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Gridiron Guts: The Story of Football's Carlisle Indians

May 19, 2007 (Weekend Edition Saturday)

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At the turn of the 20th century, the college leading the football gridiron wasn't Harvard or Yale - it was a little-known powerhouse called the Carlisle Indian Industrial School.

It was at this experimental boarding school for American Indians where many of today's trick plays, and even the first spiral throw, were born.

The school's formative years and its legendary talent - including Jim Thorpe and Glenn Scobey "Pop" Warner - come to life in The Real All Americans: The Game that Changed a Game, a People, a Nation by Sally Jenkins.

The school's story begins in 1879 with Lt. Col. Richard Henry Pratt, a fierce abolitionist who believed that Native Americans deserved a place but needed to be "civilized" into American society. Pratt made a treacherous journey to the Dakota Territory to recruit Carlisle's first students, and three years later the students started a football team.

By 1907, the Carlisle Indians were the most dynamic team in college football. They had pioneered the forward pass, the overhand spiral and other trick plays that frustrated their opponents.

Jenkins tells the story of these unlikely champions through the gritty games of the team's early years. The culmination of the book comes at the famous 1912 game, when Carlisle's Jim Thorpe plays Army's Dwight Eisenhower.

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