Wally Lemm

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Wally Lemm
Wally Lemm.jpg
Lemm from the 1959 Forester
Biographical details
Born(1919-10-23)October 23, 1919
Chicago, Illinois
DiedOctober 8, 1988(1988-10-08) (aged 68)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Playing career
1938–1941Carroll (WI)
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1945Notre Dame (assistant)
1946–1947Carroll (WI) (assistant)
1948Waukesha HS (WI)
1949–1951Lake Forest (assistant)
1952–1953Lake Forest
1954Montana State (assistant)
1955Montana State
1956Chicago Cardinals (assistant)
1957Lake Forest
1959Chicago Cardinals (assistant)
1960–1961Houston Oilers (assistant)
1961Houston Oilers
1962–1965St. Louis Cardinals
1966–1970Houston Oilers
1949–1954Lake Forest
1954–1955Montana State
1958–1959Lake Forest
Head coaching record
Overall64–64–7 (AFL/NFL regular season)
21–10–2 (college football)
80–72 (college basketball)
Accomplishments and honors
2 CCI (1952, 1957)

Walter Horner Lemm (October 23, 1919 – October 8, 1988) was an American football coach at the high school, collegiate and professional levels and achieved his greatest prominence as head coach of the American Football League's Houston Oilers and the National Football League's St. Louis Cardinals.

Early career[edit]

Lemm graduated from Carroll College, in Waukesha, Wisconsin, in 1942 after playing football for head coach John W. Breen. After service in World War II during the next two years, Lemm served as an assistant coach at the University of Notre Dame under Hugh Devore in 1945. Lemm returned to Carroll as an assistant coach with the school's football team the following year, then became a head coach for the first time, accepting the top job for Waukesha High School in 1948.

Coaching career[edit]

Following Lemm's one year at Waukesha, Carroll's former coach, Breen, took the head coaching position at Lake Forest College. Lemm served under his leadership for the next three years, while also working as the school's head basketball coach, then replaced Breen in 1952. During his two seasons, he compiled an 11–4–1 record before leaving to accept the head coach position at Montana State University. An 8-1 season in 1954 was followed the next year by a 4–4–1 campaign. On May 14, 1956, he reached the National Football League (NFL) when he accepted a defensive assistant position with the Chicago Cardinals.

Lemm spent just one season before resigning to again accept the head coaching position at Lake Forest. During the next two years, he nearly matched his previous stint at the school with an 11–5 record, winning District Coach of the Year accolades in 1957 from the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). On February 21, 1959, he returned to an assistant's role with the Cardinals, and would remain at the professional level for the remainder of his career.

After again spending a single season with the Cardinals, Lemm resigned on January 12, 1960 to accept an assistant coaching position with the Houston Oilers of the seminal American Football League. During the first season of play, the Oilers captured the league's first-ever title, but Lemm resigned after the season, returning to Libertyville, Illinois to work in the sporting goods industry.

However, after a slow start to the 1961 season that saw the team with a 1–3–1 record, Oilers' head coach Lou Rymkus was fired. Lemm was offered the position by his former coach John Breen, the Oilers' Director of Player Personnel, and proceeded to lead the team to nine straight victories. The team then won its second straight title with a 10–3 win over the San Diego Chargers on December 24, 1961, and Lemm was named AFL Coach of the Year for his efforts.

After orally agreeing to a contract for the next season, Lemm instead resigned on February 22, 1962 to take the top spot with the Cardinals, citing the proximity of St. Louis to his home in Lake Bluff, Illinois. He replaced Pop Ivy at St. Louis, and Ivy replaced Lemm at Houston. After a 4–9–1 record in his first year, Lemm came close to capturing the NFL's Eastern Conference title with a 9–5 season in 1963 and a 9–3–2 mark the following year. After signing a contract with a huge pay increase, the Cardinals crashed in 1965 with a 5–9 mark, with Lemm seemingly having job security. However, after Lemm was asked to stay in St. Louis as a full-time coach, he resigned on January 10, 1966, again citing family considerations. Oddly, he then accepted the head coaching job with his former team in Houston 19 days later.

The Oilers struggled in 1966 with a 3–11 record, but bounced back in 1967 with a 9–4–1 record and a spot in the AFL Championship game. After a 40–7 thrashing at the hands of the Oakland Raiders, the Oilers again reached the postseason in 1969 compiling a mediocre 6–6–2 record and were again dismantled by the Raiders, 56–7, in the AFL's oddly constructed one year playoff system. For that season the first place team of the West played the second place team of the East and vice versa. The team's first year in the post-merger NFL, 1970, finished with a disastrous 3–10–1 mark. Following a 44–0 loss to his former team in St. Louis on November 1, 1970, Lemm announced he would be retiring at the conclusion of the year, this time citing health issues. Lemm's final game came on December 20 of that year, a 52–10 loss to the Oilers' Lone Star State rivals, the Dallas Cowboys.

Later life and death[edit]

Lemm died on October 8, 1988 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin after a college reunion.[1]

Head coaching record[edit]

College football[edit]

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Lake Forest Foresters (College Conference of Illinois) (1952–1953)
1952 Lake Forest 6–1–1 3–0–1 T–1st
1953 Lake Forest 5–3 4–1 2nd
Montana State Bobcats (Rocky Mountain Conference) (1955)
1955 Montana State 4–4–1 3–2–1 3rd
Montana State: 4–4–1 3–2–1
Lake Forest Foresters (College Conference of Illinois) (1957)
1957 Lake Forest 6–2 6–1 T–1st
Lake Forest: 17–6–1 13–2–1
Total: 21–10–2
      National championship         Conference title         Conference division title or championship game berth


Team Year Regular Season Post Season
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
HOU 1961* 9 0 0 1.000 1st in AFL Eastern Division 1 0 1.000 Beat San Diego Chargers in AFL championship game
STL 1962 4 9 1 .308 6th in NFL Eastern Conference - - -
STL 1963 9 5 0 .643 3rd in NFL Eastern Conference - - -
STL 1964 9 3 2 .750 2nd in NFL Eastern Conference - - -
STL 1965 5 9 0 .357 5th in NFL Eastern Conference - - -
STL Total 27 26 3 .509 - - -
HOU 1966 3 11 0 .214 4th in AFL Western Division - - -
HOU 1967 9 4 1 .692 1st in AFL Eastern Division 0 1 .000 Lost to Oakland Raiders in AFL championship game
HOU 1968 7 7 0 .500 2nd in AFL Eastern Division - - -
HOU 1969 6 6 2 .500 2nd in AFL Eastern Division 0 1 .000 Lost to Oakland Raiders in Divisional Round
HOU 1970 3 10 1 .231 4th in AFC Central - - -
HOU Total 37 38 4 .493 - - -
Total[2] 64 64 7 .500 - - -
  • Interim coach for last 9 games of regular season

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Former Houston coach dies". The Galveston Daily News. Galveston, Texas. Associated Press. October 10, 1988. p. 3. Retrieved September 19, 2016 – via Newspapers.com open access.
  2. ^ "Wally Lemm Record, Statistics, and Category Ranks – Pro-Football-Reference.com". Pro-Football-Reference. Retrieved December 13, 2020.