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Iowa State Players in Professional Football: Part 1 (1920s - 1930s)

Not just the NFL!

Author’s Personal Collection

Iowa State has had quite a few players move on from collegiate football to the professional ranks. By my count, we’ve had over 130 Cyclones move on to the next level. In this first of 5 parts, we will look at professional Iowa Staters from the 1920s and the 1930s.

Note: some players will only be drafted, but never actually play a down of professional football. They’ll still be included on the list.

1920s (8)

Lovell “Lew” Reeve - Chicago Tigers (1920) - APFA

Reeve (October 17, 1889 – May 12, 1960) lettered every year at Iowa State from 1911-1914. Lew would be the first Cyclone to play professionally, playing three games and starting two with the Chicago Tigers in 1920 (at age 31) as an offensive and defensive tackle. (Part of the American Professional Football Association) Fun fact: the Tigers were the first professional football team to play at Wrigley Field.

“Despite his lack of ranginess, his speed enabled him to cover a greal deal of ground. His weight made him a pillar of strength on the defense, and the backfield was always sure of a gain through his tackle. Weight, 198. First year.” 1917 BOMB

He acted as captain of the all-Iowa team that fought the soldier eleven last fall and this position was an honor that rightly belongs to him as one of the greatest linesmen that ever worked in the state of Iowa. Along with Wallace he is cultivating sagebrush in South Dakota but he will hustle back into the moleskins again next September.
1919 BOMB - Page 79

Richard “Dick” Barker - 2 Teams in 1921 - APFA

Dick (January 6, 1897 - December 17, 1964) is next on our list. He was our first All-American was also a standout wrestler in his time at for Iowa State. He was an All-Missouri Valley left guard in both 1917 and 1919, and 1919 would also be his All-American season.

George Halas himself sent a telegram asking the jobless, penniless Barker to play for him, so he spent the two games of the 1921 season with the Chicago Staleys.

Barker, according to his son, played in the first Green Bay-Chicago game. According to a period newspaper, however, Barker was released before the game to play for the Rock Island Independents. He would play two games and start one as a member of Rock Island.

In 1922, Barker, due to his feeling that "felt there was no career in playing pro football," became the football and wrestling coach at Cornell College in Mount Vernon. After that stint at Cornell, he went off to start the varsity wrestling program at the University of Michigan.

Not much is known about Barker until he died in a car crash in 1964 at the age of 67. He was posthumously inducted in the College Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1991, and the Iowa State Hall of Fame in 2002.

What he lacked in experience he made up two fold in natural ability and fighting instinct. He has two more years to cast with the gridiron men.
1919 BOMB - PAGE 80

Viv Vanderloo - Rock Island Independents (1921) - APFA

Vivian (April 11, 1897 - June 18, 1972) played at Iowa State in 1916-1917, and 1919-1920. In fact, he is the starting fullback in the game program featured at the top of this article. Unfortunately, the Cyclones lost that game against Missouri 10-0. This loss would be their first loss against Missouri since 1913. Anyways, the 5’10” 191 pound Coon Rapids (IA) native was a good fullback, as well as occasionally handling punting duties late in the 1919 season.

Number 7 would find himself playing and starting three games for the Independents in 1921, playing as both fullback and linebacker.

Later in the 1920s, Dr. Vanderloo opened a vet hospital in Dubuque that is still around to this day. The clinic changed locations within Dubuque in 1954, where it has remained since.

He passed away in Mesa, Arizona.

Chuck Hill - Rock Island Independents (1925) - NFL

“Truck” (July 13, 1904 - January 24, 1987) as he was known was born on a farm near Cheney, Washington (home of Eastern Washington University). He played on the 1923 Spring Game winning squad with teammate Jack Trice.

In 1925 and 1926 he played with the Rock Island Independents as a fullback, wingback, and end, starting two games and playing in a total of nine games.

He passed away in 1987 due to complications from Parkinson’s.

Guy Roberts - 3 Teams from 1926 to 1927 - AFL and NFL

“Zeke” (May 10, 1900 - June 8, 1993) was at Iowa State from 1921-1924, and he was the left halfback at the time. He also handled kicking duties during the 1922 game against Missouri, kicking 33 yard field goal in a 6-3 losing effort.

Zeke was on the field when Jack Trice was trampled during a clash against Minnesota. A 1993 issue of Coffin Corner featured his reflection of Trice, saying, “I was never able to understand the adversity to the blacks. I was puzzled when Jack had his meals served to him alone in the hotel room. Jack was not only a fine athlete and gentleman but was a brilliant student as well.”

He also touched on the game and the incident which eventually claimed Trice’s life. “One of the very dark moments during my football days occurred while still at Iowa State in the fall of 1923. We were playing the U. of Minnesota in Minneapolis. One of our tackles, Jack Trice, was black. There were rather few black players in those days, at least in our part of the country. It was one of Jack’s first major college games. He was a terrific player and in my estimation could have made any college team. He was also as much a gentleman as he was a player. I can’t believe that it was intentional but to contain Trice during the game, I think the Minnesota linemen had to gang up on him and he was severely injured. Jack died the next day. Some years later when Iowa State built a new stadium they honored him by naming it ‘Jack Trice Field.’”

Guy had some other interesting stories as a Cyclone, including a professional game which he played under an alias while still playing for Iowa State.

“I will admit to using a false name only once. Following our final game of the 1924 season, in school, 2 or 3 of us were asked to play a postseason game for which we would be paid. That was a heinous crime! But as that game progressed we found that some of our opponents were from Iowa U. doing the same thing – getting a little hamburger money. At that time my only concern was that I still had one year of eligibility in basketball and was fearful of being caught.”

After Iowa State, he moved to Los Angeles and stayed there until the summer of 1926. While in California, he got word from the Pottsville Maroons who had interest in having him on their team. So, on went Roberts to Pennsylvania in a stripped down Model T, stopping to see his fiancée in Cleveland along the way. While there, Ray Watts, coach of the Cleveland Panthers, offered him $150 to play in the upstart American Football League, and he accepted the offer, as it was more lucrative than playing for Pottsville.

The Schaller, IA native would play in four out of the five total Panther games before the team folded. On October 17, 1926, Zeke became the first Cyclone to score in professional football. Against a Rock Island team with Iowa State player Chuck Hill and Iowa legend Duke Slater, Roberts kicked a 40 yard field goal in a 23-7 win. He also threw a touchdown pass while a member of the Panthers.

After being a Panther, he found himself playing and starting in three games for the Canton Bulldogs alongside Jim Thorpe, and he had the following thoughts about Jim: “He always seemed to me to be a rather quiet self-contained individual but temperamental at times. I recall an incident during a game we had at Pittsburgh against the Hope-Harveys team. We had the ball. Jim was playing right end, I was in the backfield. Jim came back before any signals were called and said ‘Let me carry the ball.’ I simply changed positions with him and he went into a short punt formation. He took a direct snap back from the center and ran like a wild horse at their defensive end. Jim ran over him like a bowling ball. I learned later that the defensive end had made some kind of a remark that Jim didn’t like and (Thorpe) wanted to get even.”

“Among other minor items, I remember standing in the end zone doing practice punting. I could not punt the ball as far as Jim did but tried to tell myself that maybe there were times when I placed my kicks better. No doubt it was just wishful thinking.”

In the 1927 season, he went to play for the Pottsville Maroons, starting three games and playing in seven. Also in 1927, he was married on October 1st.

J. Behm, J. Trice, N. Behm, and W. L. Nave
Iowa State Special Collections

Norton Behm - Cleveland Panthers (1926) - AFL

Norton (February 20, 1901 - March 4, 1980) was a high school teammate of Jack Trice along with his brother, Johnny. “Mope” was named a first team Missouri Valley Intercollegiate Athletic Association halfback in 1924.

In 1926, he played with the Cleveland Panthers of the American Football League in all five games before the franchise folded.

Roy Longstreet - Racine Tornadoes (1926) - NFL

Nicknamed “Shorty” (February 24, 1901 - January 9, 1991), Roy was the center on the same offensive line as Jack Trice. He and Trice both had the same major of Animal Husbandry. He won three letters at Iowa State, dating from 1922-1924 while wearing number 43. He graduated as a valedictorian.

In 1926, he would start one game with the Racine Tornadoes. They would only play five total games (1-4 record) before folding due to financial problems.

A 1985 interview featuring Longstreet is here.

Frank Mayer - Green Bay Packers (1927) - NFL

Nicknamed “Tiny” (June 18, 1902 - March 24, 1960), Frank was a part of the winning Spring Game squad along with Jack Trice. He would wear three different numbers while at Iowa State: 40 in 1923, 7 in 1924, and 72 in 1925. For his last collegiate season, he transferred to Notre Dame.

Professionally, he would start in all 10 games in the 1927 season, playing alongside Green Bay Packers captain Curly Lambeau.

According to a source, Frank Mayer joined the engineering department of the St. Paul Division of Northern States Power Company in 1927 and was assistant manager and sales manager at the time of his death.

Author’s Personal Collection
Iowa State beats Nebraska 8-7
1938 Iowa State at Nebraska Program

1930s (6)

Charles Heileman - 1939 NFL Draft - Round 7, Pick 56 - Chicago Bears

Heileman (January 25, 1915 - February 23, 1966) was one of the nation’s leading receivers on Iowa State’s legendary 1938 team. He was the first Cyclone ever drafted in the NFL. Heileman only played two games with the Chicago Bears as a substitute, facing the Cleveland Rams and the Green Bay Packers on September 15 and September 24th, 1939 respectively.

He was then sent to the Newark Bears (part of the American Association) to finish the 1939 season. On October 29th, he scored 17 of the 24 points in a win against the Brooklyn Eagles. The Bears won the AA Championship that year over Paterson Panthers in front of 15,365 people. Heileman was honored on the first team at the end of the season.

Ed Bock - 1939 NFL Draft - Round 13, Pick 116 - Chicago Bears

By many accounts, Ed (September 1, 1916 – July 31, 2004) is the greatest offensive lineman in Iowa State history. Following the 1938 season, Bock became the first consensus first team All-American in school history. He started every game from 1936-1938. He was also an All-Big Six pick each year.

Ed was a tough player, often losing his teeth in play. In a 1936 game against Nebraska, Bock lost his three front teeth. He made new “teeth” out of paraffin, as the university was reluctant to buy him false teeth. Another situation involving Bock was in a game against Kansas State.

"A back ran over me for a sizeable gain and as the play ended I looked up at one of the officials and spit out those three wax impressions. He whistled a penalty on Kansas State - 15 yards for unnecessary roughness."

In 1941, he started work at Monsanto where he would stay for 31 years, eventually sitting on the board of directors in 1965, and being named President and CEO by 1968. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1970.

"You learn to realize, through football and other games, that you are dependent on the other fellow, but yet you are given the chance for individual opportunity and recognition, which are also important in business," Bock said, "Athletics are invaluable as preparation for a business career."

Gordon Reupke - 1939 NFL Draft - Round 16, Pick 143 - Cleveland Rams

“Bronco” (July 28, 1916 - November 7, 1999), as he was known, was another key part of the 7-1-1 1938 team with his 6 foot 200 pound rushing frame. The Waterloo native racked up a season high 126 rushing yards in a 14-0 win against Drake.

Even though the Rams drafted him (and offered the fullback $120), he ended up playing with the Columbus Bullies in 1939 (Midwest Football League) and 1940 (AFL III). In the ‘39 season, he scored six touchdowns, and appeared in ten (of eleven) games while starting five. The 1940 season was better for the Bullies as the won the AFL III Championship (9-1-1 record), but worse for Gordon as he only scored one touchdown.

Clyde Shugart - 1939 NFL Draft - Round 17, Pick 158 - Washington Redskins

While at Ames High, Clyde (December 7, 1916 - July 2, 2009) was dubbed "the finest prep lineman in the state" by the Des Moines Register in 1934. During the 1937 season, Clyde played all but 20 minutes. He was a right tackle on the magical 1938 team, and he would be named the best offensive tackle in Iowa State history in the 1960s. Shugart was an All-Big Six selection in the 1938 season.

“We had such great teamwork and great players on the 1938 team and that team's success opened doors for me,” Shugart said during his ISU Hall-of-Fame induction. “Because of that team I was noticed and drafted into the NFL with the Washington Redskins. Because I was in Washington D.C., I got offered a job working for C.Y. Stephens (the namesake of C.Y. Stephens Auditorium at the Iowa State Center) in the dairy industry.”

The Redskins drafted him and he stayed there from 1939 to 1944, never missing a single game. He was a nasty pulling guard and helped clear the way for runners like Wilbur Moore and Bob Seymour. His Redskin teams went to the NFL title game in the 1940, 1942, and 1943 seasons. He also had one interception in his NFL career that he returned for eight yards. The Redskins won the title in 1942, and Shugart was an All-Pro in 1941 and 1942. In 1944, he retired with a salary of $4,400.

Following football, he became a manager of a branch of High’s Ice Cream in Baltimore. He stayed working there until 1986, and at one time held half the corporate stock.

“I had to work year-round to stay above water,” Shugart said. “But High's Ice Cream worked with me. I practiced in the morning and worked in the afternoon. They let me work at many different jobs learning the business. None of it would have happened without going to Iowa State and the great team I played on.”

In 2000, the Iowa High School Football Hall of Fame inducted him, and in 2004, Iowa State inducted him.

He passed due to a stroke at 92.

1939 NFL Contract.

Paul Morin - 1939 NFL Draft - Round 18, Pick 165 - Brooklyn Dodgers

Paul (March 22, 1915 - August 21, 1965) won a letter at Iowa State in 1937 and 1938. He was a star left tackle on the 1938 team and also handled some kicking duties.

He never played with the Dodgers.

All-American Everett "The Rabbit" Kischer in action at Northwestern in 1937

Everett Kischer - 1939 NFL Draft - Round 22, Pick 196 - Chicago Bears

According to his (March 1, 1917 - July 6, 2011) Iowa State Hall of Fame biography: “Kischer threw for 620 yards and six touchdowns in 1938. He also ran for 390 yards and averaged 38 yards punting. "The Rabbit" was responsible for 70 of the Cyclones' 125 points that year.”

In the 1937 game at Northwestern he set a school record with 4 interceptions (seen above) that stayed a record for 37 years until Barry Hill tied it. He was an All-American quarterback in 1938.

The 1938 team made its first appearance in the AP Poll on Halloween 1938, ranked #18.

He, along with Ed Bock, participated in the series of eight College All-Star games that went from August 22-September 15, 1939. Kischer participated in the sixth edition in the game that was played in St. Louis against the St. Louis Gunners who were part of the Midwest Football League.

In November 1939, Kischer joined the Des Moines Comets, a local pro team that played their games on the fields of Dowling High School and Valley High School. One game in particular was against the Peoria Wildcats who were heavily favored. The Comets won 34-6, thanks to two touchdowns scored by Kischer.

During World War II, Kischer was a B-29 flight engineer and served in the Air Force. Additionally, instead of playing for the Bears who drafted him, he decided to work for General Electric in Lynn, Massachusetts where he stayed for over 40 years and he would retire in 1985. In 2001, he would be inducted in the Cyclone Hall of Fame.

At the age of 94, Rabbit’s heart hopped for the last time, and he died in Brewster, Massachusetts.