Benbrook in 1910 (from Michigan football team photograph)
|Date of birth||August 24, 1887|
|Place of birth||Chicago, Illinois, U.S.|
|Date of death||August 16, 1943 (aged 55)|
|Place of death||Dallas, Texas, U.S.|
|Career highlights and awards|
|College Football Hall of Fame (1971)|
Albert "Benny" Benbrook (August 24, 1887 – August 16, 1943) was an American football guard who played for the University of Michigan Wolverines from 1908–1910. He was chosen by Walter Camp as an All-American in 1909 and 1910 and was the team’s captain in 1910. He is considered one of the best college football linemen in the early years of the sport, and he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1971.
Benbrook was a native of Benbrook, TX (born in Ft. Worth) and moved to Chicago in 1898. He was a “weight man” and football player at Chicago’s prestigious Morgan Park Academy before enrolling at Michigan.
All-American football player at Michigan
Benbrook played on the “scrubs” team as a freshman in 1907, before making the varsity squad in 1908. As a sophomore in 1908, he was the second heaviest man on the team behind the team’s captain Germany Schulz.
In 1909, Benbrook started all seven of the Wolverines’ games at left guard and was the team’s only All-American. He helped lead the team to a 6-1 record, including wins over Ohio State (33-6), Syracuse (43-0), Penn (12-6), and Minnesota (15-6). The team’s only loss was an 11-3 defeat against Notre Dame on November 6, 1909. No other team scored more than six points against the Wolverines that year, and they outscored their opponents 115 to 34.
He was the first Midwestern lineman to be named to Walter Camp’s All-American in both 1909 and 1910. In 1909 he was the unanimous choice of thirteen eastern critics who met to select the All-American team by a majority vote.
In January 1910, Benbrook was elected captain of the Michigan team. He initially lost a close election to end, J. Joy Miller, but Miller was barred from the team. Miller was removed by the faculty when it was learned he had failed to enroll in classes in the fall of 1909.
Ultimately, the 1910 season was an unsatisfying one. The team finished, 3-0-3. In one of the lowest scoring seasons in school history, the team scored only 29 points and allowed only nine points. They played to a scoreless tie against Penn, and played to 3-3 ties against both Ohio State and Case.
The final game of the 1910 season was the Little Brown Jug game against Minnesota. Fielding H. Yost rated the 1910 Minnesota game as one of “the greatest game he ever saw.” According to accounts of the game, Benbrook and Stanfield Wells were “at their very peak that day,” as Michigan won, 6-0. There was no score late in the game, when a forward pass took Michigan to the Minnesota three-yard line. After Michigan ran twice without success, Benbrook called for a run to his side. Pushing Minnesota tacklers aside he opened a hole that led to a touchdown and the only scoring of the game.
Honors and accolades
The University of Michigan Athletics History web site describes Benbrook’s contributions this way: “Football critics regard Benbrook as the first of the great running guards. Despite his giant 240 pound frame, Benbrook moved with cat-like quickness and was faster than most backs.”
After choosing Benbrook to his All-American teams in 1909 and 1910, Walter Camp said of Benbrook: “He leads his mates across the line with his quick, ripping charge that simply smothers the opposition. A tremendous player.”
Walter Eckersall described Benbrook as the greatest guard in history. And in 1951, legendary Illinois coach Robert Zuppke chose Benbrook as a guard for his first-team All-Time All-American team. Another writer concluded: "There have been many great linesmen, but his record and the verdict of many experts seems to put Benbrook in advance of them all."
In 1971, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Benbrook’s biography at the College Football Hall of Fame notes: "A testament to the ability of Albert Benbrook was that he was the first western linemen to become a two-time All-American. Weighing over 200 pounds he was considered huge for his time. What made Benbrook such a dominating force was his exceptional quickness".
In 2005, he was selected as one of the 100 greatest Michigan football players of all time by the "Motown Sports Revival," ranking 22nd on the all-time team.
Service in World War I
When Benbrook enlisted in the U.S. Army during World War I, his participation received considerable publicity. In November 1917, eight All-American football players, including Benbrook and Michigan's James B. Craig and Ernest Allmendinger, were made officers in a ceremony in Chicago. In March 1918, Benbrook's photograph was published in newspapers around the country with the following caption: "Al Benbrook, the old Michigan football star and regarded by many as the greatest guard ever developed in America is soon to buck the Hun's line in the greatest game of all. Benbrook is now a lieutenant stationed at Camp Zachary Taylor." An article published the following month featured the same theme: "The foremost football guard ever developed is soon to go over to buck the Hun line in the greatest game of all".
He was employed by American Seating Company as a salesman from 1931 until his death in 1943.
Though he lived in Chicago, Benbrook died in Dallas, Texas while on a business trip. He was 55 years old when he died. He was survived by his widow, Dena Piehl Benbrook and a 21-year-old son, James Benbrook, who was a paratrooper at Fort Benning, Georgia at the time of his father’s death.
- "Their Last and Best: Michigan and Syracuse Meet Saturday". Syracuse Herald. 1908-11-15.
- "Many Want to Fight Jack Johnson". Lowell Sun. 1910-08-10.
- "Albert Benbrook, Ex-Michigan Grid Star, Dies Sunday". New Castle News (Penn.). 1943-08-16.
- "Football Star Will Soon Be In Trenches". The Ogden Standard. 1918-04-01.
- "Benbrook Elected Captain". Lowell Sun. 1909-01-08.
- "Untitled Photograph and Caption, Page Two". Waterloo Daily Times-Tribune. 1909-01-14.
- "University of Michigan Athletics History: 1910 Football Team". The Regents of the University of Michigan. Retrieved 2007-12-19.
- "Battle for Little Brown Jug". The Bessemer (Mich.) Herald. 1945-11-02.
- "Albert "Benny" Benbrook". College Football Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2007-12-19.
- "University of Michigan Football All-American, 1909, 1910; Team Captain, 1910; Albert Benbrook, Guard". The Regents of the University of Michigan. 2002. Retrieved 2007-12-19.
- "Zuppke Selects All-Time Grid Machines". The Ogden Standard-Examiner. 1951-02-18.
- "Fourteen honored by Hall of Fame". The Chronicle Telegram (Elyria, Ohio). 1969-03-21.
- "100 Greatest Michigan Football Players of All-Time". Motown Sports Revival. Retrieved 2007-12-09.
- "Many Athletes Made Officers: Eight All-American Football Men Receive Commissions from Fort Sheridan". The Indianapolis Star. 1917-11-29.
- "All-American Star of Grid Soon To Buck The Hun Line". The Newark (Ohio) Advocate. 1918-03-18.
- "All-American Star of Grid Soon To Buck The Hun Line". The Capital Times (Madison, Wisc.). 1918-04-12.
- "All-American Star of Grid Soon To Buck The Hun Line". The Fort Wayne News and Sentinel. 1918-03-18.