Scandinavian-American Hall of Fame
Knute Rockne (March 4, 1888 - March 31, 1931) is best known for his ability as a football player first, and later, as the “winningest” college coach ever, a coach who led his teams at Notre Dame to five perfect seasons. His .881 winning percentage has never been topped in football history, either collegiate or professional.
Born in Voss, Norway, Rockne immigrated to the United States with his parents and settled in Chicago. He entered Notre Dame after having saved money for his education, and graduated magna cum laude in 1914. However, while in college he was a star in both football and track. As a student, he set the record for the longest pass play in football and, with player Gus Dorais, developed a passing technique that was the first of its kind.
After graduation, he accepted a position at Notre Dame as a teaching assistant and assistant football coach. He later became head football coach, a position he held for 13 years until his death in an airplane crash in 1931.
At the May 1988 dedication of the Rockne Historical Marker in Rockne, Texas, Knute Rockne was remembered as a man who “championed education, guiding all his players to the goal of a college degree. His many innovations earned him a place in National Football Foundation’s College of Fame in 1951- the first year of inductions.”
During his tenure, his teams dominated college football, winning national championships and going undefeated for record-setting periods of time. His coaching strategy was built around teamwork, deception and speed. He also perfected the forward pass, the shift and several other tactics. Summers he conducted coaching clinics and wrote articles on football.
His life was cut short by the crash, which occurred when he flew to Hollywood to discuss the making of a movie about his football fame. The movie was eventually made years later with Pat O’Brien as Rockne and President Ronald Reagan as Rockne’s star player George Gipp.
In addition, Rockne had a commemorative stamp made in his remembrance and a town in Texas named after him. The University of Notre Dame welcomed President Reagan when he again touched Rockne’s life, this time as the principle speaker for the first day of issue ceremonies – the day Knute Rockne become the first athletic coach to be honored with a commemorative stamp!