Walter R. Okeson

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Walter R. Okeson
Walter R. Okeson.jpg
Born:(1875-10-03)October 3, 1875
Port Royal, Pennsylvania
Died:November 4, 1943(1943-11-04) (aged 68)
Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Career information
Career history
As coach
1897Latrobe Athletic Association
1901Lehigh (assistant)
As player
1897Latrobe Athletic Association
1898Duquesne Country & A. C.
Career highlights and awards

Walter Raleigh Okeson (October 3, 1875 – November 4, 1943)[1] was the coach of and played for the first all-professional football team, the 1897 Latrobe Athletic Association club. A few years later he became the eighth head football coach for the Lehigh Mountain Hawks in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a position he held for the 1900 season. His overall coaching record at Lehigh was 5 wins, 6 losses, and 0 ties. This ranks him 17th at Lehigh in total wins and 15th at Lehigh in winning percentage.[2]

Okeson was also an All-American end at Lehigh University. In 1897 he was a player-coach for the Latrobe Athletic Association and led the team to a 10-2-1 record. He was later named to the "All Western Pennsylvania Team" by The Pittsburg Times after the season. In 1898, he played for the Duquesne Country and Athletic Club. At the end of that season, Okeson played for Duquesne against the 1898 Western Pennsylvania All-Star football team, formed by Latrobe manager Dave Berry.[3][4][5] Duquesne won the game, 16-0.

Okeson was the chairman of the College Football Rules Committee for a time. After the death of Parke H. Davis in June, 1934, Okeson became the editor of the annual Spalding's Official Foot Ball Guide. In the Guide, Davis, the previous editor, had compiled a list titled, "Outstanding Nationwide and Sectional Teams," for the seasons from 1869 onward. For several years, Okeson continued to add annual selections to this list, described as "Originally Compiled by the late Parke H. Davis."[6]

In the 1939 Guide, Okeson wrote,[7]

"In that year (1897), then, 'pro' foot ball started with the two teams of the Latrobe Athletic Club and the Greensburg Athletic Club. I remember it rather distinctly, as I was engaged to coach the Latrobe team ... I can truthfully say that I saw 'pro' foot ball born and have watched its growth, at first spasmodic but of late years steady and successful. ... After 50 years of football as a player in prep school, college and professional teams, as a coach of high school, college and 'pro' teams, as an official, a graduate manager, a Commissioner of Officials, Chairman of the Foot Ball Rules Committee, I am convinced that calling foot ball part of the educational program is a lot of 'hooey.' ... [L]et the schools and the colleges tend to the job of education. ... Permit foot ball to hold its place as the greatest game ever devised for young men who love body contact, as the highlight in the college sports program."


  1. ^ Rootsweb
  2. ^ Lehigh Coaching Records
  3. ^ "The First All-Star Game" (PDF). Coffin Corner. Professional Football Researchers Association. 1 (1): 1–9. 1979.
  4. ^ Van Atta, Robert (1980). "Latrobe, PA: Cradle of Pro Football" (PDF). Coffin Corner. Professional Football Researchers Association. 2 (Annual): 1–21.
  5. ^ "Last Hurrah in Allegheny" (PDF). Professional Football Researchers Association. 1980: 1–3.
  6. ^ Okeson, Walter R., ed. (1935). Spalding's Official Foot Ball Guide 1935. New York: American Sports Publishing Co. pp. 173–74, 233–35.
  7. ^ Okeson, Walter R., ed. (1939). Spalding's Official Foot Ball Guide 1939. New York: American Sports Publishing Co. pp. 12–13.