Glenn “Pop” Warner

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Football Coach, Innovator

Although the evolution of football into the modern game of speed and grace which we witness has had numerous contributors, perhaps no single person had a greater impact on the sport than Springville’s Glenn “Pop” Warner. For the first half of the just-concluded century, Warner cast a giant shadow over collegiate football, molding not only tremendous players and memorable teams, but molding the game itself in a way that few coaches ever had.

Born in Springville, New York in 1871, Warner, a product of the Griffith Institute, captained the Cornell football squad in 1893. After a brief law career in Buffalo (4 months), “Pop” (so-named at Cornell because he was older than most classmates) served short coaching stints at Iowa State and the University of Georgia. In 1899 he arrived at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania. Warner transformed Carlisle into a national football power, posting a record of 108 wins 41 losses, and 8 ties against major college opponents over a fifteen year period.

Although he emphasized a systematic, team-oriented approach to the game, Warner was nonetheless blessed with several outstanding talent at Carlisle, including the great Jim Thorpe. Warner’s innovations made Thorpe a triple threat, a weapon who could run, pass, and kick with equal devastation.

Warner followed his success at Carlisle with equally impressive results at the University of Pittsburgh, where he produced four undefeated teams in ten years. Stanford University was next, and Pop spent nine years on the west coast developing clever, sensational teams spearheaded by phenomenal talents such as Ernie Nevers. Warner completed his 300-plus wins career with stops at Temple University, and San Jose State in 1940.

Warner’s legacy has little to do with mere win totals. His innovations in equipment, practice methods and game strategy laid the groundwork for football as we recognize it today. Warner devised light-weight uniforms designed for speed, and invented the blocking sleds and tackling dummies still in use. Pop was also responsible for the reverse, the double wing, the crouching start for backs, many modern blocking schemes, and the reverse handoff on kickoffs. While Bills fans agonized over the tricky “home-run throwback” which beat the Bills in a 2000 playoff game against the Titans, at least one former Western New Yorker was chuckling from the great beyond.

Wrote one biographer, “Warner was a trailblazer who led football out of the wilderness of masses, closed-order, push-pull and huddle into the open game of speed, deception and brains.” These accomplishments have in turn blazed Pop a trail into the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame.