Kickoff Countdown: The Ten Greatest Football Hoosiers of All-Time (#3)

The next two players on this list are going to take you back to an era of Indiana football that is truly amazing.  If you didn’t know that IU once had an undefeated season under the direction of one of the more legendary names in the game at the time — now is the time to learn about it.

Continuing with our theme of players on this list being true “outliers”, the player coming in at No. 3 may just have the most noteworthy distinction of anyone that donned the cream and crimson — the NFL Hall of Fame.  But after a decorated start to his college career at Indiana, Pete Pihos followed anything but a typical path to Canton.

The fact that Pihos ever even returned to IU to finish out his college playing career is a bit of a story unto itself.

After playing at end for the Hoosiers for the 1942 and 1943 seasons and leading the team in receiving both years, Pihos was drafted into the Army in 1944 prior to the football season.  He served in General George Patton’s 35th Infantry Division.  Pihos was in the weeds fighting the war, was promoted to a rank of 2nd Lieutenant, and won the Bronze Star and Silver Star for bravery.

As fate would have it, World War II ended in early September of 1945.  Pihos and other teammates including another IU legend in Howard Brown were granted a 60-day leave from active duty and made it back to Bloomington in time for week two of what would become the greatest season of Indiana football.

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War heroes Howard Brown and Pete Pihos soon after their return from battle in 1945. Photo credit – IU Archives.

Pihos led IU in scoring in a 1945 season that saw the Hoosiers go 9-0-1 and win the Big Ten title.

Showing his versatility, Pihos moved to fullback for that 1945 season and even played some linebacker.  Incredibly, Pihos, who had received first team All-American honors as an end in 1943, received first team All-American honors as a back in 1945.  He is one of only four IU players to make the first team twice, and the only to do it at different positions.  It should also be noted that Pihos was voted as a first team All-American in 1942 by a panel of his playing peers.

The Florida native led the team in rushing in 1946.  After he had played his final game in 1946 (he scored three touchdowns in a victory over Purdue), IU head coach Bo McMillin, a legend himself, called Pihos “the greatest all-around football player our team has known in my time at Indiana.”

While statistics are difficult to compare across different eras, Pihos’ greatness as a Hoosier is clear.  When he left IU, he held the school records for touchdowns, points, and receptions.  He still ranks 10th in school history in career touchdowns, with 23.

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Pihos and Bo McMillin in 1945. Photo credit – Possibly Time/Life or Getty Images.

Pihos would become the second IU player to enter the College Football Hall of Fame — but it wouldn’t be his only football hall of fame.

Drawing the attention of the NFL long before he was ready to wrap up his college career, Pihos was selected in the 5th round of the 1945 NFL Draft by the Eagles as they waited for him to finish out his IU playing days.  Philadelphia was rewarded for their patience.

Pihos would go on to become a six-time Pro Bowler, six-time first team All-Pro, three-time NFL receptions leader, and two-time NFL receiving yards leader.  He was an integral part of the Eagles’ NFL championship teams of 1948 and 1949.

Via Pro Football Hall of Fame

Pete Pihos was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1970.  He passed away in 2011.

Prior IU greats on the list:

#10 — John Isenbarger

#9 — Dan Feeney

#8 — James Hardy

#7 – Nate Sudfeld

#6 – Tevin Coleman

#5 – Corby Davis

#4Antwaan Randle El

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