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The Grave of Pop Warner

by Randy Snow

Original to www.theworldoffootball.com, Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Today, the name Pop Warner means one thing, youth football. But the man that inspired the organization that teaches football fundamentals to kids was at the forefront of football’s early development and he crossed paths with many of the early icons of the game.

Glenn Scobey “Pop” Warner played college football at Cornell. He earned the nickname “Pop” during his playing days because he was the oldest player on the team. After he graduated, with a law degree, he went into coaching. He was the head coach at the University of Georgia from 1895-1896 and at Cornell from 1897-1989. Then, in 1899, Walter Camp, the Father of American Football, recommended Warner for the head coaching job at the Carlisle Indian School in Carlisle, PA. The school was founded in 1879 and had been playing intercollegiate football since 1894. Warner not only was the head football coach but he was also the school’s athletic director and coached the track team, basketball team and baseball team.

While Carlisle was not actually a college, it played many of the top college football teams in the country at the time including Michigan, Wisconsin, Harvard, Yale and Princeton. Carlisle was able to compete with these teams because the Indian students, while smaller than those of the other teams, were quicker and played with a great deal of intensity. Combined with trick plays devised by Warner that used deception and speed, the Carlisle team posted an 8-2 record in Warner’s first season there and was ranked fourth in the nation. One of his players, running back Isaac Seneca, was even named a first team All-American.

Warner coached at Carlisle through 1903. Then he had a falling out with the school’s superintendent and founder, Richard Henry Pratt. Warner returned to Cornell and coached at his alma mater again from 1904-1906. Pratt was removed as superintendent at Carlisle in 1904 and Warner returned to coach at Carlisle from 1907-1914.

A young boy by the name of Jim Thorpe arrived at Carlisle in 1904 at the age of 16. The combination of Thorpe’s natural athletic talent in all sports and Warner’s coaching made the pair nationally known. Warner and Thorpe travelled to Sweden for the 1912 Olympics where Thorpe won two gold medals, one in the decathlon and another in the pentathlon.

Warner left Carlisle in 1915 and became the head coach at Pittsburgh from 1915-1923. He also coached at Stanford from 1924-1932. In his first year at Stanford, he led his team to the Rose Bowl on January 1, 1925, only to be defeated 27-10 by the national champion Notre Dame team and their famous backfield known as The Four Horsemen. The Stanford team that year also featured a great player in running back Ernie Nevers, who went on to play in the NFL and is now a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Over the years, Warner was credited with many football innovations. On the practice field there was the tackling dummy and the blocking sled. On the field he created the single-wing formation and later the double-wing formations. These formations became the standard for the majority of college and pro teams until it was replaced by the modern T-formation in the 1940s and 50s.

He is also noted for creating many trick plays that pushed the rules of the game at the time. One such play has become known as the hidden ball play. It was used just one time, in a game against Harvard in 1903. As Harvard kicked off to begin the second half, the Carlisle players all gathered around the return man. He then slipped the ball into the back of one of the linemen’s jersey, in a specially made pocket, and everyone took off in various directions. The Harvard players did not know who actually had the ball until it was too late. The Carlisle player had crossed the goal line. While there was technically no rule prohibiting such a play, Warner took a great deal of criticism for the play and it was never used again. Rules were later put in place so that such a deception was not allowed on the field.  

Warner finished his college coaching career at Temple from 1933-1938. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951. According to his Hall of Fame profile, Warner coached for 44 seasons (1895-1938) and posted an overall record of 319-106-32.

Visiting His Grave

Warner was born on April 5, 1871 and raised in Springville, New York, which is located in the western part of the state near Lake Erie. He died on September 7, 1954 and is buried in the Maplewood Cemetery which is located on West Main Street in Springville in a family plot along with his parents and siblings.

Warner is buried in Section 7 of the cemetery. Once you enter the cemetery, drive straight back until the road forks. You will see a large stone marker on the right with the name Warner. The Warner family members are buried in a row in front of the family marker. On the back side of the stone is another family name, Scobey. This is Pop Warner’s mother’s family and where he gets his middle name. The Scobey family is buried behind the stone marker.

All the graves in that particular section are on a bit of a hill and there is a set of three cement steps that lead right up to Pop Warner’s headstone.


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