After attending high school in Minneapolis, William (Pudge) W. Heffelfinger enrolled at Yale University in 1888. Over the next four years, he earned letters in four sports.
He competed on the track and field team, won the school's heavyweight boxing championship, was a member of the Yale rowing team and played baseball.
But he achieved lasting fame in football. Heffelfinger is considered one of the greatest linemen in college football history. At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, which was big for his era, he helped Yale dominate college football. During Heffelfinger's four years at Yale, the Elis lost only two games. They went unbeaten in 1888 and 1891, while losing only once each in 1889 and 1890.
The 1888 team outscored its opponents 698-0. During his four years at Yale, he was named to the All-America team three times.
According to an article on the Pro Football Hall of Fame website, Heffelfinger is credited with introducing the "pulling guard" play. Grantland Rice, a sports writing legend, once referred to Heffelfinger as the greatest guard of all-time.
After college, Heffelfinger became the first "professional" football team. In November of 1892 he was paid $500 to play for the Allegheny Athletic Association in a game against the Pittsburgh Athletic Club. Heffelfinger scored the only touchdown in the game.
After his playing career he had a brief coaching career, including one year at the University of Minnesota in 1895.
In 1951, Heffelfinger was a member of the inaugural class of the College Football Hall of Fame.
WILLIAM W. (PUDGE) HEFFELFINGER
Teams: Yale, Pittsburgh Athletic Club, Gophers.