Illustration by Ed Supovitz
Benny Friedman

Jewish Heroes and

Heroines of America

from 1900 to World War II



Benny Friedman: Considered
NFL’s First True Passer

by Seymour “Sy” Brody

Benny Friedman was finally inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on August 7, 2005.
After many years of being overlooked, while friends and sports figures campaigned for his induction, it became a reality.

Friedman was considered as football’s first great passer. He changed the running game into one of running and passing and, as a result, revolutionized college and professional football.

Benny Friedman was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1905, to orthodox Jewish parents. He went to high school in Cleveland. Upon graduation, he went to Michigan University where he was a quarterback on the football team.

The first three games of the 1924 season found Benny Friedman sitting on the bench. Michigan’s legendary coach, Fielding Yost retired before the season. He convinced Coach George Little that he should start Benny Friedman against Wisconsin. Friedman became an instant star by throwing a 62 yard touchdown pass and running 26 yards for a touchdown.

Benny Friedman and Bennie Oosterbaan were college football’s greatest passing combinations. Friedman was twice named All-American as a quarterback and as a halfback.. After graduating in 1927, he turned pro and joined the Cleveland Bulldogs of the National Football League.

Professional football at this time didn’t enjoy the same attention that it has today. Red Grange
and Benny Friedman were the stars of that era. They attracted large crowds for their games. Benny Friedman was named All-Pro for four years and he led the league in passing and passing touchdowns.

The Cleveland Bulldogs folded and he moved to the Detroit Wolverines. The New York Giants wanted Benny Friedman so much that they bought the entire Detroit Wolverines franchise so that they could have him. The Giants finished the 1929 season with a 13-1-1 and for the first time made a profit.

IN 1934, Friedman retired from professional football and became the head coach at City College of New York (CCNY). In 1949, he became the Athletic Director of Brandeis University and was the head coach of the football team. It was his hope to make the Brandeis football team the “Jewish Notre Dame.”

Benny Friedman was named one of the 300 Greatest Players of All-Time by Total Sports, the Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League. He was elected to the College Hall of Fame, the University of Michigan Hall of Honor, the State of Michigan Sports Hall of Fame and the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Paul Gallico, a top football expert and sports writer of his day, said, ”The things a perfect football player must do are kick, pass, run the ends, plunge the line, block, tackle, weave his way through broken fields, drop and place kick, interfere, diagnose plays, spot enemy weaknesses, direct an offensive and not get hurt. I have just been describing Benny Friedman’s repertoire to you.”

Forty-two years after Football Pro Football Hall of Fame opened in Canton, Ohio, Benny Friedman got his spot there. David Friedman, a nephew, gave the speech for the family at the induction ceremony. He said, “despite being denied for so long, his uncle would have been very respectful of the honor.”


Justin Moranski, Computer Article Consultant

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