The TCU Horned Frogs were in a bowl game against an “awesome football team,” and the Frogs were underdogs.
No one outside of Fort Worth gave the frogs a chance. It was a surprise when they scored a goal.
sure file The final score was 63-7.
The year was 1921.
TCU lost to college football’s darlings, the Colonels’ Prayer Center—a small Kentucky school that recruited star players from North Side High School’s 1915 state championship team.
The game was officially the first and only Fort Worth Classic – the second college football game after the Rose Bowl.
It was played only once: January 1, 1921, before 7,000 fans at Panther Park, a 1920s professional baseball stadium north of downtown at 725 N. Throckmorton St. , on the corner at Northwest Seventh Street.
“The center became ‘the little team that can,’” said Robbie Henson, artistic director at Pioneer Playhouse, a Kentucky theater. She turned the colonel’s exploits into a play, “The Cool Team.”
TCU’s victory has been mentioned as one of the center’s greatest. It was also a homecoming for former Northside quarterback Bo McMillen and his teammates who followed coach “Chief” Myers to Kentucky.
TCU was coming off a 9-0 season that included wins over Arkansas and Baylor.
The Fort Worth Record, a morning newspaper, headlined: “Greatest Crowd Will Jam Panther Park Today” and advised that all trains to Fort Worth were sold out.
The center favorite, with former Texas A&M coach “Uncle Charlie” Moran at the helm, had a margin “all the way from two touchdowns to six,” the Record reported. (But “TCU’s optimism has not waned”).
The Star-Telegram headline warned: “TCU defense may come as a surprise.”
The next day’s headline was more modest: “TCU Scores Against Center.”
TCU’s GP “Jack” Jackson caught McMillin’s deep pass and ran back 90 yards to score.
The Star-Telegram game story mostly describes that play and then says “The subsequent touchdown appears to have been lost in the shuffle…. Further discussion of what happened would be very personal.”
Center ran for eight touchdowns.
The TCU Skiff campus newspaper led the story of the game this way: “They came. We saw. They conquered.”
The play “The Wonder Team” tells the story of a young underdog’s rise to fame after World War I based on Myers’ “achievement and faith” philosophy.
“I took these Fort Worth kids in the Hell’s Half-Acre era,” Henson said, referring to the old downtown saloon district famous for its brothels and gambling halls.
Henson said McMillin “was a poker player from the wrong side of the tracks” but Center embraced it.
McMillen starred with North Side alumni James “Red” Weaver, Bill James, Lee MacGregor and Sully Montgomery, later Tarrant County Sheriff. Four other colonels were from Dallas.
From 1917 through 1924, the position went 58-8-2, including wins over Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Auburn and New York sportswriters’ darling of the day, Harvard.
McMillin was an All-America quarterback and went through 26 years of professional and collegiate coaching including a Big Ten Conference championship at Indiana. He recruited and coached the Hoosiers’ George Taliaferro, later of the Dallas Texans and the first black player drafted by the NFL.
For the TCU fans, I should mention that there was another future coach out there that day.
The Horned Frogs’ left tackle was “Dutch” Meyer.
Eighteen years later, he coaches the Horned Frogs to the national championship.
This story was originally published Jan 13, 2023 12:25 PM.