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Heffelfinger, "Pudge" (William W.)


b. Dec. 20, 1867, Minneapolis, MN

d. April 5, 1954

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Despite his nickname, the 6-foot-3 Heffelfinger weighed only 178 pounds when he entered Yale in 1888. Within a year, he was up to about 205 pounds and he was the best college lineman in the country. He was a guard on the first All-American team selected, in 1889, and he was named to the team again in 1890 and 1891.

Pudge Heffelfinger

Yale in 1890 developed a new kind of play to take advantage of Heffelfinger's speed and strength. Instead of simply blocking the defensive player across from him at the line of scrimmage, he was often asked to pull out of the line to lead interference for the runner. The pulling guard has been a standard feature of American football ever since.

During his four-year career at Yale, the school won 54 games while losing only 2. There were no limits on eligibility at that time and a student newspaper led a campaign to get him to play a fifth season, using the slogan, "Linger, oh linger, Heffelfinger," but he chose to play for the Chicago Athletic Association instead.

On November 12, 1892, Heffelfinger played a game for the Duquesne Athletic Club of Pittsburgh. He was paid $500, the first time a player was known to be given money, although there may well have been under-the-table payments before that. Heffelfinger forced a fumble, picked up the ball, and ran 35 yards for the only touchdown as Duquesne beat the arch-rival Allegheny Athletic Association.

Heffelfinger coached Lehigh University to a 6-8-0 record in 1894 and had a 7-3-0 record at the University of Minnesota in 1895. He then became a stockbroker, but occasionally helped with the coaching at Minnesota. In 1916, he returned to Yale to coach the linemen but, in his exuberant demonstration of how the game should be played, he knocked two of them out of action.

At fifty-four, Heffelfinger captained an all-star team that played a 1922 game against the Ohio State alumni to raise money for charity. He was on the field for 51 minutes in a 16-0 victory. On November 11, 1933, a few weeks before his sixty-fifth birthday, he played nine minutes in another charity game, his final appearance in a football uniform.

College Football Hall of Fame

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