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Author: Adam Wesoloski
Originally Published: November 8, 2004

“The greatest game that a coach can win is the one that develops a boy into a man.”

– Pop Warner

Many have asked, “Who has had the greatest influence on the game of football and the NFL?”. Almost all would respond, “Glenn S. (Pop) Warner”.

“Pop Warner” was born April 5, 1871 in Springville, New York, where he was an outstanding baseball player at Springville’s Grifith Institute, which he graduated from in 1889. He attended Cornell University, where he graduated in 1894 with a law degree. His first encounter with football came here, where he also particitapted in baseball, track and boxing. As captain of the football team, he got the nickname “Pop” because he was older than most of his teammates. Pop had originally intended to become a lawyer (he did practice for a short time), but he soon established himself as one of the greatest architects in the game of football.

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In 1895, the University of Georgia hired Warner as its new football coach at a salary of $340 for ten weeks. He arrived in Athens on September 15, 1895, homesick and discouraged after seeing the sports facilities and staff at his disposal. At the time, the University of Georgia had no athletic facilities, playing field, or stands. In fact, the only place for playing football or any other sport was a bare field behind New College where rocks stuck out of the red clay. In 1895, the University of Georgia’s entire student body consisted of just 248 students, and only 13 of those showed up to play football. As a result, Warner’s first team, the 1895 squad, had 3 wins against 4 loses. Warner was rehired for the 1896 season at a salary of $40 per week. The Warner’s last Georgia team went 4-0, giving the University of Georgia its first undefeated season.

After Georgia, Warner returned to Cornell to coach football for two seasons. He then coached at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania for five years, returned to Cornell for three seasons, and returned again to Carlisle in 1907–the same year as Jim Thorpe arrived. Warner went to the University of Pittsburgh in 1914, coaching his teams to 33 straight victories and two national championships. Next, Warner coached at Stanford, where his teams won three Rose Bowl championships. In 1933, he took his final coaching job at Temple University with only one losing season before retiring in 1938.

Warner fielded teams at Iowa State, University of Georgia, Cornell University, Carlisle Indian Industrial School, University of Pittsburgh, Stanford University, and Temple University. On two occasions he coached two schools simultaneously; Iowa State and University of Georgia during the 1895-1896 season as well as at Stanford University and University of Pittsburgh during the 1922-1923 season.

During his four decades as a coach, Warner brought many innovations to college football, including the spiral punt, the screen play, single- and double-wing formations, the naked reverse, the three-point stance, numbering players’ jerseys, and the use of shoulder and thigh pads. But to many Americans, Warner is best remembered for starting the Pop Warner Youth Football League in 1929. On September 7, 1954, Pop Warner died in Palo Alto, California.

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In 1997, the U.S. Postal Service honored Warner by placing him on the 32 cent postage stamp shown above. This honor may have been helped by author Michael J. Bynum, who in 1993 authored the book “Pop Warner: Football’s Greatest Teacher” and uncovered a long overlooked fact about the famous coach; Warner was the coach of Iowa State during a period in which his team compiled a record of 28 wins, 12 losses and 1 tie. This oversight can be attributed to the fact that Warner had also been coaching at the University of Georgia during this time period. With these numbers, Pop Warner surpasses Bear Bryant’s career coaching record to become College Football’s all-time “winningest” coach.

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Glenn Scobey Warner Statistics

  • Born: April 5, 1871
  • Died: September 7, 1954
  • Coached 7 colleges, over 49 years
  • 341 victories; 118 defeats; 33 ties
  • Outscored opponents 8,795 to 2,810
  • Produced 47 All-Americas, including Jim Thorpe and Ernie Nevers
  • Became known as “The Great Originator” as coach of Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indians, Pittsburgh, and Stanford
  • College Hall of Fame Name: Glenn Scobey Warner
  • Schools Coached: Carlisle, Cornell, University of Georgia, University of Pittsburgh (1895 – 1938)
  • Coach Hall of Fame Induction Year: 1951

Innovations

  • Three point stance
  • Wingback formation
  • Bootleg
  • Screen pass
  • Spiral punt
  • Shifting Defenses
  • Rolling body blocks
  • Hidden ball
  • Unbalanced line
  • Huddle
  • Perfected the spiral pass
  • Fought tooth and nail AGAINST the forward pass in 1905, against (among others) John Heisman. Warner wanted a rule that would allow offensive players to field punts like forward passes, much the same way rugby players do.

Equipment Innovations

  • Numbers on player’s jerseys
  • Perfected the use of fiber padding
  • The use of thigh and shoulder pads
  • Knee guards
  • Shin guards
  • Tackling dummy teams

Content provided by University of Georgia and Wikipedia.

Adam Wesoloski