This is the story of the remarkable 1953 William & Mary football team that had only 24 players and won five of its first six games and finished with a winning season.
Any one who thinks a college football team needs to be three times the size of a professional NFL team and have 85 scholarship players needs to read "The Iron Indians."
The book tells the story of the 1953 William & Mary football team that had only 24 players and lost only once in its first six games. The team was decimated because of an Honor Code offense and lost some 30 players, eight starters and both co-captains. Coach Jack Freeman also only had 15 scholarships.
Called “The Iron Indians,” wins included Wake Forest, N.C. St., Virginia Tech, and Richmond and a tie against nationally-ranked Navy. Injuries took their toll late in the season, but W&M finished with a 5-4-1 record. The next winning season was in 1965 in Marv Levy’s second year as head coach.
Jack Freeman faced challenges that few coaches today would accept. He didn’t have enough players for a full scrimmage so in practice when running plays to the right side of the line, he had the left side play defense and vice versa. Tackling and blocking dummies were used in spaces when players were injured, which was frequent.
“This book should be a must read for all college presidents and athletic directors,” says Henry. “It is an example why college football costs need to be brought under control just like the national debt. They need to stop making excuses for football; blaming Title IX for all of their athletic department problems; and stop dropping non-revenue Olympic sports from programs every year.”
The opening section of the book cites world and U.S. history during the Fifties as well as what was happening on the William & Mary campus. There are romantic, comedic and dramatic anecdotes Henry gained from numerous interviews with classmates and the players and their families. The book supplements information from the 1953 media guide with career biographical information on all 24 players and the coaching staff. There are pre-season stories as well as a complete narrative and statistical recaps of all 10 games.
Five of the players were veterans returning from Korea. Most of the others entered military service after graduation. Three became prominent attorneys. Six were drafted by or signed professional contracts with NFL teams. Several were Dean’s List and one Phi Beta Kappa. Two were pre-season Academic all-Americans. Several grew up in small Pennsylvania coal mining towns. Many married their college sweethearts in what became lifetime relationships.
The book is being adapted by Rene A. Henry and Gabor Nagy into a screenplay for a feature motion picture. It has been registered with the Writer's Guild of America, West, Inc.