It is April 1943 and General Patton’s 2nd Corps battle with German and Italian forces at El Guettar in Tunisia. British Bomber Command drop 1300 tons of bombs on Kiel during a night raid and German aircraft fill the Thames Estuary with mines in an effort to stop shipping.
The Japanese continued their advance in Burma with air offensive attacks on American bases on the Solomon Islands. In America President Roosevelt forbids specific wage and price increases and orders workers not to change jobs in some industries unless it is beneficial to the war effort.
1943 NFL Draft
All of the above events were in stark contrast to a group of gentlemen who gathered at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago. This was for the 1943 National Football League Draft, held over 32 rounds.
The Detroit Lions held the first overall pick. They used this on a halfback from Georgia called Frank Sinkwich who had won the Heisman Trophy in 1942 to add to the National Championship. Sinkwich did not immediately play for the Lions as he joined the United States Marine Corps. However, he would still enter the NFL quickly as due to his flat feet he received a medical discharge.
He spent two years at Detroit before joining the Merchant Marines and Air Force. Sinkwich would return to football from 1946 until 1947 playing for the New York Yankees in the AAFC and the Baltimore Colts.
Frank Sinkwich would go on to coach the Tampa Spartans in the forerunner to today’s Division II college level. From 1950-1951 he would finish with a 12-7-1 record, winning the 1951 Brandeis Classic.
Round 1 Selections:
- Detroit Lions – Frank Sinkwich (Halfback, Georgia)
- Philadelphia Eagles – Joe Muha (Fullback, VMI)
- Chicago Cardinals – Glenn Dobbs (Tailback, Tulsa)
- Brooklyn Dodgers – Paul Governali (Quarterback, Columbia)
- Cleveland Rams – Mike Holovak (Fullback, Boston College)
- New York Giants – Steve Filipowicz (Fullback, Fordham)
- Pittsburgh Steelers – Bill Daley (Fullback, Minnesota)
- Green Bay Packers – Dick Wildung (Tackle, Minnesota)
- Chicago Bears – Bob Steuber (Halfback, Missouri)
- Washington Redskins – Jack Jenkins (Fullback, Vanderbilt)
From all the players selected, none would be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. However, two players who went undrafted would become Pro Bowlers. Bill Paschal a halfback from Georgia Tech signed with the New York Giants and Bucko Kilroy from Temple who played both sides of the line as a guard and defensive tackle signed with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Virgil Wagner, who was selected in round 29 of the draft was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1980.
The Tragedy Of War
World War Two would have a tragic ending for one player from the 1943 NFL Draft.
Dave Schreiner was a two-time All-American linemen. He was also awarded the 1942 Chicago Tribune Silver Football, given to the college player determined to be the best player in the Big Ten Conference.
The Detroit Lions drafted him from Wisconsin with the 11th overall pick, but he would never play a down of football.
The battle of Okinawa raged to a bloody finale. Dave Schreiner, a First Lieutenant in “A” Company of the 6th Marine Division, led his men forward to fill a gap in the line. He was tragically killed by a Japanese sniper just a few hours before the island was secured.
For further reading about Dave Schreiner there is a fascinating six page article in the Wisconsin Magazine of History which depicts the life of the Wisconsin Badger with testimonies and letters. The link can be found here: An All-American In All Respects: The Letters Of David Schreiner
This particular draft took place during horrific and challenging times and although it did not induct NFL Hall of Fame players it did produce, among others, an FBI agent, a Police Commissioner, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, esteemed scientists, medical professionals and heroes in the true sense of the word.
Simmo – @simmo_world