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George Gipp

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George Gipp
No. 66
Personal information
Born:(1895-02-18)February 18, 1895
Laurium, Michigan, U.S.
Died:December 14, 1920(1920-12-14) (aged 25)
South Bend, Indiana, U.S.
Height6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight180 lb (82 kg)
Career history
CollegeNotre Dame (1917–1920)
High schoolCalumet (MI)
Career highlights and awards
College Football Hall of Fame (1951)

George Gipp (February 18, 1895 – December 14, 1920), nicknamed "the Gipper", was a college football player at the University of Notre Dame under head coach Knute Rockne.[1] Gipp was selected as Notre Dame's first Walter Camp All-American,[2] and played several positions, particularly halfback, quarterback, and punter.

Gipp died at age 25 of a streptococcal throat infection and pneumonia,[3] three weeks after a victory over Northwestern in his senior season,[4] and was the subject of Rockne's "Win just one for the Gipper" speech. In the 1940 film Knute Rockne, All American, he was portrayed by Ronald Reagan.

College career[edit]

Gipper in football uniform

Born and raised in Laurium, Michigan, on the Keweenaw Peninsula in the Upper Peninsula,[1] Gipp entered Notre Dame intending to play baseball for the Fighting Irish. While on campus, he was recruited by Rockne for the football team, despite having no experience in organized football.[5]

During his Notre Dame career, Gipp led the Irish in rushing and passing each of his last three seasons (1918, 1919, and 1920).[5] His career mark of 2,341 rushing yards lasted over fifty years, until Jerome Heavens broke it in 1978.[5] Gipp was also an ideal handler of the forward pass,[6][7] and threw for 1,789 yards.[5]

He scored 21 career touchdowns, averaged 38 yards a punt, and gathered five interceptions as well as 14 yards per punt return and 22 yards per kick return in four seasons of play.[5] Gipp is still Notre Dame's all-time leader in average yards per rush for a season (8.1), career average yards per play of total offense (9.37), and career average yards per game of total offense (128.4).[8]


Illustration tribute to Gipp published in December 1921

Gipp died December 14, 1920, two weeks after being elected Notre Dame's first All-American by Walter Camp,[2][9] and second consensus All-American overall[10] (after Gus Dorais).

A frequently told but probably apocryphal story of Gipp's death begins when he returned to Notre Dame's campus after curfew from a night out. Unable to gain entrance to his residence, Gipp went to the rear door of Washington Hall, the campus' theatre building. He was a steward for the building and knew the rear door was often unlocked. He usually spent such nights in the hall. On that night, however, the door was locked, and Gipp was forced to sleep outside. By the morning, he had contracted pneumonia and eventually died from a related infection. [11]

It is more likely that Gipp contracted strep throat and pneumonia while giving punting lessons after his final game, November 20 against Northwestern. Since antibiotics were not available in the 1920s, treatment options for such infections were limited.[12]

Gipp's hometown of Laurium built a memorial in his honor; he is buried in Lake View Cemetery near West Tamarack, Michigan. [13]

"Win just one for the Gipper"[edit]

Army vs Notre Dame souvenir program for the game held in 1928 at Yankee Stadium

It was on his hospital bed that he is said to have delivered the "win just one for the Gipper" line.[14][15] He apparently said this to Rockne;[16] the full quotation from which the line is derived is:

"I've got to go, Rock. It's all right. I'm not afraid. Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, ask them to go in there with all they've got and win just one for the Gipper. I don't know where I'll be then, Rock. But I'll know about it, and I'll be happy."[17]

Rockne used the story of Gipp, along with this deathbed line that he attributed to Gipp, to rally his team to a 12–6 upset of the previously undefeated Army team in 1928, with Jack Chevigny scoring the "that's one for the Gipper"[clarification needed] tying touchdown at Yankee Stadium.[18][19]

The phrase "Win one for the Gipper" was later used as a political slogan by Ronald Reagan, who in 1940 portrayed Gipp in Knute Rockne, All American and was often referred to as "The Gipper". At the Republican National Convention in 1988 in New Orleans, he told Vice President Bush, "George, go out there and win one for the Gipper."[20] The term was also used by President George W. Bush at the 2004 convention in New York City, when he honored the recently deceased President Reagan by stating, "this time we can truly win one for the Gipper." The Republicans won both presidential elections.


Gravestone at Lake View Cemetery in Calumet, Michigan

On October 4, 2007, Gipp's body was exhumed for DNA testing to determine if he had fathered a child out of wedlock with an 18-year-old high school student. The right femur was removed and the rest of the remains were reburied the same day. A sports author who was present at the exhumation said it was requested by Rick Frueh, the grandson of one of Gipp's sisters.[21]

The tests showed that he was not the father of the child who was born within days of Gipp's death.[22][23] Other Gipp relatives claimed in a subsequent lawsuit that the exhumation was conducted in an improper manner and under questionable circumstances.[24] The lawsuit was subsequently dismissed.[25]


Gipp Memorial in Laurium, Michigan
  • Gipp was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame (located in Atlanta, GA) on December 14, 1951, at 3:27 a.m., in memory of the time and date of his death.
  • George Gipp Memorial Park was dedicated on August 3, 1935, in his hometown. A plaque kept in the park lists former George Gipp Award-winners, given to outstanding senior, male athletes from Calumet High School.
  • In World War II, the United States liberty ship SS George Gipp was named in his honor.
  • He was ranked #22 on ESPN's Top 25 Players In College Football History list.[26]
  • The "Gipper" (GIP) VOR which serves the South Bend area is named in his honor.


In 2002, the NCAA published "NCAA Football's Finest," researched and compiled by the NCAA Statistics Service.[27] For Gipp they published the following statistics:

George Gipp Career Statistics
Year Carries Rushing
Average Passing
Completions Passing
TD XP FG Points
1917 63 244 3.9 8 3 40 2 0 0 0 0 0
1918 98 541 5.5 45 19 293 1 1 6 7 0 43
1919 106 729 6.9 72 41 727 4 3 7 4 1 49
1920 102 827 8.1 62 30 709 9 1 8 16 0 64
Total 369 2,341 6.3 187 93 1,769 16 5 21 27 1 156


  1. ^ a b "Gipp memory brings prestige to Keweenaw Peninsula". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. December 15, 1985. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Just one Far West gridman looks good to Walter Camp". Spokane Daily Chronicle. (Washington). December 15, 1920. p. 19.
  3. ^ "Gipp will be buried Thursday". Milwaukee Sentinel. December 15, 1920. p. 10.[dead link]
  4. ^ Cavanaugh, Jack (December 30, 1991). "The Elusive Gipper". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Notre Dame Archives: George Gipp". Archived from the original on December 8, 2008. Retrieved May 8, 2008.
  6. ^ Schmidt, Raymond (June 18, 2007). Shaping College Football. Syracuse University Press. ISBN 9780815608868.
  7. ^ "Leslie's Weekly". google.com. 1921.
  8. ^ University of Notre Dame Official Athletic Site
  9. ^ "Walter Camp, dean of football, selects All-American teams". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). December 16, 1920. p. 17.
  10. ^ Gustkey, Earl (December 14, 1999). "Gipp Still an Inspiration Long After His Death". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 24, 2017.
  11. ^ "1895 : George Gipp of Notre Dame Fame Was Born on the Keweenaw Peninsula (2018-02-18)". Retrieved January 26, 2024.
  12. ^ Cavanaugh, Jack (September 10, 2010). The Gipper: George Gipp, Knute Rockne, and the Dramatic Rise of Notre Dame Football. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-62873-112-5.
  13. ^ "1895 : George Gipp of Notre Dame Fame Was Born on the Keweenaw Peninsula (2018-02-18)". Retrieved January 26, 2024.
  14. ^ Keyes, Ralph (2006). The quote verifier: who said what, where, and when. St. Martin's Press. p. 78. ISBN 0-312-34004-4. win just one for the gipper.
  15. ^ Valk, Garry (April 14, 1969). "Letter from the publisher". Sports Illustrated. p. 5.
  16. ^ Phinizy, Coles (September 17, 1979). "Win one for the Gipper". Sports Illustrated. p. 40.
  17. ^ Homiletic Review. Volume 102, Page 421. 1931.
  18. ^ "Army humbled by Notre Dame". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. November 11, 1928. p. 1, part 2.
  19. ^ Gould, Alan J. (November 11, 1928). "Notre Dame runs wild over Cagle's Cadets, 12-6". Milwauee Sentinel. Associated Press. p. 1, part 3.[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ Gerstenzang, James (August 16, 1988). "Reagan delivers 'last hurrah' to GOP". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). (Los Angeles Times). p. 1A.
  21. ^ COLLEGE FOOTBALL: George Gipp's body is exhumed for DNA testing - International Herald Tribune
  22. ^ "Gipp not father of child born after death". The Columbia (Missouri) Daily Tribune. November 11, 2007. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved April 14, 2013.
  23. ^ Sandomir, Richard (November 17, 2007). "Cousins Sue Over Gipp Exhumation". New York Times. Retrieved August 8, 2008.
  24. ^ Holt, Ivy (January 7, 2011). "Cousins Sue Over Gipp Exhumation". New York Times. Retrieved July 1, 2011.
  25. ^ "Legal Squabble Over The Gipper's Body". CBS News. January 6, 2009. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  26. ^ 25 Greatest Players In College Football - College Football - ESPN
  27. ^ "NCAA Football's Finest" (PDF). NCAA. 2002. Retrieved July 2, 2010.

Further reading[edit]

  • One For The Gipper-George Gipp, Knute Rockne and Notre Dame", Patrick Chelland. Panoply Publications, 298 pp., 2008. ISBN 978-0-9818391-0-3
  • Gipp at Notre Dame-The Untold Story, Emil Klosinski. Publish America, 278 pp., 2003. ISBN 1-4137-1185-5
  • The Life and Times of George Gipp, George Gekas. And Books, 219pp., April 1988. ISBN 0-89708-164-1
  • The Gipper: George Gipp, Knute Rockne, and the Dramatic Rise of Notre Dame Football, Jack Cavanaugh. Skyhorse Publishing, 320 pages., September 2010. ISBN 1-61608-110-4

External links[edit]