Friday, June 19, 2009

Siegel, Knowlin & Murray

John Siegal, right, with Sid Luckman during their days with the Bears

Day 92: John Siegal '39

Sometimes wide receivers and quarterbacks forge an incredible bond on the field that makes history. Joe Montana and Jerry Rice. Roger Staubach and Drew Pearson. Dave Krieg and Steve Largent... the list goes on.

But the most extraordinary QB-WR bond of all time may be the Sid Luckman to John Siegal connection because it began in college and continued into the NFL.

Luckman and Siegal started working together right during Luckman's first varsity game, a 34-0 rout of Maine at Baker Field. Siegal caught a 36-yard bomb from Sid just when the Black Bears were getting into the habit of trying to stop Luckman from running the ball all over them.

Siegal would go on to play a big role in each of Luckman's greatest games as a Lion. That includes the suprising 27-14 win over Yale at the Yale Bowl in 1938, and the greatest game of Luckman's career, the 20-18 win over Army at West Point just one week after that Yale win.

Siegal joined Luckman as a member of the Chicago Bears in the 1939 season. He played on the Midway for five seasons through 1943, earning three NFL titles on the way.

But his real purpose in Chicago was to study for a dental degree, which he earned at Northwestern.

John Siegal is still alive and living with family in Pennsylvania. I did get in touch with him last year, but he was too hard of hearing for even a phone interview. It was still great to talk to him briefly.

The moment we knew he was special: "AK" scoring his 1st TD in his very 1st game

Day 91: Austin Knowlin '10

The last of the 10 wide receivers I want to focus on during this 100 day countdown to the season opener is current star Austin Knowlin.

Even before his senior season, I have no hesitation when I say that Knowlin is a once-in-generation type player in Columbia history.

In three seasons, "AK" has done it all. Grabbed tons of passes, scored handfulls of TD's, and returned kicks for scores. He gets open even when everyone knows the play is going to him. He makes things happen.

It all started in his very first game, a 37-7 win over Fordham at Wien Stadium. Knowlin grabbed a 62-yard TD catch to ice the win and announced his presence to the Lion faithful in grand fashion.

He is now in striking distance of a number of Columbia all-time records, including total receiving yards, total receptions, and receiving touchdowns.

Knowlin has been placed on the 2009 Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Preseason All-American second team for the coming season.

I look forward to chronicling a glorious final chapter in Knowlin's brilliant Columbia career.

Day 90: Philip Murray '03

Philip Murray, the man who is tied for the Columbia all-time record for interceptions at 16, leads off my list of 10 memorable defensive backs in Lions history.

Murray came to CU from Mesquite, Texas and made an immediate impact in the 1999 season. By his sophomore year, he was a 1st Team All-Ivy at free safety. He fell back to the second team in 2001, but returned to the 1st Team in his senior campaign in 2002.

His best moment came in that 2001 season, when he picked off Yale QB Peter Lee and returned it for an 85 yard TD just seconds before halftime to give the Lions a 14-7 lead in an eventual 28-14 win. Before that play, Lee hadn't been intercepted all year and he was working on an Ivy League record for most attempts without a pickoff.

A frustrating moment that I also won't forget came in Murray's final home game against Cornell in 2002. Clinging to a 14-10 lead, the Lions were trying to hold Cornell off in a final drive of the game. Murray made a great athletic move to almost pick off a pass by the Big Red's Rick Rahne, but it fell through his fingers. Just a few plays later, Cornell would score, snatching a win from Columbia's hands.

But Murray's career was still impressive any way you look at it. Sophomores don't often make 1st Team All Ivy, and Murray is one of the rare few who did.


At Mon Jun 22, 08:02:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake, fascinating story on Luckman and Siegal. Have you ever thought about doing a piece on great Jewish football players at Columbia, or in the Ivies? I think that it would be an interesting exercise.

At Mon Jun 22, 08:08:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...

That could be a fun exercise, and I have some good info to work with. The early days material would actually be easier to do, because today's Ivies are really jam-packed with Jewish players. It would get harder as we come closer to the 70's and 80's when the numbers started to swell.

At Mon Jun 22, 10:55:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake, as a high school Jewish athlete, my Dad wanted me to go to Columbia because it was Sid Luckman's school.

At Fri Nov 13, 10:03:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger Michael said...


How can I get a photo of John W. Siegal that I can use for a brief bio of him on Wikpedia? Can you help?

At Fri Nov 13, 10:05:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger Michael said...


Can you help me find a photo of John W. Siegal that I would be allowed to post on Wikpedia to illustrate a brief bio of him?



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