Discover more from Football Archaeology
Today's Tidbit... Art and Wyllys Terry's 115-Yard TD Run
Halfback Kahlil Keys ran 94 yards for a touchdown in Yale's 53-12 victory over Columbia in 2013, extending by one yard the school's modern record for the longest run from scrimmage. Denny McGill set the previous record versus Dartmouth in 1956.
Of course, both runs set the "modern" record, a term whose meaning depends on who you ask. Back in the day, every football record depended on who you asked because the game did not have a consistent record-keeping system or definitions to use in that system. For example, should a run's length be measured from the line of scrimmage or the spot on the field where the runner began their run? The answer depended on who you asked since consistent definitions and record-keeping systems did not arrive until an independent college football statistics tracking process developed in the late 1930s.
Since Yale has played football since the beginning, it should not be surprising that an early Eli player had a run from scrimmage of either 115 or 107 yards, depending on who you ask. The run came in Yale's third of three games against Wesleyan in 1884. W. Y. or Wyllys Terry would have been an All-American in 1884, except All-American teams did not come along for another five years, and Yale would have been considered the national champs for 1884 but would wait a few decades to receive that honor retroactively.
When Terry made his run, gridiron football had not yet accepted or legalized blocking; you couldn't tackle below the waist, and his touchdown counted for only two points. Of course, Terry scored an additional four points by kicking the goal after the touchdown run.
None of that takes away from his long run, which came early in the game when Wesleyan fumbled, and Terry recovered the ball on Yale's 3-yard line. Years later, Terry recalled what happened next:
When we lined up I was five yards behind the goal line. They expected me to kick but instead I ran with the ball. Walter Camp had taught us something about broken field running and I tried it. By the time I got half way down the field there was no one in front of me.
Reil, Frank. 'Line on Liners,' Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 22, 1938.
Back then, halfway down the field was the 55-yard line, not the 50-yard line like today, so Terry's run went 115 yards or 107 yards, depending on who you ask.
Football's longest run has been remembered from time to time, though incorrectly represented in the illustrations of his dash. First, there was the Do You Know cartoon in 1929:
Robert Ripley followed up three years later:
But the best of the best came in the 1940s when Trommer's Brewery placed their fellow Brooklynite on the back of a beer coaster.
Artistic license resulted in Terry appearing in the football gear of the artists' time rather than Terry's. Football head harnesses and helmets did not exist when Terry played, though players often wore light skull caps, as seen on the heads of several players in the 1884 Yale team picture below.
An artist may one day represent Terry as he looked during his 1884 dash. However, in the long run, it is more important that we remember Terry's long run - the longest in football history - and that's the case no matter whom you ask.
Subscribe for free and never miss a story. Support this site with a paid subscription, buy me a coffee (or two), buy my books, or a blog-used item.