NEW RICHMOND -- Nearly 100 years after he attended St. John’s University, Johnny (Blood) McNally is being inducted into the SJU J-Club Hall of Honor.
McNally is the New Richmond native who became a National Football League legend. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963. He died in 1985.
McNally will be one of twelve individuals and one team that will be inducted into St. John's University's J-Club Hall of Honor on Homecoming Saturday, Oct. 5.
Here is McNally’s profile in the St. John’s news release:
“McNally played 14 seasons in the National Football League for five different teams. He was a four-time NFL champion, a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963 and was elected to the Green Bay Packers' Hall of Fame in 1970. As a student at SJU, McNally lettered in football, basketball, baseball and track and field. He became SJU's first MIAC champion in track and field in 1921 (high jump). McNally returned to SJU to complete his degree and served as head football coach from 1950-52.”
McNally is considered one of the most colorful characters in NFL history. The book “Vagabond Halfback” was written on his life in 2006 by Denis Gullickson. McNally was born in New Richmond in 1903. He was highly intelligent, graduating from high school when he was 14 years old.
He didn’t play high school sports, but played football, baseball, basketball and track at St. John’s, and he also attended Notre Dame. In 1922 he began playing semipro football under the name “Johnny Blood.”
His professional playing career ran from 1925 to 1939, with his best seasons coming as a member of the Green Bay Packers. When the Packers won three straight NFL championships (1929-1931), McNally was one of the team’s stars.
He then became the coach of the Pittsburgh Pirates (now Steelers), lasting parts of three seasons.
McNally also had strong political leanings. The day after Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He served in India as a cryptographer. McNally was active in St. Croix County politics when he returned to the area.
When the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its inaugural class, McNally was one of the first 17 members inducted. He went in with such football legends as Jim Thorpe, Curly Lambeau, Bronco Nagurski and Sammy Baugh.
McNally’s legend remains intact. When the movie “Leatherheads” came to theatres in 2008, the character played by George Clooney was loosely based on the antics of McNally during his playing career. The Titletown Brewing Company in Green Bay makes a beer named “Titletown Johnny Blood McNally Red Ale” in McNally’s honor.