Future Football Prospects

Program from the 1934 East-West Game


Following the final loss of the season against Northwestern University, Jerry was invited to play in the Shrine East-West charity game by the Northwestern coach. Ford recalled his invitation at the end of the 1934 season to attend the annual Shrine game in an article written years later for Sports Illustrated.


I was invited to play in the East-West Shrine Game in San Francisco on January 1, 1935, primarily on the recommendation of Dick Hanley, the Northwestern coach.  I had had a pretty good day against his star guard, Rip Whalen.  According to Hanley, when he asked Whalen why Michigan made so much ground up the middle that day, Whalen said, ‘Ford was the best blocking center I ever played against.’  I still cherish that remark.


The Shrine signed two centers for the East, a boy from Colgate named George Akerstrom, and me.  On the train ride from Chicago to California, Curly Lambeau, the coach of the Packers, went from player to player, plying the good ones about their pro football interest.  He ignored me.  Then in the first two minutes of the game Akerstrom got hurt.  I played the rest of the way – 58 minutes, offense and defense.  After the game a group of us were given the option of a train ride home or a free trip to Los Angeles to see the movie studios.  Being a conservative Midwesterner unacquainted with glamour, I naturally chose Hollywood.  On the train from San Francisco to Los Angeles, Curly Lambeau sat with me the whole way.  He suddenly knew my name.  And he asked me to sign with the Packers.  I told him I’d think about it.


Letter from Lambeau to Ford

The Packers offered Ford $110 dollars a game for fourteen games, while the Detroit Lions also offered the higher paycheck of $200 dollars per game. Jerry could have made good money playing pro football, but it would conflict with his primary goal: law school. He declined the offers and asked Harry Kipke if a coaching position was available at Michigan, with the ultimate goal of attending law school at Ann Arbor in mind. The funds were not available, but Kipke directed him to Ducky Pond, the head coach at Yale, who was looking for a line coach.


Ford was offered the position at Yale, and if he could not attend law school at Michigan, maybe there would be a way to make it work in New Haven.