The “Scintillating Sicilian” posed a triple threat on the field, and is one of the greatest football players of all time.
Born December 14, 1920, Charley Trippi was considered by many – including Paul Bryant – to be the best college football player of all time. He was sometimes dubbed a “one man gang” for his astonishing versatility and strength as a runner, passer and kicker.
His entrée into college ball came with a scholarship to the University of Georgia, which he took after requesting an extra year at prep school to improve his game as a halfback. It was a prime example of Trippi’s keen instincts. The extra time brought him greater skill, confidence and size.
Trippi moved to tailback halfway through his sophomore year and gained 1,239 yards in total offense. In 1942, six different polls touted the Bulldogs as National Champs. He gained greater notoriety as a replacement in the 1943 Rose Bowl, where he ran for 130 yards and completed six passes for 96 yards in a 9-0 win over UCLA.
Trippi then served three years in the Air Force in World War II. In 1945, while in the service, he was drafted first overall by the NFL’s Chicago Cardinals as a future pick.
He returned to Georgia for the last six games of 1945. In 1946, his senior year, team captain Trippi went out in style in the season-ender against Georgia Tech, setting a Southeastern Conference record with 323 passing yards – the most in a single game at that time.
With 84 points and 14 touchdowns, Trippi also led the SEC in scoring. He rushed for 744 yards on 115 carries and passed for 622 yards. It was no surprise that Trippi earned the title of SEC Player of The Year. In addition, he was a unanimous All-America choice, Maxwell Award winner and Heisman Trophy runner-up.
In 1947, Trippi hooked up with the Chicago Cardinals with the highest pay a pro player had seen in two decades – $100,000 for four years. Trippi was an anchoring force in the Cardinals’ “Dream Backfield,” and helped lead the Big Red to their last NFL title, beating the Philadelphia Eagles 28-21. Trippi scored on a 44-yard touchdown run and a 75-yard punt return, and rushed for 203 yards on 14 carries.
Trippi was selected All-Pro in 1947 and 1948, playing a total of four all-star games during his nine years with the Cardinals.
Demonstrating his flexibility, Trippi played quarterback in 1951 and 1952, running back in 1953 and defensive back in 1954 and 1955. He retired after the 1955 season.
Trippi was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1959, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1968, and the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in 1978.