On The ’39 Stanford Indians

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STANFORD UNIVERSITY had enjoyed a spectacular three-year run of success after first taking on CLAUDE “TINY” THORNHILL as head football coach in 1933. The Indians racked up an overall record of 25 wins against just four losses with two ties during that time span, which included three consecutive (as well as lucrative) appearances in the annual Rose Bowl contest at Pasadena on New Year’s Day. But immediately thereafter, Stanford entered into a period of sharp decline and would not rebound until after T-Formation guru Clark Shaughnessy arrived on the scene in 1940.

Stanford suffered through an injury-riddled and somewhat luckless campaign to finish with the record of three wins against six losses in 1938. After registering over the Washington State Cougars and the Oregon Ducks at the start of the season, Thornhill’s Indians proceeded to drop all five of its remaining Pacific Coast Conference games on the trot. Low-scoring Stanford did provide a stunning climax by sweeping past then-ranked # 13 Dartmouth 23-13 to close out its term on the last weekend of November.

The good news for Thornhil going into the 1939 NCAA season was the graduation losses were relatively minimal, although three players had been selected in the annual National Football League Draft. New York Giants prospect BILL PAULMAN, the multi-talented fullback/quarterback who led the Indians with three touchdown passes thrown and was named Third Team All-Pacific Coast by the Associated Press in 1938, was the last link to Stanford’s glory years, though. It was Paulman, then a promising sophomore who would sit out the subsequent campaign on account of injury, that scored the Indians’ lone touchdown during the 7-0 victory over Southern Methodist University in the 1936 Rose Bowl contest.

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Stanford University right halfback HUGH GALLARNEAU (# 29) sits on his duff in the end zone as unseen Indians fullback Norm Standlee powers his way over the goal line to score an important second quarter touchdown during the surprising NCAA inter-regional clash with # 13 ranked Dartmouth College at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto on November 11, 1938.
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Thornhill did have 15 experienced lettermen around which to build the 1939 Stanford squad — this cast included one player who was destined to score a touchdown in the historic 1940 NFL Championship for the unstoppable Chicago Bears along with two others were fated to become high draft picks of the Monsters Of Midway in the subsequent 1941 NFL Draft.

Fullback NORM STANDLEE, the sturdy junior (6’1″ 217 lbs) whom the powerhouse Chicago Bears later made the third player chosen overall during the first round of the 1941 NFL Draft, was the only one of the five Stanford backs to have registered one of the Indians’ five rushing touchdowns in 1938 who returned for what would prove to be Thornhill’s last team in Palo Alto. In 1939, the native of Long Branch was on course to be named Second Team All-Pacific Coast by the Associated Press and Third Team All-Pacific Coast by the United Press. As a senior, Standlee would be honored as a Second Team All-America by that same United Press as well as two other major organizations in 1940.

Right halfback HUGH GALLARNEAU gave a demonstration of his ability by rushing for 71 yards on 22 carries (3.2 avg) during Stanford’s narrow 6-0 loss to the Oregon State Beavers at the tail end of his sophomore campaign in 1938. The junior native of Chicago might have been the hero against the down then up Washington Huskies that season, as well, but his apparent 65-yard touchdown run was negated by penalty as the Indians bowed 10-7. Perhaps held back by Thornhill’s Single & Double Wing formations as a junior, Gallarneau would eventually be named First Team All-America by the NEA Sports Syndicate as a senior in 1940 and was tabbed by his hometown Chicago Bears in the third round (# 23 overall) of the 1941 NFL Draft.

Helping to fortify the Stanford line in 1939 was HAMPTON POOL, the beefy senior guard (6’3″ 219 lbs) from Paso Robler who had a good measure of success as a pass receiver in the professional ranks after being tabbed by the Chicago Bears in the ninth round (# 77 overall) of the 1940 NFL Draft. Shifted to end by the Bears, the prolific Pool ultimately scored 11 touchdowns after making just 35 career catches for 840 yards (24.0 yrd avg) during a short, four-year NFL career for Chicago that was shortened by both World War II and a leg injury. The former Indians interior lineman would also earn a permanet place in football history after returning an interception 15 yards for Chicago’s fourth touchdown during the Bears’ legendary 73-0 destruction of the Washington Redskins in the 1940 NFL Championship Game.

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Stanford University junior fullback NORM STANDLEE (# 22) watches in the background as ambitious left halfback FRANKIE ALBERT (# 13), the diminutive sophomore who led the Indians in 1939 with both four touchdown passes thrown as well as two rushing touchdowns scored, carries the ball upfield during the annual Big Game contest against the traditional arch-rival, the University of California Golden Bears, at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto.
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The Indians also had an outstanding group of sophomores in 1939, four of whom would later be formally drafted by National Football League clubs.

FRANKIE ALBERT was an undersized lad (5’8″ 165 lbs) cut from the exact same exact cloth as the 1938 Heisman Trophy winner, former Texas Christian University quarterback Davey O’Brien. An outstanding passer of the football, the native of Glendale was destined to become the nation’s consensus First Team All-America for Stanford at quarterback in both 1940 and 1941 (after the Indians had completed its shift to the T-Formation under the incoming Shaughnessy, of course). A rather reliable placekicker (40 career extra points) as well as a respectable punter (37.2 yard average from 82 career boots) for his era, the versatile Albert would eventually be snapped up by the Chicago Bears in the first round (# 10 overall) of the 1941 NFL Draft.

Also on hand in Palo Alto was PETE KMETOVIC, the homegrown sophomore San Jose who was fated to become the third overall player selected at the 1942 NFL Draft when picked in the first round by the Philadelphia Eagles … but, perhaps symbolizing Stanford’s last season under Thornhill perfectly, Kmetovic was buried on the Indians depth chart at left halfback and did not see much of the field in 1939.

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