Bruce Smith Bust in New Display at Faribault High School
Bruce "Boo" Smith was a 1938 Faribault High School graduate and the only University of Minnesota football player to win the Heisman Trophy.
A replica bust of Smith made by Faribault's own Ivan Whillock is now proudly displayed just outside the Nomeland Gym at Faribault High School.
Smith lettered four years each in football, basketball and golf at Faribault High School and included in the display is his diploma from 1938.
I have to admit I don't even have my diploma. I lost it in one of my many moves before settling in Faribault. Do you have yours?
Bruce's father was also a graduate of the University of Minnesota and played on the football team in 1910 and 1911.
Smith was awarded the Heisman two days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Born February 8, 1920 in Faribault he died August 28,1967 in Alexandria, Minnesota where he and his family had moved from Faribault so he could take over a Hamms Beer distributorship.
That move was made in 1964 according to information on the Ancestry.com website.
Smith played well on the freshman team at the University of Minnesota and won a starting halfback job as a sophomore. In those days freshman were not allowed to play on the varsity.
You have probably seen a film of Bruce Smith's legendary run as a junior in the "Little Brown Jug" game against Michigan at Memorial Stadium in Minneapolis.
The field conditions were soggy to say the least with the Armistice Day blizzard just around the corner.
Smith scored Minnesota's only touchdown on an incredible 80 yard run that put the 6'0 197 pound back's speed and power fully on display.
The Gophers would win the National Championship in 1940 and 1941 and go unbeaten both years.
In those days there were no playoffs and the media chose the National Champions.
Smith had a better year statistically his junior year but was clearly the favorite for the Heisman heading into his senior season.
He missed three games due to injury his senior year but still won the awardafter some impressive games.
Against Iowa he scored all of Minnesota's touchdowns (34-13) either throwing or running from the single wing formation which was the norm for the the time.
He was MVP of the college football All-Star game against the NFL Chicago Bears.
Smith then enlisted in the U.S. Navy and became a fighter pilot.
He played in Armed Forces Competition and was named player of the year his first year there.
Smith never saw combat in the war and after his honorable discharge sign a professional football contract with the Green Bay Packers.
He would play only four seasons as a professional and was used primarily as a defensive back.
Smith's professional football running back numbers were 108 attempts for 560 yards and a touchdown (a healthy 5.2 per carry average) and 8 pass receptions for a TD.
In the 1942 NFL Draft he was picked in the 13th round and was the 119th pick.
He was drafted long after he had enlisted in the Navy.
Smith played for the Packers from 1945-1948 and the Los Angeles Rams in 1948 before retiring at age 29.
In 1947 he almost died on the football field when he ruptured his kidney during a game against the Chicago Bears after being inadvertently kicked during a play.
A priest was called in to give him his last rites.
He married Gloria Bardeau a fashion model from Philadelphia and they had four children.
He moved back to Faribault and in the 1950's had a partner in a sporting goods store in Northfield.
He sold clothing in Faribault and lawn mowers before Hamms gave him a distributorship in Alexandria, Minnesota in 1964.
Bruce Smith was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1972. Why it took so long is anybody's guess.
His number 54 was the first to be retired by the University of Minnesota in 1977. Again why it took so long is the question.
Bruce Smith Field is the high school football field at Alexander Park that has his name attached but Bruce never played on that field.
I believe he played in Teepee Tonka Park in his days at Faribault High School.
The field didn't have his name attached to it until after he died in 1967 from cancer.
Smith was diagnosed in the spring of 1967 and wasted away to 90 pounds by the time he died.
After his diagnosis he would make rounds at the hospital with Reverend William Cantwell and visit children diagnosed with cancer.
Bruce Smith prayed before and after games and once told his father. "Every man should spend at least an hour a day with God."
In 1978 Reverend Cantwell nominated Smith for sainthood.
A process that is still believed to be happening with another Priest taking over.
Bruce Smith was buried at Fort Snelling National Cemetary in Minneapolis.
The Falcon girls host their first game December 5 against Kasson-Mantorville.
The Falcon boys first home game is against Northfield December 8 and the girls play Northfield that night also in a doubleheader.
I'm not sure if a formal dedication is planned but that would be the perfect night with Bruce Smith having ties to Northfield and Faribault.