UCLA’s Washington, Strode Snubbed By All NFL Teams At 1940 Draft

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No fewer than five former UCLA BRUINS players were invited to the very first training camp of the fledgling LOS ANGELES RAMS, the National Football League franchise that had just completed its move from Cleveland, that was held at Compton College in the summer of 1946. Pictured in the front row are guard JACK FINLAY (# 17), guard NATE DEFRANCISCO (# 10) as well as end WOODY STODE (# 34) with halfback KENNY WASHINGTON (# 13) standing next to quarterback BOB WATERRFIELD (# 7) in the back. Neither of the two offensive linemen made the final roster cut for Los Angeles in 1946 but the resilient Finlay went on to play five seasons for the Rams and, along with Waterfield, became an NFL champion in 1951.
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From the modern day perspective, it is inconceivable to think that any college player who competed in one of the six so-called “power” conferences and led the entire NCAA in total offense (combined yards rushing & passing) during his senior season would be completely passed over by every single professional team at the subsequent National Football League Draft.

Sadly, such was the case for extremely talented UCLA left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON, who led the entire nation with 1,370 yards of total offense while accounting for 12 touchdowns (five rushing, seven passing) on behalf of a quality Bruins side that went unbeaten in ten games (six wins, four draws) and finished the 1939 NCAA campaign as the # 7 ranked team in the country according to the Associated Press.

Given the physical attributes and on-field accomplishments of UCLA left end WOODY STRODE, who led the Bruins in 1939 with 15 receptions for 218 yards (14.5 avg) and two touchdowns while establishing himself as one of the nation’s better downfield pass-catching threats, it is rather absurd to think that no NFL club wanted the services of such a tall, agile receiver (6’4″ 195 lbs) who was also a dominant player on the defensive side of the ball, as well.

Perhaps the very best argument to be made with respect to why Strode and Washington both deserved to have their names called at the 1940 NFL Draft is reflected by the fact, after being senselessly barred for six seasons by the National Football League only because of the color of their skin, the pair were still gifted enough to play at the very highest level of the professional football game after finally being signed to contracts by the Los Angeles Rams in 1946.

Getting back to the 1940 NFL Draft, there is little doubt that UCLA Bruins star left halfback Kenny Washington should have been a first round selection at the minimum and, indeed, a strong case could be made that the homegrown senior out of Lincoln High School in Los Angeles might very well have been the very first pick overall had circumstances with respect to basic civil rights been an entirely different matter.

1940 NFL DRAFT – FIRST ROUND
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HB – George Cafego ……… Tennessee ……………. Chicago Cardinals
HB – George McAfee …….. Duke …………………… Philadelphia Eagles
QB – Kay Eakin …………….. Arkansas ……………… Pittsburgh Steelers
HB – Banks McFadden ….. Clemson ………………. Brooklyn Dodgers
HB – Olie Cordill …………… Rice …………………….. Cleveland Rams
QB – Doyle Nave …………… USC …………………….. Detroit Lions
OC – Clyde Turner ………… Hardin-Simmons ….. Chicago Bears
QB – Ed Boell ………………… New York Univ …….. Washington Redskins
HB – Hal van Every ……….. Minnesota ……………. Green Bay Packers
QB – Grenville Lansdell ….. USC …………………….. New York Giants

This blog has already taken the time to analyzed the three-year collegiate careers of UCLA Bruins left halfback KENNY WASHINGTON and USC Trojans quarterback GRENVILLE LANSDELL in greater detail :

https://lvironpigs.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/kenny-vs-grenny-highlights-historic-1939-ucla-vs-ucla-clash/

The comparison between Tennessee’s Cafego and UCLA’s Washington is an interesting one, to say the least. As this blog shall analyze in more detail in a future post, Cafego was cited as a First, Second or Third Team All-America in 1939 by nine of the fifteen major accredited organizations studied closely by this blog whereas Washington was named All-America by eleven of those very same entities. It is true that Cafego (6’0″ 174 lbs) was somewhat limited by injury during 1939 NCAA season but the cumulative three-year collegiate statistics of the two players also strongly favor Washington (6’1″ 195 lbs) :

* Cafego gained 1,643 net yards rushing (5.9 avg) and scored 9 total touchdowns for Volunteers teams that went 27-4-1 in three seasons (1937-39) while the far more durable Washington amassed 1,914 net yards rushing (4.2 avg) and tallied 16 total touchdowns (including one on a pass reception and another on defense via a fumble return) on behalf of Bruins teams that went 14-10-6 during his varsity career — as was also the case for Lansdell at USC, Cafego had the distinct advantage of working with much better overall blocking at Tennessee than Washington did at UCLA; as it was, the Volunteers had two different interior linemen who were named First Team All-America by at least four major accredited organizations in 1939 and two other interior linemen who were selected by professional teams at the 1940 NFL Draft.

* Cafego completed 49 of 105 career attempts and totaled 550 yards passing with three touchdowns for Tennessee but the rocket-armed Washington completed 92 of 228 career attempts and totaled 1,268 yards passing with 14 touchdowns for UCLA; the Volunteers left halfback had a better completion percentage (46.67% to 40.35%) but the Bruins left halfback averaged more yards per completion (13.78 to 11.22) and had a much better percentage of completions for touchdowns (15.22% to 6.12%) — these particular facts are all the more relevant considering the widely-publicized premium on backs who could effectively throw the football forward that NFL teams, as a whole, were placing on players at that exact moment in time.

* Cafego intercepted five passes as a safety in his career but was nowhere near the influential force for Tennessee on the defensive side of the football that UCLA enjoyed with the likes of Washington, who was continually cited in contemporary newspaper reports game after game for having been involved in a high number of tackles — furthermore, the explosive Washington still holds the Westwood school record for yards gained per interception return (37.7 avg) after picking off six passes during his three seasons with the Bruins.

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Former UCLA Bruins left end WOODY STRODE (# 34), the homegrown product out of Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles who caught five touchdown passes in his collegiate career and was bestowed with First Team All-Pacific Coast in addition to Honorable Mention All-America status by the Associated Press as a senior in 1939, focuses on the football during a training camp session with the Natonal Football League’s Los Angeles Rams in the summer of 1946.
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It is certainly very interesting to note that during his three-year varsity career, UCLA Bruins left end WOODY STRODE played against eight of the top twenty ends chosen by the professional teams at the 1940 National Football League Draft. More specifically, as a senior in 1939, the UCLA left end Strode went head-to-head with four future NFL draft picks who featured at right end for their respective college teams — DURWOOD HORNER from the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs, VIC REGINATO from the Oregon Ducks, BILL ANAHU from the Santa Clara Broncos and BOB WINSLOW from the USC Trojans. In each instance, Strode distinguished himself on both sides of the ball as the Bruins beat defending national champion TCU (6-2) and Oregon (16-6) before battling to action-packed if pointless draws with both nationally-ranked Santa Clara and powerful cross-town rival USC.

According to the line-up chart in the post-game report of The Daily Iowan newspaper, Strode also went head-to-head with another would-be NFL draft pick, ERWIN PRESSE from the Iowa Hawkeyes, as a junior in 1938. In that game, Presse provided visiting Iowa with an early second quarter lead by kicking a 22-yard field goal but Strode made a critical play for UCLA late in the first half by recovering a fumble by 1939 Heisman Trophy winner NILE KINNICK in the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown. At the beginning of the second half, Strode broke through the Hawkeyes line and blocked a punt to set the stage for the Bruins’ second touchdown and further pave the way towards UCLA’s 27-3 rout.

http://dailyiowan.lib.uiowa.edu/DI/1938/di1938-09-24.pdf

There is no question that the UCLA left end Woody Strode was in the same class as several other players whom the NFL teams ultimately judged to be among the most valuable at the end position :

TOP TWENTY ENDS CHOSEN AT 1940 NFL DRAFT
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# 12 – (2nd rd) ….. Ralph Wenzel …… Tulane ………………. Pittsburgh
# 21 – (3rd rd) …… Bill Fisk ……………. USC ………………….. Detroit
# 22 – (3rd rd) …… Ken Kavanaugh … Louisiana State …. Chicago Bears
# 26 – (4th rd) …… John Shirk ……….. Oklahoma …………. Chicago Cards
# 27 – (4th rd) …… Pop Ivy ……………. Oklahoma …………. Pittsburgh
# 29 – (4th rd) …… Bill Bailey …………. Duke ………………… Brooklyn
# 36 – (5th rd) …… Esko Sarkkinen …. Ohio State ………… Green Bay
# 40 – (5th rd) …… Carl Tomasello …. Scranton …………… New York
# 41 – (6th rd) …… Vic Reginato ……… Oregon ……………… Chicago Cards
# 55 – (7th rd) …… Bob Nowaskey …… Wash & Lee ………. Cleveland
# 56 – (7th rd) …… Bob Winslow ……… USC …………………. Detroit
# 63 – (8th rd) …… Don Looney ……….. Texas Christian … Philadelphia
# 65 – (8th rd) …… Bill Anahu ………….. Santa Clara ………. Cleveland
# 68 – (8th rd) …… Roland Orf …………. Missouri …………… Washington
# 69 – (8th rd) …… George Seeman …… Nebraska …………. Green Bay
# 96 – (11th rd) ….. Erwin Prasse ………. Iowa ………………… Detroit
# 100 – (11th rd) … John McKibben ….. Tulsa ……………….. New York
# 103 – (12th rd) … Durwood Horner … Texas Christian … Philadelphia
# 107 – (12th rd) … Bill McCubbin …….. Kentucky …………. Chicago Bears
# 111 – (13th rd) …. Al Coppage …………. Oklahoma ………… Chicago Cards

Altogether, 33 ends were among the 200 players to have their professional rights reserved by the ten teams participating at the 1940 NFL Draft. It should be noted that Chicago Bears ninth round (# 77 overall) draft pick HAMPTON POOL from Stanford University is typically listed as and end in most historical records. But the beefy Pool (6’3″ 221 lbs) was an interior lineman stationed at guard for the Indians in college and is listed at that position in contemporary newspapers such as The Milwaukee Journal (December 10th, 1939).

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