- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Smarting from their 73-0 shellacking at the hands of the Chicago Bears in the 1940 NFL championship game, the Washington Redskins opened the 1941 season determined to avenge that loss and return to the title game.

A good New York Giants team, though, got in the way right from the opening game.

The Giants came to Griffith Stadium for Washington’s season opener and handed the Giants a 17-10 loss. On that Giants squad was a promising young two-way end from Texas who had been a baseball prospect as well — Jack Lummus.

The rookie from Ennis, Texas, a football and baseball star at Baylor University, was part of a core group of young Giants players that would defeat the Redskins again, 20-13, when they met in the Polo Grounds later in the season, and go on to face the defending champion Chicago Bears in the league title game, losing 37-9.

Lummus had a promising NFL career ahead of him. But then Pearl Harbor happened, and the promise of a nation was at stake.

Jack Lummus, like so many others of that generation, answered the call, and did so with such courage and honor that he awarded the Medal of Honor — one of two NFL players to receive the prestigious award and the only one to have received it posthumously.

Today, at a time when the NFL aligns itself with this country’s military heroes and unfurls giant American flags at football games, it would seem that league should also be duty-bound to remember its own who laid down their lives for their country — not just on Veterans Day, but with something more long-lasting.

An annual Jack Lummus award — for a service member who carries on the courageous example of the former New York Giants end — would at least raise the question for generations who have followed Pearl Harbor to maybe ask the question, “Who was Jack Lummus?”

He was an American hero.

Lummus had been ready to sacrifice his NFL career for his country while he was at Baylor. He dropped out of school to join the Army Air Corps to be a pilot, but failed. He would go on to play for the Giants, but following that championship game defeat, Lummus signed up in the Marine Corps Reserve.

Lummus worked his way up through the ranks as a second lieutenant, and was an executive officer assigned to Company F, Second Battalion, 27th Marines when they were sent to Iwo Jima in 1945.

He was among those who first landed at Iwo Jima, where some of the bloodiest battles of World War II took place — nearly 7,000 Americans died in the month-long battle.

Lummus was one of them.

In the book, “Iwo Jima,” author Richard F. Newcomb detailed the heroics of the former NFL rookie end, who led a unit in battle against the enemy despite suffering injuries from grenade blasts. As he led his troops against enemy positions, “suddenly he was at the center of a powerful explosion, obscured by flying rock and dirt. As it cleared, his men saw him rising as if in a hole. A land mine had blown off both his legs that had carried him to football honors at Baylor.

“They watched in horror as he stood on the bloody stumps, calling on them,” Newcomb wrote. “Several men, crying now, ran to him, and, for a moment, talked about shooting him to stop the agony. But he was still shouting for them to move out, and the platoon scrambled forward. Their tears turn to rage, they swept an incredible 300 yards over the impossible ground and at nightfall were on the ridge, overlooking the sea.”

His Medal of Honor citation says “First Lieutenant Lummus had inspired his stouthearted Marines to continue the relentless drive northward, thereby contributing materially to the success of his regimental mission. His dauntless leadership and unwavering devotion to duty throughout sustain and enhance the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.”

That service — the life — of Jack Lummus is worthy of an annual NFL award, a true symbol of patriotism and honor.

Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 and espn980.com

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.

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