A shared star: Johnny "Blood" McNally


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The Green Bay Packers were founded more than a decade before the Steelers, but the two teams an early star.

Johnny "Blood" McNally: A 6-foot-1, 188-pound speedster from New Richmond, Wis., who, his Pro Football Hall of Fame webpage said, "was unbelievably fast, a superb running back and possibly the finest receiver in the National Football League at that time. He could throw passes and punt with the best."

He also had the flair to make him a favorite in the early game. "A totally unpredictable funster."

He played for the Packers from 1929-36 and helped them win their first four NFL championships (1929-31, '36).

He moved to the Steelers -- then known as the Pirates -- in 1937 as a player/coach. Although he was on the downside of his career at age 33, he reportedly returned the first kickoff of his first game 92 yards for a touchdown.

His playing talents didn't carry over to the sideline. The Pirates went 7-25-1 in his three seasons before he was replaced by Walt Kiesling in 1939.

Although his career was over, his legacy lived on.

When the Pro Football Hall of Fame was founded in 1963, McNally was among the 17-member inaugural class -- a class that included Curly Lambeau, Jim Thorpe, Sammy Baugh and Bronko Nagurski.

He died in 1985, but his legacy did not. George Clooney's character -- Dodge Connolly -- in the 2008 film "Leatherheads" was based on Johnny Blood. His was a life made for Hollywood. As his wife Marguerite once said: "Even when Johnny does the expected, he does it in an unexpected way."


First Published February 2, 2011 6:00 AM


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