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The Grave of Walter Lingo

by Randy Snow

Original to www.theworldoffootball.com, Saturday, April 29, 2017

When you think of NFL owners, several names immediately come to mind; George Halas of the Chicago Bears, Lamar Hunt of the Kansas City Chiefs, Wellington Mara of the New York Giants, Art Rooney and Dan Rooney of the Pittsburgh Steelers, William Clay Ford of the Detroit Lions and Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys.

But there is a man who owned an NFL team many years ago who has long been forgotten, along with the team that he once owned. That man is Walter Lingo and his team was the Oorang Indians.

Lingo bought an NFL franchise in 1922 for the going rate of $100. That was the year when the two-year-old American Professional Football Association renamed itself the National Football League.

Lingo saw the team as a way to promote his dog breeding kennel in LaRue, Ohio. He bred a special breed of Airedale terrier known as the Oorang Airedale. The dogs are bigger and stronger than the standard Airedale and he trained them for hunting larger animals. The dogs would be brought out during halftime at the games and shown off to the crowd. They would also demonstrate their hunting skills.

For two season, 1922 and 1923, the Oorang Indians played in the NFL. They had no home stadium. With the exception of one game, which was played in nearby Marion, Ohio in 1922, all of their games were played on the road.

Lingo had a great affection and appreciation for Native American culture and he only employed Native American players on his team, hence the nickname, Indians. Most of the players came by way of the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. The greatest player to ever come from Carlisle was Jim Thorpe, who not only played football, baseball, basketball and ran track at the school, he also won two gold medals in the 1912 Olympic games.

Thorpe was the head coach of the Oorang team and also played halfback on the team. But despite his presence, they were not a very good team. In two seasons, the team posted a record of just 4-16.

The players didnít just play football. They also worked for Lingo, helping to train the dogs.  

The tiny town of LaRue, Ohio had a population of around 800 at the time that it was home to an NFL franchise and it has the distinction as the smallest town to ever have an NFL franchise. LaRue is  about the same size today.

However, when the team was playing in the NFL, there were several other Ohio NFL teams nearby to compete against in Akron, Canton, Dayton, Toledo, Columbus and Cleveland.

Finding His Grave

Just north of the town of LaRue, Ohio, on Ohio 37, is the LaRue Cemetery. There are a couple of entrances off of 37 where you can enter the cemetery. When heading south on 37, take the second entrance and head all the way back. In the last section, you will see a large rectangular stone with the last name Lingo on it. In front of it you will find no less than thirteen small markers for various family members including Walter Lingo, who died in 1966. There is also a roadside historical marker dedicated to the team on the south end of town. Here is a link to that article.


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