GeorgeGeorge "The Gipper" Gipp (February 18, 1895 – December 14, 1920) was a college footballplayer who played for the University of Notre Dame. Gipp was selected as Notre Dame's first All-American and is Notre Dame's second consensus All-American (of 79), afterGus Dorais. Gipp played multiple positions, most notably halfback, quarterback, andpunter. He is still considered today to be one of the most versatile athletes to play the game of football and is the subject of Knute Rockne's famous "Win just one for the Gipper" speech. Gipp died at the age of 25 of astreptococcal throat infection, days after leading Notre Dame to a win overNorthwestern in his senior season.
Born in Laurium, Michigan, he entered Notre Dame intending to play baseball for theFighting Irish, but was recruited by Knute Rockne for the football team, despite having no experience in organized football. During his Notre Dame career, Gipp led the Irish inrushing and passing each of his last three seasons (1918, 1919 and 1920). His career mark of 2,341 rushing yards lasted more than 50 years until Jerome Heavens broke it in 1978. Gipp also threw for 1,789 yards. He scored 21 career touchdowns, averaged 38 yards a punt, and gathered five interceptionsas well as 14 yards per punt return and 22 yards per kick return in four seasons of play for the Fighting Irish. 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).
Gipp died December 14, 1920, two weeks after being elected Notre Dame's first All-American by Walter Camp and second consensus All-American overall. 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 contractedpneumonia and eventually died from a related infection.
It is more likely that Gipp contracted strep throat and pneumonia while giving puntinglessons after his final game, November 20 against Northwestern University. Sinceantibiotics were not available in the 1920s, treatment options for such infections were limited and they could be fatal even to young, healthy individuals.
Gipp's hometown, Laurium, built a memorial in his honor; he is buried in nearby Lake View Cemetery in Calumet, Michigan.
"Win just one for the Gipper"
It was on his hospital bed that he is purported to have delivered the famous,"win just one for the Gipper" line. He apparently said this line to Knute Rockne, the football coach of Notre Dame. 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."
Rockne used the story of Gipp, along with this deathbed line that he attributed to Gipp, to rally his team to a 12-6 underdog victory over the undefeated Army team of 1928 with Jack Chevigny making the famous, "that's one for the Gipper" tying touchdown at Yankee Stadium. Chevigny was later killed in action inWorld War II at Iwo Jima.
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". His most famous use of the phrase was at the 1988 Republican National Convention when he told Vice PresidentGeorge H. W. Bush, "George, go out there and win one for the Gipper." The term was also used by President George W. Bush at the2004 Republican Convention when he honored the recently deceased President Reagan by stating, "this time we can truly win one for the Gipper."
Win one for the Gipper was also imitated byDwight Schultz at the end of the episode The Bells of St. Mary's in the third season of The A-Team.
The speech was featured in the classic underdog football movie "Rudy" starring Sean Astin as the real life Daniel Ruettiger who is a walk-on at Notre Dame during his senior year. Ruettiger rode the bench the entire season and it was only during the last game on November 8, 1975 that he was substituted in for one official play making him officially part of the team.
The story was parodied in the 1980 movieAirplane! when Dr. Rumack tells Ted Striker the story of George Zipp, and to "win one for the Zipper".
Exhumation and controversy
On October 4, 2007, George 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 rightfemur 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. The tests showed that Gipp was not the father of the child who was born within days of Gipp's death and who died in 2006. Other Gipp relatives claim exhumation was conducted in a manner and under circumstances that are subject to legal action for damages.
- Gipp was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame (located in South Bend, Indiana) 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.