placed our team in a nervous fright of tension and jitters.”

14. New York Times the day after Army’s 14 – 13 win over 7th ranked Duke summed up what that Team did with – – –

“The fire and viciousness with which this Army team ran, hit, blocked and tackled made it the winner it was today against a team whose line was thought to be too powerful for the cadets and whose backs were expected to show the speed and driving force.”

And anothe quote — “But from well back an Army figure set out in pursuit. With the place in an uproar, Bob Mischak cut down the gap between them, and finally leaped upon Smith and dragged him down on the 7 yard mark, 73 yards from the line of scrimmage.”

Bob had run down Duke’s All American Red Smith. For nearly 15 years afterward the story of Army’s win and Bob’s tackle was part of West Point’s Military Psychology and Leadership Course – as an example of the power of motivation.

15. NY Times again

“He (Attaya) also took a 17-yard pass, amazingly thrown left-handed by Vann, immediately preceding the 43-yard scoring aerial.”

Third was Ralph Chesnauskas, Yearling right guard who played the entire sixty minutes”

16. Even today Lowell Sisson ’54 accepts responsibility for the ’53 Team’s only loss. How many Athletes are willing to admit their contribution to a loss 56 years past, especially when that Team had such an outstanding Season – such was and is the makeup of the ’53 Team.

The NCAA changed the rules for the 1953 Season what was in effect a return to Iron Man Football. Lowell played Offensive End during the ’52 Season but in trying to come up with the best fit, Lowell was switched to the backfield in the spring of ’53.

“About 10 days before the season was to start I was called in to Col Blaik’s office. Fearful regarding what the reason was, I reported in to find “Col Blaik” and “Vince Lombardi” there and they proceeded to ask me what my reaction would be if they were to switch me back to end. I said I did not care where they wanted me to play as long as I could be of value to the team.

Because of the switch back to end I did not get totally grooved into playing defensive end and this contributed to a large degree why we lost our only game that season. I felt I played a terrible game against Northwestern and contributed mightily to our defeat.”

17. Col Blaik wasn’t a coach who gave emotional, fire and brimstone speeches at halftime. Rather, he was analytical. He identified mistakes and taught his team how to correct them. Not so against Dartmouth. He was frustrated by a flat, lackluster first half and gave his team a tongue lashing.

Ralph Chesnauskas remembers they were the harshest he ever heard the Colonel speak — words to the effect – – –

“I do not care if it is your Mother across the line from you, I want her on the ground.”

18. Col Blaik’s offensive play routine required the Army center to be the first man out of the huddle after the quarterback called the play. As the center trotted up over the ball, the rest of the team would pause, then break from the huddle, and jog to the line of scrimmage. Not so the second half against Dartmouth, or against any other team the remainder of the 1953 season.

Center Norm Stephen ’54 was so energized by Blaik’s blistering half time remarks, that on the first offensive play of the second half he bolted from the huddle and raced to the ball – and the other ten players pausing for a moment to understand, followed his lead. The Corps roared their approval, and that pattern continued the rest of the afternoon. A new method for calling up “the twelfth man” had been established.

19. Colonel Red Reeder who served West Point as Assistant Athletic Director in the Army Athletic Association, (The Triple A) from 1948 to 1967 had this to say –

“In all my association with the Corps, I have never seen a better display of Sprit. ”

20. The Cheer Leaders were told a Pack Howitzer was too expensive to be given to the Cadet Corps. With the help of the Ordinance Department Jay Gould ’54 constructed a Cannon from a German Rocket Gun captured at Kasserine Pass. It was first used in the Duke Game.

The Cadets were nearly paranoid with concern that the Middies were going to interfere with the Cheer Leaders plans for the Navy Game 6 weeks away. Bill Robinson took the step to hide the Victory Cannon at Ft. Hamilton in NYC after the Duke Game. It is another indicator of how intent the Cadets were on keeping things going, supporting the team the entire season without a hitch.

21. Billy the Navy Goat was taken by Cadets and paraded through Washington Hall. President Eisenhower ordered the Cadets to immediately return the Goat.

22. They were one of the smallest Army football teams in years, at season’s end thirty-eight men, a team of heroes with no stars and with a different hero each Saturday.

23. Neil Chamberlin a standout at tackle during the ’52 Season was lost during the summer of 1953. Col Blaik said of the season “Injuries as the season advanced cost the Team solid fullback and punter Fred Attaya ’54, hard-nosed right halfback Mike Zeigler ’56, and spirited end “Ski” Godwin Ordway ’55. By the time season got down to the Penn and Navy games, the starting eleven and about four substitutes carried the full load.”

The 1953 Team was a Team of Iron Men committed to the ideals of West Point. They played Iron Man Football.

23. Army Defense – In the Duke Game 23 passes were thrown by Duke compared to the 28 passes which were throw in their first 4 games. Chesnauskas, Zeigler at guard, Farris and Melnik at the tackles, Mischak, Sisson and Holleder controlling the sweeps, bottled up Duke’s running game all afternoon except for the one reverse and 73 yard sprint by Red Smith which Mischak hauled down.

24. Bob Brogi ’62 when asked if he supported the Nomination replied –

“Absolutely and unquestionably YES, YES and YES. Unlike most members of our Class, being from Highland Falls and a 15 year old in 1953, I saw all of the Army home football games in 1953 as well as most of 1949-1957. In the early years to include 1953, I had to watch not from the inside stadium, but from a high oak tree which I would climb so that I had a commanding view above what was then the somewhat temporary stands at the North end of the field. About that year, I became much more savvy as to ways that I could get or con tickets from those who were not going to use and always sat as a real participant. So I vividly recall seeing Sisson, Stephen, Tommy Bell, Pat Uebel, Fred Attaya, Peter Vann, Bob Mischak, Ralph C., Don Hollander , and many, many others through the years.”

25. Jim Morgan ’57x remembers General James Van Fleet, before the Navy Game, standing on the Poop Deck, stripping off his uniform down to a Beat Navy T-shirt, then putting on his Army sweater with his Football Army A, bring from the Corps of Cadets thunderous shouts, demanding Victory over Navy.

26. Dick Stephenson ’57 who earned 3 Army A’s as a lineman; (who is remembered even today by Bob Anderson ’60 for the hit Dick put on Bob in Bob’s introduction to Army Football in the fall of 1956) remembers – –

One of Army football’s most effective passers, Peter Vann, the Army QB (with a truly great right handed passing arm), managed a left handed forward shovel pass to Freddie Attaya, from the grasp of the Duke’s All American tackle Eddie Meadows who had pinned Petes’s passing, right arm to his torso, which Freddie caught to keep an Army drive going on into a score…simply unbelieveable momentum, continuity, and a bit of luck.

Who remembers the incredible diagonal, quickly one-on-one, pursuit of the Duke halfback, Red Smith, in an open field chased by Army’s end, Bob Mischak, catching and covering somehow, from some 73 long, long yards, with Mischak tackling him from behind, at Army’s 7-yard line. The Duke halfback never ran so fast and free, and Bob Mischak literally found another gear. The score was already 14-13, Army, at this time in the game, as I recall.

Who remembers following this incredible pursuit/catch by Bob Mischak, the Army team put on a goalline stand that defied all sense, reason, or logic, holding Duke off on all four downs, with Duke so arrogantly confident that they refused a field goal attempt!

27. Freddie Attaya remembers Vince Lombardi’s shouted advice to him as he ran onto the field in a third and seven situation. “Run the gauntlet” yelled Lombardi.

Vince was reminding his fullback of a drill he put his backfield through in practice. Running backs, carrying the ball pressed against their gut, ran hard between two lines of eight players each. The ball carriers’ forearms protected the ball, and their hands tightly gripped opposite ends of the pigskin, every player in the gauntlet aggressively tried to “tackle the ball.” Freddie ripped the middle of Duke’s line for nine yards and a first down. When he came off the field, Lombardi rushed to hug him, telling him he had done a great job.

28. Jerry Lodge, converted from guard to fullback during spring practice, remembered the Duke game for a different reason. He played fullback on offense and guard on defense when Army was in a six-man line, and moved into linebacker when Army went to a five-man line. On defense, he played alongside the few linemen who were in the game nearly the entire 60 minutes and was in Army’s dramatic goal line stand following Bob Mischak’s game-saving tackle. With first and goal on Army’s 7-yard line, the cadets held Duke on a fourth down quarterback sneak from the two, with 40 seconds to play.

Throughout the final two minutes of play, especially during Duke’s four thrusts at the Army goal, it was almost impossible to hear or think because of the roar from the crowd. Cadets had come down out of the stands, were pressing around the Army bench and close to the sidelines, imploring their defense to hold.

Army’s always thorough scouting reports helped exploit Duke’s weaknesses and patterns.

Jerry Lodge remembered what Blaik had told the team. When the Blue Devils get inside an opponents’ 10-yard line, they run the ball between their own tackles on 95% of plays. And when they get close to the goal line, they run quarterback sneaks. Prior to the fourth down play, a Duke assistant threw a kicking tee onto the field, indicating a field goal attempt.

Lutz picked up the tee and threw it back, disdaining the field goal.

Gerry Lodge had seen his teammate, left guard Dick Ziegler ’54, playing magnificently all afternoon, often absorbing the energy of three Duke blockers because of his hard charges in the middle of their line. As Duke huddled for Lutz to call the fourth down play, Lodge said to Ziegler “Remember, he’s going to try to sneak.”

Duke’s Lutz did, but he was met by a wall of white jerseys. Army took over on downs, inches from the goal line, while the Corps of Cadets shouted their frenzied approval. But the game wasn’t yet over. On first down, Freddie Attaya, on orders from Blaik, punted from deep in his end zone. Duke had 30 more seconds and four more plays from the Army 37-yard line – all passes – all knocked away. Peter Vann, Army’s quarterback, batted away the last pass in the end zone, a pass thrown by Gerry Barger, Duke’s quarterback, to starting quarterback Worth Lutz.

29. To back up — With two and one half minutes left in a game that was already emotionally and physically exhausting, Duke took the ball on downs just inside their own 20-yard line with Army leading 14-13. Worth Lutz knew he needed a long gain. His team didn’t have the energy for a long, grinding drive, so he called a double reverse. Lutz handed the ball to halfback Bob Pascal, indicating a sweep around Army’s left side. Pascal then slipped the ball to “Red” Smith, Duke’s speedy All-American candidate, heading in the opposite direction. Army’s defense over commited, and Smith broke into the secondary. After sidestepping a linebacker, he was in the clear, ten yards beyond pursuing Army defenders, sprinting toward the southeast corner of the field.

Earl Blaik years later described reactions on the Army sidelines.

“We on the bench and the Corps of gray in the lower stands behind us shot to our feet in sudden silent, stunned consternation. Smith looked home free. I felt our heads were being pushed down once more into the ashes of 1951.”

Then, from out of the pack of pursuers, came left end Bob Mischak. He had an angle on Smith and rapidly began closing the gap at the 50-yard line. By the time Smith crossed the Army 20, Mischak had closed to 3 yards. The Army stands were coming alive, shouting encouragement to him, but it was important that he not commit too soon. Blaik held his breath, muttering to himself, – “Not yet! Not yet!” As Smith crossed the 12-yard line, Earl Blaik was saying “Now! Now!” Bob Mischak leaped far and high, caught Smith around the shoulders at the 10, and downed him on the 7-yard line.

Earl Blaik remembered Bob Mischak’s game-saving tackle for the rest of his life.

“In somehow catching and collaring [Smith], Mischak displayed heart and a pursuit that for one single play I have never seen matched. Yet his feat, one of the great defensive plays of football, would have soon been forgotten, had it not been for the [goal line stand that] followed.

30. They were only scored on 12 times in ’53. One by Navy, 5 times by Northwestern with 6 spread out over the other 7 Teams.

General MacArthur said it would take 10 years.

The Leadership of the Class of 1954, the commitment, the self sacrifice of the Classes of 1955 and 1956 — of every member of that Team, supported by the Thunderous Chant of Go, Go, Go from the Class of 1957 insured that it only took 3 years.

Cadets left to right, Clyde W. La Grone, Roman J. Peisinger, Ira Coron, and Leonard Griggs. In the background is Rox Shain, the Army player whose game-opening diagonal kickoff preceded Navy’s fumble. (Photo courtesy of Willis C. Tomsen, ’54.)

It was the Season Army Returned to Glory

Col. Earl Blaik leaving the field late afternoon Nov. 28th 1953 after the Army Team beat Navy 20 to 7.

“I have never coached a team that give me more than you did. I never have coached a team that has given me as much satisfaction. Considering all the conditions since 1951, you have done more for football at West Point than any other team in the history of the Academy.”

We five Classes believe the 1953 Football Team did more for West Point than any other Team in any Sport.

signed by ’54, ’55, ’56, ’57, ’62

Attachments

1. The ’53 Season
http://forwhattheygaveonsaturdayafternoon.com/wp-53/season

2. Bob Mischak’s Letter to Last year’s Selection Committee

http://forwhattheygaveonsaturdayafternoon.com/wp-1954/mischak-letter

3. Army Football Classsics -1953 Football Film

http://forwhattheygaveonsaturdayafternoon.com/wp-1954/53season-blaik-faces

http://forwhattheygaveonsaturdayafternoon.com/wp-1954/army-duke-1953

http://forwhattheygaveonsaturdayafternoon.com/wp-1954/army-navy53

Requirements

1. Complete Review by the Members of the 1953 – 1954 Corps of Cadets to insure correctness of material. (In the Chant were there 3 Go Go Gos or 4? Is it Jerry or Gerry Lodge – Academy Publications-Howitzer and The Pointer have it both ways – just informed it is Jerry)? A misspelled name and incorrect location of a player in the Team photo have been corrected – are there any other corrections? Need better picture of Ordway.

2. Rework of the draft Nomination and The ’53 Season by ’62.

3. Continue the count of the Class of ’62 to determine an exact number supporting the Nomination.

4. Add any additional comments from the 1953 – 1954 Corps of Cadets which support the Nomination.

5. Determine if each of the 4 Class Presidents (’54 – ’57) or an approprite representative from each Class are willing to sign the Nomination. Failing that, if available would the 1953 – 1954 Cadet Brigade Commander be willing to sign the Nomination?

Work Area

The 1953 – 1954 Corps of Cadets and ??? members of the Class of 1962 Nominate the 1953 Football Team for the Army Sports Hall of Fame.

We the Graduates of the Classes of 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, and 1962 believe the 1953 Football Team must be recognized for what they gave back to the Corps of Cadets, for what they gave for our Honor Code, for what they gave back to our Academy Motto — for what they gave back to the United States Military Academy.

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