IRONTON, Ohio (WOWK) – Who defeated the New York Giants, Chicago Bears, Kansas City Cowboys, and Cincinnati Reds when they had a football team? The answer is in our own backyard.
Joe Unger is a fan of a football team that is no more.
“It began here,” Unger said. “That’s pretty good stuff.”
Friday, on the campus of Ohio University Southern in Ironton, students, historians, and football fans are honoring 100 years since the first semi-pro football team.
“Football history is critical to the Ironton residents,” Unger said. “It is the origins of the National Football League.”
They were called the “Tanks.” The name came from those in the line of fire in World War One and came back to join the line of scrimmage.
“Tanks to the returning Ironton soldiers were these massive (punches fist) on the gridiron,” Unger said. “Then they were moved to Detroit and became known as the Detroit Lions.”
Former Detroit Lions player William White was the guest of honor at Friday’s luncheon.
“The Lions actually started down here in Lawrence County and I had to look it up to see where Lawrence County was,” White said. “You know, they wasn’t getting 30, 40, 100-thousand people coming to their games or they wasn’t making millions of dollars. It was really the passion of the game they loved doing.”
There were no superbowl rings or star-studded halftime shows, just regular men laying the groundwork for football as we know it today.