copyWrite: December 16, 2014
copyWrite upDate: April 21, 2016
From within a collage of antiquated Oklahoma City University football photos discovered at an estate sale in Mustang, Oklahoma, a Pro Football Hall Of Fame nomination has been born. Sounds like one of those old "Strange But True Football Stories" compiled by Zander Hollander back in the late 1960's. Noted as "stories of odd, humorous and incredible moments in football history," this one about #5 leatherhead for the old school Detroit Lions, Leroy "Ace" Gutowsky, would seem to fit right in.
Both moving and still contents of this particular NFL Hall Of Fame nomination are shared for the pure enjoyment of gridiron fans from all generations.
Certainly with no thought of any Hall Of Fame potential existing at the time, #5 NFL leatherhead, Leroy "Ace" Gutowsky rambled his way to the top of the Detroit Lion's and the NFL's ground gainer lists by 1939. As a Portsmouth Spartan (632 yds.) and Detroit Lion (2,445 yds.) workhorse, Gutowsky owned his team's rushing record for the better part of three decades leading into the 1960's. As well, NFL.com has recognized Gutowsky as the ring leader of a 1934 defense that gave up an "astonishingly low" total of only 59 points over an entire 13 game slate. Playing both ways was not that uncommon within this leatherhead era. Athletes such as Nagurski and Gutowsky playing both ways at such a high degree of dual performance level was extraordinary.
Despite some inadvertent and fictional media accounts of Gutowsky being born in Komolty, Russia, this former Oklahoma City University Goldbug All-American was born a true American in 1909 near what is now the ghost town of Ko Mah Ty, (aka Komalty) Oklahoma. Often misunderstood, it was Ace's father, Assuph Gutowsky that was an original Russian immigrant coming to the United States as a parentless child in 1892.
Gutowsky is officially recognized with 3,279 league leading rushing yards in his eight NFL seasons. Many would consider this a miraculous accomplishment considering the various Hall Of Fame gridiron stars Ace competed with and against on his way to becoming a King Of The NFL Mountain in the 1930's.
Earl "Dutch" Clark was a teammate of Ace with the Portsmouth Spartans and Detroit Lions from 1932-1938. Alphonse "Tuffy" Leemans was an opponent with the New York Giants from 1936-1939. Bronko Nagurski played for the rival Chicago Bears against Ace from 1932-1937. And, along with Nagurski, another most famous Bear by the name of Red Grange shared some of the same leatherhead gridiron turf and time as that of Leroy "Ace" Gutowsky.
Gutowsky's Hall Of Fame teammate Dutch Clark, along with other greats such as Alphonse Leemans and Bronko Nagurski were voted as part of the National Football League 1930's All-Decade Team. Yet this mighty gridiron warrior arising from the tribal lands of southwest Oklahoma out gained these and other Hall Of Fame caliber leatherheads on his way to being recognized as the NFL's career rushing leader before retiring in 1939.
Could the massive media machines of the larger Chicago and New York markets inadvertently assisted with the oversight of one Leroy "Ace" Gutowsky? Is this man named Gutowsky a "true" Galloping Ghost of NFL past? History books and folklore make no mention, but, real time NFL.com statistics clearly document #5 Gutowsky was the greatest galloper of this particular and historic pro football era.
This documented 1930's rushing champion, Leroy "Ace" Gutowsky, literally "broke" into the NFL in 1931 as he was contracted by Dr. Harry A. March to play for the New York Giants National Football League Company. Dr. March seemed more than thrilled to offer this 1930 All-American from Oklahoma City University $75.00 per game for his first four. After that, $100.00 per league game in 1931.
Amazingly, and as a rookie for the historical Spartans, Gutowsky became the second leading rusher (behind Hall Of Famer Dutch Clark) in the year of 1932. He also tied Clark for the team lead in rushing touchdowns with three and produced a team high yards per carry average of 3.9. It didn't take long for Ace to work his way onto the gridiron as a Spartan regular playing in eight games and starting in four. This at a time when old school leatherhead rules of the game did not allow general substitutions but rather only for serious injury.
As well, rookie Ace Gutowsky and the Portsmouth Spartans participated in the first "recognized" NFL playoff game against George Halas' Chicago Bears in 1932. This Chicago team included the Hall Of Fame talents of both Bronko Nagurski and Red Grange. Due to extreme inclement weather, this December 18, 1932, championship game was held indoors at Chicago Stadium. Despite great effort and with many a finger pointing to what was an obvious "bad call" in regard to forward passing rules of the time, the Spartans lost 9-0. With impartial thought, a modern day reversal of the alleged bad call likely would have had no impact on the game's outcome other than possibly changing the final score to 3-0.
As future Hall Of Famer Earl "Dutch" Clark was unable to participate and call out his standard "Ace And Go On Two," it was ole rookie Ace Gutowsky himself who moved from fullback to quarterback in this first NFL playoff game against the Bears. While Clark was obligated to coaching duties back in Colorado, it was Gutowsky who courageously stepped in and guided the Spartan offense in this landmark first indoor and first championship gridiron contest against the history laden Bears.
Along with participating in this first NFL playoff game, Gutowsky also was a noted offensive and defensive star in the Lions' first ever 1934 NFL Thanksgiving Day game vs. the vaunted Bears. "Despite two Ace Gutowsky touchdowns, the Lions lost 19-16." But, the NFL's Thanksgiving Day historical broadcast tradition was launched in fine fashion with Ko May Ty's warrior carrying more than his share of the load for his team that had just recently moved to Detroit.
Taking nothing away from the "Great Nagurski," Red Grange and others, could Ace Gutowsky be the most overlooked and underrated football star in NFL history? Can his decade of leading rushing stats, amassed while competing head to head with such great men be misleading? Does the body of work of one Leroy "Ace"Gutowsky deserve sincere consideration for NFL Hall Of Fame induction? Yes, No and Most Definitely would be the answers to these historical reflections.
#5 Ace Gutowsky's pinnacle year came in 1936 with the Detroit Lions. Following a 1935 Championship season, Ace rushed for a team high 827 yards in 1936. Although out rushing Hall Of Fame teammate Dutch Clark by 199 yards and Hall Of Fame rival Bronko Nagurski by 298 yards, Gutowsky did fall 3 yards short of Hall Of Famer Alphonse "Tuffy" Leemans for this annual rushing title. Despite this three yard discrepancy, official records indicate Gutowsky was the NFL's All-Purpose yard man in the year of 1936.
Nomination Request: On behalf of the family of Leroy "Ace" Gutowsky; the spirit of Kiowa Chief Ko Mah Ty; Kingfisher, Oklahoma High School; Oklahoma City University; the Portsmouth Spartans; the Detroit Lions; the great state of Oklahoma; and myself, Mark House, I respectfully nominate and request sincere consideration of Leroy "Ace" Gutowsky for a posthumous "Senior" induction into the National Football League's Pro Football Hall Of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Author's Note: The information and iMages, both moving and still, contained within this Hall Of Fame nomination have been researched and compiled with confidence of accuracy. These iMages have been collected and utilized with no intent of profit but with enthusiasm for rediscovery of a much overlooked but predominant piece of National Football League history.