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The Jack Trice Story

By Andrew Goodman

I like to consider myself an avid sports fan, but no sports fan can know everything, especially from well before their time. Yesterday, my friend Adrian shared a story with me that I feel all sports fans should know. The story is about a man by the name of John G. "Jack" Trice.

Trice was a native of Hiram, Ohio. He was born in 1902. His father was a former slave and Buffalo Soldier. From a young age, Trice exhibited great athletic skills. At the age of 16, Trice's mother sent him to live with his uncle in Cleveland. There, Trice began his football career at East Technical High School.

Along with five of his high school teammates, Trice decided to attend Iowa State College in Ames, Iowa. Trice of course played football at Iowa State, as well as track. He was an animal husbandry major, and dreamed of one day moving to the South and helping African-American farmers. In the summer following his freshman year, Trice married Cora Mae Starland, a classmate of his. To support themselves while in school, they both found jobs through the college. Everything was going great for Trice. He had a dream, a wife and a job – much more than most African Americans at the time.

On October 6th, 1923, Iowa State College faced the University of Minnesota at their stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. During only the second play from scrimmage, Trice broke his collarbone, but insisted that he was okay and remained in the game. Trice did not want to give up the opportunity to play college football by getting passed over with an injury, so he pushed forward.

In the third quarter of the same game, Trice attempted to tackle a University of Minnesota ball carrier with a roll block. In doing so, Trice was trampled by three opposing players. Again, Trice insisted that he was fine, but coaches and officials pulled him from the game and sent him to a Minneapolis hospital. Soon after, the doctors sent him on his way to join his teammates back in Ames.

Two days later, on October 8th, 1923, Trice died from internal bleeding and hemorrhaged lungs. These injuries were injuries that Trice incurred during the game, but ignored to continue playing. Doctors clearly did not give Trice the proper care, because they missed over such deadly yet obvious injuries.

On October 9th, 1923, Iowa State dismissed all classes after 3pm in honor of Trice. Trice's funeral was held a week later on the school's campus, with over 4,000 attendees. As a result of Trice's death, the school did not schedule games against Minnesota again, and the two teams did not play against each other again until 1989.

In the suit pocket that Trice's family chose for him to wear at his funeral, they found a letter. It had been written on the night before his second, and unfortunately last, college football game, October 5th, 1923. The letter was written on stationery at a racially segregated hotel in St. Paul/Minneapolis. It read as follows:

"My thoughts just before the first real college game of my life: The honor of my race, family & self is at stake. Everyone is expecting me to do big things. I will. My whole body and soul are to be thrown recklessly about the field tomorrow. Every time the ball is snapped, I will be trying to do more than my part. On all defensive plays I must break through the opponents' line and stop the play in their territory. Beware of mass interference. Fight low, with your eyes open and toward the play. Watch out for crossbucks and reverse end runs. Be on your toes every minute if you expect to make good. Jack."

In 1973, there began a campaign to name Iowa State's new stadium. The student body government unanimously voted to push for naming the stadium after Jack Trice. However, then university president W. Robert Parks followed ad hoc committee's advice to name the stadium "Cyclone Stadium." When the stadium was finished in 1984, the playing field was named Jack Trice Field, and in 1987 a statue of Trice was erected. However, as naming the stadium after Trice gained more and more supporters, the stadium's name was finally changed to Jack Trice Stadium in 1997. Currently, Trice is the only African-American to have a Division 1 stadium named after him.

Jack Trice was a young man with the dream of being a pro football star. He overcame huge racial obstacles to make it to a division one football team at a well-known university. He was on track to do great things, but his life was tragically cut short. He was a true sportsman who cared about the game, and his death was truly a tragedy. Please share Jack Trice's story with a fellow sports lover. Everybody who loves sports should know the sacrifice that Trice made just for a shot at the big time.

What do you think about the Jack Trice story? Please share your thoughts. Comment below!