James Francis Thorpe accomplished without argument what no other athlete in history has. The Sac and Fox Indian won gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon in the 1912 Olympic games in Sweden and played both professional football and professional baseball. His feats on the football field put him on the 1911 and 1912 All-American football teams. In 1920 he became the first president of the American Professional Football Association (later to become the NFL). In 1951, he was one of the first men to be admitted to the National Football Foundations Hall of Fame.
Knowing that Jim had athletic capabilities, Hiram Thorpe, his father, sent him off to school in Pennsylvania, away from his home, Prague, Oklahoma. Hiram said, I want him to go make something of himself, for he cannot do it here.” 1 Thorpe began his athletic career at the Carlisle (Pa.) Indian Industrial School. As story goes, Glenn Warner, the coach of the Carlisle football school, made Jim try out for the football team by the means of a test. Thorpe was instructed to carry the ball from one end zone to the other end zone while the whole first-string football out to tackle him. He caught the punted ball and returned it with ease, not once but twice. Warner came up to Jim and told him it was suppose to be a tackling drill. Jim replied, “Nobody tackles Jim.” 2 From this point on he led this small time school to national fame in football. He was an outstanding runner, place-kicker, and tackler, and because of his greatness in each of these positions he won all America honors in 1911 and 1912. When Thorpe played Army, another college, he played against the to be 34th president of the United States. In that game Dwight Eisenhower injured himself in the process of attempting to tackle Jim, an injury that cost him the rest of his football career. Dwight later stated, “Thorpe gained ground; he always gained ground. He was the greatest man I ever saw.” 3
At the Olympic Games at Stockholm, Sweden, in 1912, Jim Thorpe performed the dazzling accomplishment of winning both the five-event pentathlon and ten-event-decathlon, an achievement that had never ever been performed by an athlete. King Gustav of Sweden presented the winners their gold medals. When it was Thorpes turn, he draped the medal about his shoulders and said, “Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world.” 4 But being an in the Amateur Athletic Union, he played professionally, and therefore received money. Due to this, the International Olympic Committee stripped Jim of his medals, ordered him to return them, and erased his name from the official Olympic records.
In 1915, Jim began to play professional football for the Canton Bulldogs, located in Canton, Ohio. A year later, through his skills developed at Carlisle, he led the Bulldogs to a national championship. He also managed professional baseball, but he did not achieve the great accomplishments as he did in football, so he slowly stopped and concentrated on football. By 1924, at the age of 37, his football skills finally began to fade as a star. He eventually stopped in 1927. He played for a few minutes at the crowds request and that was it. The wire service at this game stated, “Jim Thorpe played a few minutes for the Cardinals, but was unable to get anywhere. In his forties and muscle-bound, Thorpe was a mere shadow of his former self.” 5
With out a doubt, Jim Thorpe, achieved great heights for any person, especially being Indian, where he was being faced with the white assimilation and etc. I look up to this man in great awe, for the great accomplishments he achieved, but had no one to share it with. He lost his father to stroke, his twin brother to pneumonia, and also his mother. It was not always a time of happiness for Jim, but he knew he had to carry on, in order to give honor to his Indian blood.