November 3, 1908, Rainy River, Ontario, Canada
Died January 7, 1990, International Falls, Minnesota
Kane, December 28, 1936
'Bronko' Nagurski was born to Polish Ukrainian immigrants in Rainy
River in Ontario in 1903. Moving to International Falls in 1912,
he grew up working on the family farm and delivering grocieries
for the family's store.
1926, he was recruited to play football for the University of
Minnesota. Legend is that coach Doc Spears was searching for a
player who lived in Minnesota's north woods, and became lost on
the unmarked dirt roads. He came across a young man plowing a
field without the aid of a horse, and asked directions. The young
man picked up the plow, and quietly pointed the way, and Spears
signed him on the spot.
Minnesota, Nagurski played tackle and end in his first season
on varsity in 1927, before being moved to fullback in 1928. At
6 foot 2, 220-230 pounds, Bronko was bigger than virtually everyone
else on the field, and would tend to crush opponents, whether
running with the ball, blocking, or playing defense. In 1929,
he became the only player to ever be named All-American at two
positions in the same season, tackle and fullback.
1930, Bronko signed with George Halas and the Chicago Bears for
$5,000, and quickly became a star, leading the team to and NFL
Championship in 1932 with a jump pass to Red Grange, and again
in 1933 with two more touchdown passes.
1938, after Nagurski's first son, Bronko Jr., was born, he asked
Halas for a raise to $6,500. Halas, who had cut Bronko's salary
earlier in his career due to the depression, refused, so Bronko
retired from football, and took up wrestling full time (he had
been wrestling on the side to supplement his income.
became a World Heavyweight Champion three times in his wrestling
career, winning one title in 1937, and the NWA Title in 1939 and
1941. He retired after the third title reign, and returned to
Minnesota to farm full time.
1943, Bronko received a letter from the Bears, asking him to come
out of retirement, as they were short of players due to World
War II. He agreed, on the condition that he be allowed to arrive
after the harvest, and that he only play tackle, doubting he could
be effective as a running back. He had a strong season as a blocker
and on defense, but trailing in the regular season finale, and
needing to beat the arch rival Chicago Cardinals to advance to
the league championship, Bronko returned to fullback and racked
up 84 yards in one quarter, leading the team to victory. He scored
one more touchdown in their championship game win over Washington,
and then retired for good.
1946, Bronko returned to professional wrestling part time, a profession
he continued until 1960. In
1957, he sold the family farm, and in 1960 purcahsed a gas station
in International Falls, which he operated with his sons. Preferring
to live a quiet, ordinary life, he also worked as a fishing guide.