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Oorang Indians Historical Marker

by Randy Snow

Original to www.theworldoffootball.com, Saturday, March 18, 2017

LaRue, Ohio is a small town of about 800 people in the heart of the Buckeye state. It holds the distinction of being the smallest town ever to be home to an NFL franchise. Thatís right, a team in the National Football League once existed in a town with less than 1,000 people.

That team was called the Oorang Indians and it was owned by Walter Lingo. He purchased an NFL franchise for $100 in 1922 as a way to promote his unique breed of dog, the Oorang Airedale. The Oorang variety was more muscular that the standard Airedale terrier. They were bred for hunting large animals like bear or maintain lion. Several celebrities owned the dogs produced by the Oorang Kennels in LaRue including actor Gary Cooper, boxer Jack Dempsey and baseball player Lou Gehrig.  

What was interesting about the team was that, over its two-year existence in the NFL, all of the players were Native American. Most of them had played football at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. This was a place where Native American children were sent to learn to speak, read and write English. They were also taught a useful trade such as wagon building, blacksmithing, harness making and carpentry. 

The most famous player on the team was Jim Thorpe, the Olympic gold medalist from the 1912 games in Stockholm, Sweden. He was not only a halfback on the team but he was also the head coach.

Lingo is also considered by some to be the inventor of the halftime show. He used to bring out his dogs during halftime and demonstrate the training his dogs had received and what they were capable of doing.

During 1922 and 1923, the team only played one home game. That was on October 8, 1922 at Lincoln Park in the nearby town of Marion, Ohio. The Indians beat the Columbus Panhandles 20-6 in front of a crowd of 1,200. The other 19 games during their two years of existence were all played on the road.  

The players practiced in LaRue, sometimes with the local high school football team. They also worked for Lingo, helping to train the dogs.

Unfortunately, the team was not very good on the field and posted an overall record of just 4-16 over two seasons. (3-6 in 1922 and 1-10 in 1923)

The idea of a team in LaRue was not that far-fetched at the time. There were several other nearby NFL teams in Ohio that they could play against. Teams like the Canton Bulldogs, Columbus Panhandles, Cleveland Indians, Dayton Triangles, Akron Pros and Toledo Maroons.

Walter Lingo died in 1966 and is buried in the LaRue Cemetery just north of town.

Finding the Marker

There is a roadside historical marker just south of town honoring the NFL team. When heading south on Ohio Route 37, it will be on the right-hand side of the road, just before you cross the river. It is a bit hard to see due to the trees that nearly cover it up. The roadside marker has been in LaRue since 1997.

 

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