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Today's Tidbit... The Patented Bunny Oakes
Back in July, I wrote about defensive line drills of the 1930s pictured in Bunny Oakes' 1932 book, Football Line Play. The story, found here, covered the Blow and Step drill and left open a question about the nature or use of the middle piece of equipment in the image below. Additional research now provides the answer to that question, but let's first look at Bernard F. "Bunny" Oakes' career.
Oakes grew up in Illinois in time to enlist in the Marines in 1917. He served with the 5th Marines in France, joining his company as a replacement partway through the Battle of Belleau Wood, and then fought in the Battle of Soissons and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. After the war and while still in Europe, he played football with the 5th Marines in the AEF tournament.
He enrolled at Illinois after returning to the States, playing guard on Bob Zuppke's 1924 national championship team while blocking for Red Grange. After graduation, he became Tennessee's line coach under Bob Neyland and two years later held the same role under Dana X. Bible at Nebraska. Working under three top coaches in four years allowed him to become Montana's head coach in 1931. He moved to Colorado in 1935, winning two Rocky Mountain and one Mountain States championships and coaching All-American Byron "Whizzer" White.
He moved to Wyoming in 1941 and Grinnell in 1947 while spending parts of WWII handling physical training for soldier students at Wyoming.
Oakes had a career-losing record (43-69-4) and was best known for his thinking and writing on the training of linemen and the patents he earned for equipment used in training linemen.
Oakes filed for a patent in 1931, earning U.S. Patent 1916385 in 1933 for his Football Line Charging Apparatus, pictured above and in the patent illustration below.
The three pictured elements are supposed to be movable, though the two "body" elements mounted on wooden posts appear stationary. The "head" element in the middle also seems to be mounted on a post. Later versions of his equipment were movable and could be mounted in sockets placed into the ground, allowing players to practice their techniques against equipment aligned in various offensive and defensive formations. In addition, his 1932 U.S. patent 1884816 was for a dummy mounted on a spring that returned to a standing position after being body blocked or tackled.
Oakes retired after the 1948 season, the same year he published a revised edition of his book, moved to Michigan, and finished his career in sporting goods sales.
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